Craft and Technique

Craft and Technique, two terms that tend to be used almost interchangeably. They mean two very different things.

To Craft is to make. It begins with recognizing a need, discovering something to transform so as to meet that need, and then a process of dialogue takes place between the need, the process of transformation, and the material’s inherent and specific qualities; takes place in such a way as to arrive at a newly made object.

Technique is a toolkit, beginning with an attitude towards our situations that sees them all as a series of problems amenable to manipulation. Technique is also the physical tools themselves used to perform that manipulation. It is also the ordering of the processes of manipulation so as to create a situation with a beginning, a middle, and an end. It is a funneling of the fruits of experience into repeatable processes with predictable results.

Another term lurks in the wings, Art. We can’t get far with the other two without tackling this one.

Art is using tangible things to create and reflect on meaning. The concept of physical utility is outside the realm of Art. Art deals with questions of truth and the difficulty of this task precludes the addition of a requirement that its results be useful.

Utility is conditional and transient. Art works in the realm of what survives the conditional and what remains after transience.

This brings us to one of the most significant distinctions between Craft and Technique. Craft is done with respect for meaning as a fundamental aspect of making. Technique assumes that contingent utility – what might be termed efficiency – is its only guide. Craft, Crafting, a Craft as an object; these all deal with the full range of our possible criteria from meaning to utility. Their truths can approach those of Art. Their utility can rival and surpass the efficiencies of Technique.

To Craft is to make, using the broadest array of our capacities to perceive, to distinguish, to invent, and to create physical objects that not only meet the conditions of utility, but shape our relationship with reality through the transparency of the meanings they embody.

All Craft includes technique. All technical work does not result in Craft. Technique in isolation generates monstrosities and breeds monsters. In this way Craft and Technique are directly related to Strength and Power. It could be said that Craft and Technique are the way Strength and Power express themselves.

Craft and Strength both include dynamics that lead to mastery of the intersection between the self and our situations. This mastery entails a series of dynamic adjustments between internal and external capabilities and the insurmountable contingencies present in any situation. Technique and Power contain a dynamic that leads in the opposite direction, towards ever greater dependency and delusion.

An aspect of Craft and Strength is the discipline with which their practices demand and develop our abilities to relate to and use Technique and Power without driving us to succumb to their degrading effects. That’s worth repeating,

An aspect of Craft and Strength is the discipline with which their practices demand and develop our abilities to relate to and use Technique and Power without driving us to succumb to their degrading effects.

When we talk of the forces collapsing our World, we are talking about the misunderstanding and misuse of Technique and Power. Hubris is the expectation that theirs are the only important criteria upon which to make judgments about our actions. Our descent into ever more fragile, brittle states of dependency, coupled with a pathological state of increasing delusion and disintegration from reality, stem directly from these decisions and the death spiral they hold us in.

This brings us to the promise of Craft. Taken at its most fundamental and radical, Craft is a series of practices that can re-form our relationship with the physical world. Not reform, or “change,” “the world,” but reform our relationship.

Out of this may come the possibility of reaching some form or forms of adaptation and accommodation to the forces unleashed by unrestrained Technique and the pursuit of limitless Power. The difference to be measured as a choice between auguring in at full power and flying into the crash.

The next aspect to be covered in another post is that while Technique assumes we can be consumers of a disembodied process of production. Craft expects all of us to participate in its processes, all of the time.

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