Virtues of Craft: The Diligent Artisan

By Kyle Studstill.

Diligence is perhaps one of the most powerful tools in an artisan’s toolbox, but it can be too easily confused with the notion of simply following rules. I make scarves, and as part of my process, I cherish opportunities to employ diligence while also following a strong set of rules, but I didn’t always feel this way. When I was younger, I remember feeling very strongly that “rules are meant to be broken,” and indeed, the young artist often feels that creative work is entirely about breaking rules, that following rules makes the final work less creative. Of course, as we mature, we realize that it is only once you know the rules that you can break them effectively. Experienced artisans learn to use the rules that make their work better, and learn to break the rules that don’t.

 

patterns and broken patterns for scarves, image courtesy of alwayscomposure.com

patterns and broken patterns for scarves, image courtesy of alwayscomposure.com

 

While diligence is sort of about following rules, I’ve found that there’s something even more powerful about it than thisa lesson I’ve learned through other artisans.

I was first inspired to start thinking about the power of diligence by a designer named Craig Mod. He frequently shares his extensive experience of designing books and other products, and in a smart reflection here, points out that “thoughtful decisions concerned with details marginal or marginalized conspire to affect greatness.” In what proves to be an excellent explanation of the importance of diligence, he goes on to talk about the kinds of thoughtful decisions that go into literal margins—those of a book—but his point is about all the details that are easily overlooked and unnoticed by everyone but the designer. That is, until the designer overlooks them, as well—for even if the reader doesn’t consciously notice carelessness in these details, “they will feel the difference,” Craig notes. “This you must believe.”

 

Art Space Tokyo off to be bound, image courtesy of Craig Mod

Art Space Tokyo off to be bound, image courtesy of Craig Mod

 

In this way, diligence for me has become, not the product of following rules, but the reason to follow them. This is in part for the sake of the work, but more importantly, for the sake of the recipient and what they feel when they receive the work.

You may have be aware of this seemingly strange quirk of the design world: at some point, many architects and designers find themselves trying their hand at making chairs. But if you consider a chair to be something like a really small building meant for a single person, you can imagine that making one is actually a simple opportunity to use design to connect with another human in a personal way. Building one is another way to practice the diligence that is required in their own craft. In this way, all artisanship is connected.

The level of care and attention to detail that comes only with diligence can be a cherished opportunity to speak with a single other, in tones more powerful than words: “I respect you as another human who experiences the world, and your experience of this work matters.” I’ve come to think of artisanship in this way: as an opportunity to use diligent work to show others that they matterthat we, the makers, really, truly care.

 

Details

Kyle Studstill
Website: alwayscomposure.com
Tumblr: alwayscomposure.tumblr.com
Instagram: @kylestudstill

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