The Gifted Blog

March 20, 2012

Shop Class as Soulcraft | Why We Make

I write The Gifted Blog because I love to create. I've been reflecting on what it means to love making things. I hope this series will be a jumping-off point for thoughtful discussion among us. For the whole series, click here.

Today I've chosen some quotes to share from Shop Class as Soulcraft, the essay that Matthew B. Crawford  expanded into a book. Crawford is an academic with an interesting side business: he runs a motorcycle repair shop. He writes about the importance of working with your hands and its marginalized place in American culture.

"...craftsmanship might be defined simply as the desire to do something well, for its own sake. If the primary satisfaction is intrinsic and private in this way, there is nonetheless a sort of self-disclosing that takes place. As Alexandre Kojève writes:
 The man who works recognizes his own product in the World that has actually been transformed by his work: he recognizes himself in it, he sees in it his own human reality, in it he discovers and reveals to others the objective reality of his humanity, of the originally abstract and purely subjective idea he has of himself.
The satisfactions of manifesting oneself concretely in the world through manual competence have been known to make a man quiet and easy. They seem to relieve him of the felt need to offer chattering interpretations of himself to vindicate his worth. He can simply point: the building stands, the car now runs, the lights are on. Boasting is what a boy does, who has no real effect in the world. But craftsmanship must reckon with the infallible judgment of reality, where one’s failures or shortcomings cannot be interpreted away."

"The craftsman is proud of what he has made, and cherishes it, while the consumer discards things that are perfectly serviceable in his restless pursuit of the new."

Isn't that fascinating? I found this book especially interesting because Crawford is more likely to analyze an electrician's work than an artist's, but I could relate to many of the ways he describes "living concretely in an ever more abstract world" (source). What part stands out to you?

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{Images by Christine Berrie: 1, 2}


  1. Hey Charissa,
    Our pastor, Erwin has been doing a sermon series about why we create called "Artisan". I think you'd really enjoy it. All the podcasts are up on Hope you all are well.

    1. Hi Michelle - Cool, thanks for letting me know! Listened to the intro of the first one this morning while N was at preschool. I think I need to download them so I can pause/rewind more easily. But good stuff, especially, "Life is a work of'll never create anything more powerful than your life."

      Kind of random, but that reminded me of this disturbing article I read about an exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum. The painter Gauguin moved to French Polynesia at the end of his life. And though his paintings from that time are really striking, it's alleged he was sleeping with several underage girls (some of whom he painted), and he eventually died from an STD (syphilis) while living with a teenage partner. YIKES. It made me think about how we can romanticize the life of an artist, but that the actual life they lived should be remembered alongside the work they created. Creating things is powerful, but more important is the way we live our lives.

  2. I think I've said it before -- I love these posts! I read parts of the essay you linked. One thing I thought interesting about it was that it was so academic and almost esoteric, and yet it seems like he's chiding people for getting away from craft in favor of other kinds of work. I guess his argument is that this kind of work still requires thought (so it's not like he's arguing that we should abandon intellect). Anyway... Thanks for sharing!

  3. I love this post charis! i am a total consumer but it reminded me of Rod and I also love all of the posts in your Why We Make series :-) You're so deep!!


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