I recently read David Pye’s book The Nature and Art of Workmanship. I was introduced to this book through the frequent quoting of his catchphrase “the craftsmanship of risk,” which he uses to differentiate craftsman-made work from mass production. It’s an interesting read and is still relevant almost 50 years later. I found Pye’s book focused on developing a working definition of craft and individual workmanship that is focused on the refutation of definitions of craft that Morris and Ruskin (particularly Ruskin), of the English Arts and Crafts movement, put forth. Academic invective is probably an appropriate description of his tone.
However, his final chapter is interesting in that it makes suggestions and predictions about individual craft in the future. The four points in the final chapter are interesting and are still relevant today. Particularly point 1)
The workmanship of certainty has not yet found out, except in certain restricted fields, how to produce diversity and exploit it
I had never seen these before and these last 4 points he makes are far more important, in my opinion, than the notion of the “workmanship of risk”. Some 50 years ago, Pye had already identified the problem that rapid protyping and 3D printing is trying to solve. By designing in the virtual space (computers or CAD), you can marry the workmanship of certainty to the diversity associted with the workmanship of risk. Now, this is far from perfect, anyone who has used a makerbot or similar home system knows that any given print is far from certain, but if you’ve had access to expensive production machines the world is different. Those machines just work. Almost without fail. Assuming you have some skill in designing items that work for printing.
This is all rosy and optimistic, especially since 3D printing is pretty limited in size and scope at this point. But the basic idea is there, great diversity is achievable within the framework of certainty. Even if it is only doll furniture.