Issue 07 T.O.C. – Axioms of Pre-industrial Craft with George Walker

This is part of a blog series which reveals the table of contents of upcoming Issue Seven. As always, we’ll be discussing one article per weekday in order to give you a taste of what is come.

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Courtesy: Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist

Axioms of Pre-industrial Craft

George Walker

What do a prehistoric flint spearpoint, a Windsor chair, and a carved wooden spoon have in common?” begins author George Walker. What follows is a fascinating, winsome defense of what Walker calls the “Axioms of Craft,”: guiding principles that have been universally accepted by artisans from time immemorial. Tracing the thread back 12,000 years to the Clovis culture, following it through Ancient Greece and into the Victorian Era, Walker makes his case for the immutability of these three guiding principles: “Firmitas, strength and durability; comoditas, function; and venustas, beauty.” All craftsmanship had to contain these values in complementary measure, he argues, or it was considered lacking and mediocre.

Courtesy: Yoav Elkayam

Courtesy: Yale University Art Gallery

But the advent of the Industrial Revolution began to turn these axioms on their heads, as mass production began to suggest that durability is an economic liability, and that beauty and function are no longer inextricably linked but might exist in separate categories, quarantined from one another. Citing examples from Vitruvius and Homer, all the way to the rise of Modernism showcased in the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, this is an engaging and thoughtful exploration of the values that have driven craft design throughout the centuries.

P.s. There is one more Issue Seven article to announce… and because I cannot wait until Monday, you will see it announced tomorrow morning. (I’ve had this last one on my “must-do” since day one of M&T. So excited to share it with you tomorrow! Stay tuned!)

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