“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” – Gandalf the Grey, The Fellowship of the Ring
I often think about Bill Coperthwaite’s description of knitting as “the finest of them all” in comparing means of handcraft production. He uses a unique framework to reach that conclusion. Knitting is the most portable of crafts; you can tuck all your tools into a little bag and carry it anywhere. Knitting is quiet and doesn’t disturb anyone around you. You can take it up any time your hands are idle and you want some creative enjoyment – any spare minute can be utilized for making progress. Coperthwaite calls it “one of the most efficient methods of production ever developed.” While acknowledging that industrial machines are capable of putting out ridiculously greater volumes of material in a fraction of the time, all of that mass production comes at a massive cost. But with knitting, the production practice is your pastime. It’s what you do for fun to fill up your spare minutes. That makes a big difference.
A few weeks ago, I wrote very briefly on the economics of making your own stuff and argued that, as hobbyists, we might want to reconsider our tendency to look at our woodworking from the “time-is-money” perspective. We have an advantage over those who are trying to earn a living selling furniture because we can choose our own terms, and if we’re working wood with hand tools simply because we love doing it (the word “amateur” defines one who pursues something for the love of it), our terms should be enjoyment. Time is a gift, and spending it well – rather than our modern tendency to “waste” or “kill” it – is a wise investment.
One of our goals with the Mortise & Tenon Apprenticeship Program is to show our students how handcraft can find its way into everyday life – how weaving a craft habit into your life can be a tremendously rewarding focus. More than simply learning the techniques of cutting joinery (although we do that as well), our primary aim with the program is to show our students that another way is possible – a way to maximize both pleasure and productivity in the shop. As of this morning, there are still a few spots left in the Summer term – now is the time to jump in.