The Salt and Pepper of Free Workmanship


“For all the benefits we’ve gained from mechanization and automation, it is high time we take a step back to consider afresh if our shop work is actually any richer when our tools are Bluetooth-compatible. There is no doubt that “information technology is changing the nature of human work in industrial production. The machine operator has become the machine overseer. [But] whether this change is making work more humane is another question.”

In Pye’s day, he saw his contemporaries’ appetite for antiques as a “sign of an unsatisfied hunger for diversity and spontaneity in the things of everyday use.” Our fenced tools and highly jigged operations give us precise, quality work. But they cannot give us technophiles what we so desperately need: the marks of a human touch. A new, healthier vision for our built environment would seek to offset the relentless efficiency of mass-production with the “salt and pepper,” as Pye puts it, of free workmanship.”

– Joshua A. Klein, excerpt from “A Fresh and Unexpected Beauty: Understanding David Pye’s ‘Workmanship of Risk’” in Issue Seven, available here.