In today’s tech-centric world, it seems like everything is mass-produced and disposable. Yet there are still devoted craftspeople working in media from wood to reclaimed machine parts, and their hands-on approach to making durable, useful objects of beauty continues traditions handed down through the centuries.
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The good life that society prescribes — the untrammeled pursuit of wealth and fame, leisure and consumption — often leaves some essential part of us malnourished. We may be capable, competent individuals yet find ourselves starved for avenues of engagement that provide more satisfying sustenance.
Furniture making, practiced as a craft in the twenty-first century, is a decidedly marginal occupation. Yet the view from the periphery can be illuminating. For woodworker Peter Korn, the challenging work of bringing something new and meaningful into the world through one’s own volition — whether in the arts, the kitchen, or the marketplace — is exactly what generates the authenticity, meaning, and fulfillment for which many of us yearn.
In this moving account, Korn explores the nature and rewards of creative practice. We follow his search for meaning as an Ivy-educated child of the middle class who finds employment as a novice carpenter on Nantucket, transitions to self-employment as a designer/maker of fine furniture, takes a turn at teaching and administration at Colorado’s Anderson Ranch Arts Center, and finally founds a school in Maine: the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship, an internationally respected, non-profit institution.
This is not a ‘how-to’ book in any sense. Korn wants to get at the why of craft in particular, and the satisfactions of creative work in general, to understand their essential nature. How does the making of objects shape our identities? How do the products of creative work inform society? In short, what does the process of making things reveal to us about ourselves? Korn draws on four decades of hands-on experience to answer these questions eloquently, and often poignantly, in this personal, introspective, and revealing book.