The topic isn’t new nor will it go away anytime soon. I have had a couple of conversations about this topic and put some of my opinions on paper. The conversations typically flow around the idea of traditional craftspeople, the maker movement and occasionally how capitalism is affecting these areas. Please note that my opinions are based in the woodworking community.
The club that I am is heavily dominated by retired community and has a very traditional view on the craft of wood working. There are some that that have played in the CNC programing but most have not. We do have a couple of vocational teachers that come to the club. They are starting to show off some of the things that they are playing around with on the 3d printers and laser cuter. The comment was made that this in not art. The reply was noteworthy. It is not in the traditional sense. However the person using a CNC machine to cut out the project still has to program the machine. They still have to design the project and make sure it works together. That piece, that project, is a person’s art, their achievement. It is getting people off their games and social media to create. Where I see this moving to as people create and as the projects grow more complex they will move into more collaborative work. It maybe through online forums, but I hope it will move into more associations and physical groups.
There is concern more and more products are being made using CNC and cheapening the product of the “true craftsperson.” It is true that items produced on a CNC can be mass produced faster and at a less cost than those done using power and hand tools. I don’t think this is as big of a deal as some are making it out to be. There will be a group of people that want the traditionally crafted projects. I feel that this group of people is dwindling in numbers. There are more people that change with the styles of the times. Instead of investing in expensive furniture to last for generations, they want it to last 5-10 years and then they change their style. This is an expensive and maybe a wasteful trend. This is where I see the upscaling movement int. People take someone else’s trash and change it in to something they need. When they don’t need it anymore it goes to someone else to change to their needs. It pays tribute to the craftspeople of the past. They truly build pieces to last, maybe not in the way they had hoped.
Where do I fit into all this? After talking to several people, they assume that I like the entire package of woodworking. The truth is that I like the design, problem solving and the assembly. I really do not like processing the parts. I like some sanding but there is way too much of it in woodworking. I appreciate the labor involved and enjoy the time making sawdust. My excitement comes from the design and from the all the dry fits to final assembly. I am currently working on some cradles. The ends have stopped grooves in them. I have the ability and knowledge to set up a router and make these grooves. The entire process for all eight parts would take about four hours. I have access to a CNC milling machine at work. It took ten minutes of programing and ten minutes to run the parts. I am going to use the CNC because of the time and I don’t have to worry about accidently screwing up the part. I am also working on a truck and want to do a little inlay. I will be cutting the inlay but I really don’t want to cut the recess or the blank that goes in the recess. I can do it but don’t want to spend the time on the set up. These parts will also be done on the CNC. I am all about making things more efficient while still maintaining the craft.
I am happy that kids are using technology to design, create and discover. I think this is more important than traditional methods and ways of doing things. Will it affect the craftsperson bottom line, it will. More and more craftspeople are turning to content production rather than living off the craft. I believe it is a good thing that more people want to try things themselves.