Cover of the U.S. first edition published by David R. Godine in October, 2013

​Cover of the U.K. hardcover first edition published by Random House in 2015

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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 21st 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 of one’s own volition—whether in the arts, the kitchen, or the marketplace—is exactly what generates the authenticity, meaning, and fulfillment for which so many of us yearn so deeply.

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 inquiry.  

News Highlights

9/12/2019 A Life's Work, a documentary film featuring Peter Korn, has been released online by British director Ben Spilling, and can be viewed here.

12/15/2015 Peter Korn's presentation at the Hay Literary Festival can be seen here.

2/5/2015 Random House released the book in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. 

1/24/2015 The Times of London printed an enthusiastic review.

5/29/2014 The book was awarded the 2014 Maine Literary Award for memoir.

3/27/2014 WCSH-TV  in Portland, Maine           interviewed Peter Korn for its "207" program.

1/16/2014 Public radio programs Maine Calling and Radio Boston interviewed Peter Korn.

Why We Make Things and Why It Matters

The Education of a craftsman