Why We Make Things and Why It Matters


The Education of a craftsman


PETER KORN

"A thrilling combination of the intimate perspective of the maker and the larger perspective of the thinker/cultural critic."


Janet Koplos, contributing editor to Art in America and co-author of Makers: A History of American Studio Craft.

"What is the point of craft in a completely mass-produced world?  Peter Korn''s life, as told here, holds an answer. This fascinating account of Korn's path from novice carpenter to mastery as a woodworker and teacher offers insights into the significance of the handmade object for the maker as well as for society as a whole."


Martin Puryear, sculptor

"Peter Korn’s brilliant new book, Why we Make Things and Why it Matters: The Education of a Craftsman, resonates with me as a visual artist in a profound way.  I share his passion for craft and admire his ability to take a plank of wood and fashion anything he sets his mind to.  Throughout the centuries, furniture makers and painters have shared a set of belief systems centered on craft.  In recent decades, art and painting in particular have veered away from these concerns.  There is no more despised word in the art world than “craft” – the dreaded “c-word”.  We have entered a period of post-studio art.  Imagine if Peter Korn gave up his workshop and just thought about making furniture.  Or, at best, hired someone else who possessed those skills to fabricate it for him.  Even more outrageous is the current art world practice in painting called “deskilled art”, in which you attempt to show the viewer that you don’t even possess these craftsman-like skills.  


I think of my grandmother who as an agoraphobic, nervous wreck calmed herself by knitting, crocheting and quilting - all of which seemed to have the effect of raking gravel in a Zen Buddhist garden. This is illustrated by the following example.  As I watched my grandmother work on a cable knit sweater for months I was shocked to see her pull the yarn out and wind it into balls of yarn.  I said, “Nana, how can you throw this away?”  She said, “It’s not the sweaters I like.  You all have way too many sweaters.  It’s the knitting that I like”.  


The pleasure and calm that I get as a painter fashioning a complicated work from colored dirt on canvas is, I believe, the same pleasure and peace that Peter Korn and his students get as craftsmen."


Chuck Close, painter

"In his beautiful book Why We Make Things and Why It Matters, Peter Korn invites us to understand craftsmanship as an activity that connects us to others, and affirms what is best in ourselves. Korn locates the value of making useful things in a larger frame. Once made, the useful thing recedes into the background of some form of life -- one that is shared by those who use the thing. The craftsman’s activity thus offers a tacit affirmation of other activities – the daily doings of a community – as being worthy of his investment of care. Here is an alternative to notions of “creativity” that regard it as primarily self-expression. In Why We Make Things and Why It Matters, Korn restores craftsmanship to less narcissistic self-understanding."    

                                 

Matthew Crawford, author of Shop Class as Soulcraft 

ADVANCE PRAISE

"Peter Korn writes that his work as a furniture-maker tries to accomplish three goals: integrity, simplicity, and grace. Fortunately, these qualities are also what distinguish his writing. In this book, he gives the reader an almost tangible sense of what it takes to be a creative craftsman; a homo faber, a maker of things, which is one of the central elements of the human condition. But he does much more than that: he explores — with integrity, simplicity, and grace — what the search for self and for belonging entails in our rapidly changing times."


Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Creativity: The Psychology of Discovery and Invention