In the artsy-craftsy world, the skills that one develops are understood to be for the sake of personal expression. Understood this way, craft practice is fully in harmony with cult of the Self that seems to underwrite every aspect of modern life, from pervasive therapy-talk to the existential heroics of “extreme sports.” It’s hard to escape the sour smell of our own narcissism. Worse, it’s hard to live up to this vague demand that one be “creative” and somehow generate from within onself an entire world. What if skilled craft practice were put in the service of straightforward utility instead? It might then connect the practitioner to other people who use the object, and offer a genuine alternative to the self-enclosure of modern life.
Matthew Crawford. Since there was no chance of me going to the seminar where Crawford gave this talk, I hope he produces an essay or book based on it soon.