Why We Make Things and Why It Matters: The Education of a Craftsman

by Peter Korn

Paperback, 2015




David R Godine (2015), Edition: Reprint, 176 pages


In this moving account, Peter 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 and maker of fine furniture, takes a turn at teaching and administration at Colorado's Anderson Ranch Arts Center, and then founds a school in Maine: the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship, an internationally respected nonprofit institution.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 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 what generates the meaning and fulfillment that so many of us seek.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.… (more)

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LibraryThing member PDCRead
Nowadays people spend inordinate amounts of time in front of computers supposedly creating things and whilst some of these things can be satisfying, quite a lot of the time it isn’t. Peter Korn has had a lifetime of creating objects, when he began as a carpenter against his father's wishes. After a few years doing that, he suddenly had a desire to make a create furniture, to move from making things to creating things. These changes in career meant relocating to different parts of the States, taking each new venture in his stride and discovering his voice when it came to producing exquisite items of furniture. One thing that wasn’t in the plan though was the discovery of cancer.

He is a fighter, though, and thankfully he survives. But this is more than a memoir of his life, profession and a critique of his creations. He sets about answering the questions that he poses in the title of the book, describing what he and the people that he has taught through the school that he has set up, gain from the process of creating functional and beautiful things, and learning from the experience of others. It is quite a philosophical book, with a nod towards Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, but much more eloquently written as he explores just how the creative process can bring fulfilment.
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