The role of the craftsmen has drastically changed in western society from being a necessity in every town to a rare and special practice. Today, there are very few artisan makers who are recognized for their handiwork. Craftsmen in the contemporary age are masters of old traditions and techniques while living in a world moving quickly away from tradition. Now we find an interesting blend of traditional and modern craft practices, which combine hand work with new technology and tools. However, the craftspeople featured in this project adhere to the philosophies and techniques of the old masters who came to hone their craft through constant repetition working with hand tools, until it was second nature to them.
In the process of making this project I photographed a range of people who are creators of handmade crafts and found that these men and women are resilient in their practice and patient in their pursuit of perfection and beauty. What is more intriguing is the interaction a craftsman has with his tools and materials. What some of them call the state of ‘flow’, something they experience when engaged in a focused and calculated pursuit with an end goal in mind. This state offers a certain form of peace, even though the processes of hitting and cutting and shaping materials are not always of a peaceful nature. Working by hand to transform raw materials, is akin to a spiritual journey of the transfiguration to form a perfect object. The pursuit of craft requires: a deep understanding of the nature of the material, its characteristics and qualities. Why choose one wood over another? How thin can the wall of a ceramic bowl be made before it is too fragile to hold the form? Why does iron bend at a certain temperature before it starts to burn?
The craftsman’s knowledge allows him/her to bend and shape the material to his/her creative will and vision. It is an interaction of care and yet of command, with the goal of making something extraordinary.
This pursuit is what I document and allow the viewer to witness. In the series I hope to preserve and praise the practices of each maker. The photographs serve to depict important parts of a maker’s process and to reflect on the beauty of the specific actions which the maker carries out with his/her tools. The collection of images serves to reflect on the value of such skill, and the makers who wield it.