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Deep Craft: beyond Etsy & Make; slow design & the good life

Scott Constable is a craftsman who designs utilitarian objects like furniture skateboards and handcrafted homes to the more esoteric, such as a mobile micro radio station or a mobile biodiesel processor (the Friesel).

Discuss “craft” with Constable, whose training includes apprenticeships under master woodworkers and specializing in traditional joinery, and you’re likely to hear about such things as Windsor chairs, traditional bodgery and English guilds.

Traditional joinery and bodgery

At a time when craft has become closely linked to Etsy or Make or any number of DIY blogs and zines, Constable wants to take back the word. “The whole Deep Craft concept was a way for me to rebrand the word craft. I was starting to see things like Etsy come out and craft was becoming ubiquitous and the same time it was becoming devalued.”

Deep Craft manifesto

Borrowing from the concept of deep ecology, Constable created the term Deep Craft and began to craft a manifesto as a set of working principles. They are a work in progress and he hopes to encourage open source dialogue. So far, he’s created 64 principles “to define criteria for assessing handmade products and practices”. Here is a sampling:

  • Maintenance = Improvement
  • Entropy adds value: The functionality of a thing by definition incorporates/embodies its decomposition.
  • Prepare for unintended consequences.
  • The tool shapes us as much as we shape the tool.
  • Art reduces the boundaries between work and thought. Traditional craft makes the distinction obsolete; both art and handicraft are most robust when the two are fused.
  • Any hand wrought thing works best when the aesthetic of its own decay is considered a design requirement.
  • Trust in an ethos of ‘exuberant frugality’.
  • Craft is most rewarding when it continues to engage all of the senses over time.

In this video, Constable elaborates on some of his principles, shows us his Deep Deck skateboard – a Deep Craft product that he hopes to develop into a “slow product line”- and talks more about “What Makes A Good Day?” (principle #14).

[Music credit: Old Ghost by Paperhand Lincoln]