Thursday, July 03, 2008


I love a good craftsman. Someone who takes pride in their creative work no matter how apparently simple or humble the task.

One of the biggest dangers of going for a haircut, especially for a woman with long flowing locks, is that the 'creative director' (or whatever hairdressers like to call themselves these days) finds it tiresome to just neatly trim the ends. He needs to call forth his 'artistry' and expend much effort in pushing for something far more dramatic and interesting. Sadly too often, to justify the default cost of the grooming ritual and perhaps also enjoying the implicit flattery, the client goes along with this. Subsequently catastrophic results are then overlooked where both parties are complicit in the 'success' of the resulting new look, and further reinforced with friends' well-intentioned but insincerely positive feedback.

In truth, a really good craftsman is hard to find in any field, because so often the rightful intent of their task is subverted by a low threshold of boredom or a fundamental betrayal of their role.

The world of advertising and design is particularly full of these phoney artists. On televsion, on billboards, on buses and trains, in magazines and newspapers, websites and beyond. David Ogilvy wrote a brilliant book that puts this in stark focus - there's something rather excruciating about seeing much modern-day advertising self-indulgence after reading his classic work. Just like the hairdresser and his colluding customer, trendy agency reps and credulous businessmen buy into the (notional) triumph of flashy design over effective content. Despite Ogilvy being a Scotsman, it's generally fair to say that the US (and Asia too) is far less guilty of this wholesale self-deception than we in Europe tend to be.

The way I see it, really worthy artistic expression is borne from great craftmanship and purpose, design in itself has no value and no meaning. This was something I noticed, and continue to notice, with experimental music. It's a real challenge to play a synth and just stick to playing 3 distinct sounds without variation - the temptation to fiddle around, playing rhythms and melodies, is almost irresistible. A great craftsman has the strength to resist.


Richo said...

Ha! I like the allegory regarding experimental music. Only too often, those responsible for creating such music lose sight of the fact they're being 'experimental' before they even try to be exactly that. Although it's a term turned to only too often out of laziness or convenience (and I'm as guilty as charged on this count, despite a concerted effort to avoid it), I detest the whole notion of 'experimental' music, though. Firstly, doesn't all music, no matter how it may end up attired in the clothes of predictability, begin life as something of an 'experiment'? And, secondly, I'm just not into the idea of somebody making purportedly 'experimental' music for the sake of, hey, being 'experimental'. For me, the same basic rules apply when it comes to music, or art forms, of ALL kinds. I want whatever's expressed to at least arrive from the fucking heart, whether I personally like it or not.

Which brings us neatly back onto your original point about craftsmen. There just aren't that many people around now who give a shit about what they do. Other considerations, such as having enough money for the next month's bills or that fancy new jacket one may want, are elevated to priority status by comparison.

Nothing inherently wrong with wanting a new fancy jacket or needing money enough to pay bills, but I strongly feel artists or craftsmen of all descriptions should attempt to retain a grip on what is they're supposed to be doing.

Pride is another factor that's getting cast aside, too. What's the fucking point in doing ANYTHING if you can't feel good about it or know that it may lead to something even better?

dystonia ek said...

'Experimental music' is an idea I've also detested for ages. Experimentation is fine and necessary, but surely the finished product should be a deliberate and methodical application of things learned during the experimental phase (the development of 'craft', to follow the original analogy) rather than simple documentation of experiments (though such documentation can certainly be interesting in providing context for 'finished' work). The problem may have to do with the failure of many (or perhaps the majority of) people involved in the realm of abstract sound (or any other, really) to make the distinction between experimentation as means and as end.

David Cotner said...

Is this a reminiscence about Produktion Hair?

Ea-M. said...

This is why i, after 3 years of preparation to apply to a very well renowned design school, decided to let it all go to hell. I didn't want to be in a position where i could be forced to compromise in order to deliver a product. I might not be able to write any fancy titles on my card (i don't even have a card) but at least i can do my creating in my own time and way.

Richo said...

In response to your comment, Ea-M, it's vaguely similar to my being turned down for art college. I was never convinced I wanted to go in the first place, so getting turned down simply reinforced the idea that I'd rather have money to buy records, go to concerts and pursue my own, uh, 'creative endeavours' in my own time, at home and without all the constraints that may have otherwise been foisted upon me. I find art students pretty despicable at the best of times, too, so just becoming one would've pushed me to fuck knows where. And, indeed, talk about the classic case of trying to opt for this because I didn't know what else to do. Six months on the dole and a proper fucking job was my 'education', plus inadvertently helped me with my own 'craft'...

Microprosopus said...

Thus ultimate insult:

Miss Kerry said...

This is why "we are all artists" makes me angry.
yes, we can all be creative.
to be a artist ( here in the literal sense, fine art ) - i worked for decades, doing what every fine artist thru history usually did. copying masters, learning technique, mastering tools, developing skill with design, learning fundamental foundations of art.
I got very good.
Then I quit.
Because I was bored. And comps came in to ruin hand work, for jobs.
Did some good pieces, maybe a 5 over 20 years ( i was bored early, and was quite good young ). Still, nothing.
No point. why bother?
One transfixing day, I saw a Francis Bacon in the Tate. Close up. The paint.
Then I saw a exhibition. Close up.
Ive never seen such amazing painting, done was like a new feeling or a new colour.
or getting glasses.
Later, I grabbed a brush and just wacked out some style unlike me whatsoever in a portrait.
I now know how Im going to paint, until I die.
But it took forever, to learn how to paint,draw, see, and then it took forever to wait until I found a reason to do it.
I hate most new art, as its all puff no filling either.
its not even craftsmanship, how ever boring, at least has some skill to back it up.
its all theory, and no art.:(