State of the Craft?

Article - August 30, 2008

Someone posed a very good question in a forum thread recently, and I wanted to bring the discussion to you. The gist was that all of the recent excitement over woodworking (blogs/podcasts/etc…) could actually be BAD for the craft. The logic presented was that many of our great woodworkers have decided to teach woodworking, rather than actually DO woodworking themselves. The post expressed concern that if everyone is teaching, then there will be no one left to actually DO the woodworking. A very interesting point and certainly something for all of us to think about. I am very curious what everyone’s take is on this. Here’s mine:

No doubt, it is way too early to make a definitive call on the long-term effects of the woodworking hobby/blogging/teaching phenomenon (I like to call it a renaissance). But as I see it, its just a numbers game. A couple years ago, many of us were discussing how the craft could very well die because kids are not being exposed to this stuff at an early age. If mom and dad are the type to hire someone rather than go the DIY route, the child may never have an opportunity to develop that love for crafting things (speculating, of course). But now, because woodworking is much more popular and is accessible in formats that the younger generations can relate to, we are creating a new opportunity for exposure that previously didn’t exist. I am certainly not claiming this is filling the gap left behind by the lack of incorporation into school curriculums, but I do at least see it as a step in the right direction.

So with all this buzz about woodworking and with so many people getting into it, wouldn’t you think that at least some of these people are going to have that fire lit within them? The fire to excel well beyond the abilities of their online instructors. And even with the loss of some of our current “greats” (although I would not consider it a loss at all), the excitement and energy that surrounds the craft now could very well be what we need to keep the craft alive so that generation after generation can enjoy it. And those who want to make a career of it, will have the opportunity to do so.

Just like any professional field, some will learn a lot, and then decide that teaching is the way they want to go. Much like my college professors, these people may accomplish little in terms of cutting edge research in their respective field, but at least some of their students will go on to do great things for that community as a whole. And I see no reason why woodworking shouldn’t follow this same pattern.
As far as I’m concerned: more people teaching woodworking = more people learning woodworking = more people have the opportunity to be inspired and take their craft to the next level.

Obviously, none of us know what’s going to happen. But I am fairly certain that the net affect of all this will be better than the direction we were going prior to the teaching/web phenomenon. What say you good woodworkers?