Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Vakmanschap is Meesterschap

It's time to celebrate, so a few scans from a dutch book I have called Craftsmanship is Mastery for all of you. 

(Today is my last day at work, it's sunny outside, and we have moved to a new flat with Julia, a proper one with real wood for the floor and real stone for the columns and no retarded landlord complaining for an open window. Will try to take some pics of the stonework.)

The title of the book is very enigmatic, and makes me think of Hegel's master-slave dialectic. Who is the master in the pictures? At first sight one would say the guy handling the tools and creating with them something beautiful. But then you start looking at the background of the pictures and the hands are only a little part of the whole picture. The craftsman is a slave of the material and tradition. A workshop that looks the same for 400 years, with tools old as humanity itself. The shapes he carves are transmitted generation by generation, and the gothic tracery emanates from the oak planks like out of its own vegetal will. The turnings follow the tools the turner uses and the carver is just another tool that the gauges need in order to attack the wood with their own shapes and create the carving. 

The concentrated look, the humble body position, looking down in almost a prayer, has been learnt in a lifetime of close contact with their materials. They bend in front of a master infinitely greater than themselves: the world.

But that slavering gives you freedom. And a certain mastery of the world.  For you know its workings, you can act wilfully on it. The greatest freedom emanating from total submission, as one of Dostoievski's characters says in The Karamazov Brothers. 

I'm looking forward to grow old. 


  1. The photos.....incredible! A wealth of knowledge and experience is contained in each of these pictures. Remarkable. Thank you for the opportunity to study and learn, each of these is new for me. The intensity shown by each of these craftsman is akin to a state of grace, the understanding and communication of each act, each movement of the tool a communion between man and work. Beautiful.

    The man with the pipe....ha! That's how I always envisioned my later years,haha. Crazy grandpa with his stinky old pipe. Me totally!

    1. I think it's a series actually... made by the Grolsch brewery in the 60s. And from my old town, Enschede.

      you can find the books here, in case a reader would like to buy em: