Friday, October 8, 2010

Craftsman Research

[The beautiful hills look like a painted backdrop]

[Another gorgeous sunset]

Whenever I have the chance to see these beautiful California hills, I am always reminded of my first exposure to them - in illustrations of Craftsman design and architecture from my art school days. These hills were the setting of many beautiful craftsman homes, and a design feature in a number of beautiful decorative elements - clay tiles, murals, pierced tin screens and more.

As my life progresses, I realize that I will eventually need to create a style separate from my weaving master, develop my own line of products and strike out on my own. At the same time, I'm caught up in my vision of a fellowship of craftsmen living together on a sort of monastery and seeking a better way of life through our craftwork.

And so, with the realization that I'd have a lot of time on my hands, I picked up an old thread of research: the Craftsman movement of the early 20th century and ways to incorporate its motifs in my own work. This movement, typified in the work of Stickley, Morris, and many others was much more than a design style. It embodied a philosophy of human happiness and a way to work together toward the betterment of society.

In my research, I stumbled upon a fantastic resource. The University of Wisconsin in Madison has scanned and organized every issue of Gustav Stickley's periodical "The Craftsman", published from 1901-1916. (They've got a lot more, too.) This is an unbelievable resource, a treasure trove of design tips, technical courses, and best of all, essays from the movers and shakers at the beginning of this important movement.

To browse the collection yourself, click HERE.

It is amazing to me how much craftsman thought and politics match my own. There's a pervasive belief that people are made to work and to engage in creative endeavors. These papers were written before the epidemic of fruitless work and the resulting depression that are the hallmark of our society, but they predicted it all.

They also had strong beliefs about how the work should be accomplished and how the business of craftwork should be structured. I have so much to learn and can't wait to read more.

[A page from The Craftsman, displayed in Evernote for iPhone. Click HERE to see the original.]

If you recall from last week, I don't have good access to electricity here. That means I can't use my laptop much. I've found someone with power who will let me charge it in trade for letting him check email. That's great, but I can't sit and do research in his camp all day. Here's what I do instead...

With my 3 hours of battery life while surfing, I scan through the Craftsman archive. I grab snapshots of every page that interests me and upload it to Evernote, in my Crafts Research folder. Then, I can read the pages at my leisure on my iPhone, which recharges from my van's lighter. This gives me about 6 hours of reading and note-taking with only an hour of electricity access.

As an added benefit, Evernote reads the text in all of the page images I upload and makes them searchable. And, this week they rolled out a new feature in the Chrome browser plugin. When I perform a Google search, the plugin searches my Evernote account and displays things that I've already clipped along with the regular web search results. This is great! I've been using Evernote long enough that I can't remember evrything that is already stored there. Isn't that the point? Well, now I don't have to do an Evernote search before I Google a topic. It's done automatically, reminding me that I'm duplicating my research and should just re-read what I have.

Sorry, Safari. That's the last straw. Yesterday I changed my default browser to Chrome.

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