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Quite the journey we've taken.

I think it ties in so well with business because at the beginning, the question was a business one 

A fantastic question buried at the beginning was whether it was better to sell many pieces at $10, or a few at $100.

The thing I find daunting about $10 items is the level of production you'd have to maintain to make them profitable. 

Let's say you pay yourself well under what a tradesman would make in most parts of the USA, at $10/hr.

How many bottle openers do you have to make, in a single hour, to cover your material costs, consumables,  and other expenses,  and still make $10? And at that turnout rate, are you able to make each one in a way that speaks to your craftsmanship, or are they pretty bare-bones at that point?

Then, having done all of this, do you consider you've done right by yourself and the craft with its other craftspeople, by valuing your time at that wage? Are you being realistic? Are you undercutting the competition? It's an honest question I've thought a lot about myself. 

If you love doing what you do, and manage to make a few dollars that go back into feeding your hobby, I don't think you're hurting anyone, and you're probably putting a smile on a lot of faces. That isn't something to be looked down on.

But I don't think calling it trading money for your time and skill is entirely accurate at those rates. If you're charging around the price of a double cheeseburger combo with all the fixings, you're saying your time and skill is on par with a french fry cook's 

If the market agrees with your assessment of worth, revealed by the fact that you can't find any customers at increased prices, there's something wrong with what you're selling, how you're selling it, or where you're selling it. Or a combination of these. 

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8 hours ago, Exo313 said:

A fantastic question buried at the beginning was whether it was better to sell many pieces at $10, or a few at $100.

The thing I find daunting about $10 items is the level of production you'd have to maintain to make them profitable. 

The advantage of the artist over the craftsman is ... most of the time ... that the craftsman work can be copied by someone who decides to work for less money per hour whilst the artist work is harder to copy. 

Not that artists don't sabotage their feeble chance of remaining exclusive in their own production by photographing and posting their work online for everyone to see and copy. Ego is usually oblivious to the risk of giving away talent for free. :)

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That last part; the hard work has been done on the design, copying to one degree or another is much easier!

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Marc1 and Thomas, you're both hitting on one side of an idea that's not universally true.  

Let's take the craftsman is easily copied argument first.  I've been a journeyman electrician for eighteen years.  Last winter I had to pinch hit for a foreman who was out sick.  There were three panels that needed all their wiring terminated.  When I got there, an apprentice had been working for a full day and hadn't gotten halfway through the first panel.  The work had to finish that evening so that the roof top equipment could be turned on to heat the building.  Temp heating was being removed during that day.  If we didn't make it, there would be damage to the floor, wall, and ceiling finishes.

I noticed that the apprentice was making a lot of waste motions.  I took a moment to teach him.  He didn't want to learn.  In a few hours, I'd finished the first panel, and moved to the second.  He wasn't done with his first.  A few more hours went by and I finished the second panel.  I told him to stand aside because we weren't going to make it unless I finished that panel.  He was very frustrated because he'd been working hard the entire time.  

He's half my age and earns 1/3 of my wage.  At that rate it would cost over twice as much to have three apprentices each working on a panel because he couldn't finish a single panel in two days.  What I did would be typical production for any capable journeyman.  What he did, would be typical production for an apprentice.  

Now let's take the "hard work is done during design" part.

A whole lot of concepts/ designs only convey intent.  I won't dispute the hard work and occasional genius involved there.  However I would argue that means and methods are often much harder than. "Copy and paste".  

Consider something really utilitarian like a retaining wall alongside a highway overpass.  Once it's built, the whole thing seems rather obvious.  The wall keeps the sloped earth from collapsing.  OK fine.  Now consider how you'd go about building that safely.  I suspect most of us can find a local example that would be seriously difficult to build safely.  Further, I suspect that most of those retaining walls were built AFTER the huge mound of dirt was piled up.  

Driving along a highway it's easy to think some low-paid people were tasked with copying all those walls.  Even worse, there's an easy assumption that the quality is dodgy because it was built by the lowest bidder.

Yeah right.  Most the falsework necessary to support safe construction is calculated, designed, and executed by craftsmen, not engineers.  The penalties for failure are incredible.  Entire government agencies exist solely to ensure that safety related malfeasance is punished.  None of those agencies provide help with calculations, engineering review, or advice on means or methods.  They simply wait for something to go wrong, then they punish accordingly.

Most of the connections between structural steel members aren't detailed or designed by the structural engineer.  That's farmed out to the steel erection subcontractors who have to hire their own engineers to do that math.  Demolition plans calling for massive structural overhauls rarely if ever provide an action plan to execute things safely.

"Design" in my experience is rarely the "hard part".  Copying a craftsman's success is much harder than it appears.  

 

 

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You might want to review the section on hardware "forgery" in the Hardware Hacker.  Many ideas can be easily stolen once a working example is done.  Many foreign countries do not have the "punishment" clauses for copying designs; often quite crudely.

Somehow I am reminded of the installation of a 750 MCM power cable for a project I was doing in Indonesia.  I was horrified as over a dozen workers were pushing a cable spool with over a ton and a half of cable on it up the stairs manually; perhaps your ideas are not universal as well.`

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I will relate a similar experience. I suspect this is more common within " the crafts", or at least within our craft. We are small and for the most part are at the very least familier with smiths throughout the country.

First off i copyright all my drawings. This and a handful of money may get you a cup of coffee if you try to contest this after court. At the very least, this means on a per job basis, the concept, samples, and drawings are mine, not the clients. They pay me for design time, not the design.

I designed a complex 3 tier'd chandelier for a "pink Caddy Mary Kay woman. Alas, that should have been a warning. She asked if she could keep the drawings for a bit and i agreed. a while later she nixed the job and i got my drawings back. A month or so i got a call from a smith in Sante Fe. He had a copy of my drawings and said the woman had asked for a bid. He then asked if i would let him use my design. I agreed. All was well, but we both passed this woman's name around with a warning.

Lol, the final note was later. He let me know that he was unable to execute my design, simplified it and used his power tools extensively.  He and I both agreed she got what she deserved. I must point out, in all my work with private clients, she was the only bad apple.

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2 hours ago, rockstar.esq said:

Marc1 and Thomas, you're both hitting on one side of an idea that's not universally true.  

Let's take the craftsman is easily copied argument first

I read what you are saying, and you are correct that experience can not be copied, but we go back to the original question of what is craft and what is art.

A craftsman is not necessarily an expert. He can take 3 hours to make a bottle opener that someone else makes in 10 minutes. And the end result may not even be the same. However repetition will make most reasonably able people produce the bottle opener in 10 minutes or may be 20. There are two factors at play. The finish product and the time taken to make it.

It is the finish product that matters ultimately. The time taken is at the craftsman expense. Can the bottle opener be copied? Sure. Can the same result be achieved? Sure give it time and practice.

Take a sculpture for example. Can it be copied? sure, but it will take a lot longer to learn if the forger can do it at all. Repetition to produce lots of same sculptures may be possible too and may even learn how to do it efficiently, but the artist does not make the same sculpture like sausages one after the other all the same. Art is most of the time unique and the artist will make one of a kind using his particular talent. So the end result be it a painting or a sculpture can be copied. The talent to create a new art piece must be learned or be born with.

In your example of the switchboard wiring, you have learned the art of making the work fast and efficient, and I use the adjective art for the work intentionally because I believe there is some art to any work, including electrical work especially in a switchboard.

 That can not be copied, must be learned, however the end result that is the finished wiring can be copied every time, it just will take longer. The bottle opener or the wiring of a switchboard can be copied with different degrees of difficulty. A nice landscape painting can be copied by a talented forger. The forger however will not be able to produce a new, different, unique landscape unless he is ... well an artist himself. Then it will be his own work and not a copy. :) 

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Funny; I feel 180 from one line: "A craftsman is not necessarily an expert."   To me a craftsman is someone who IS an expert and in control of his medium. Artists do not need to be experts and making mistakes in art is a common thing. I've heard a number of professional artists say "I was trying to do this and this other thing happened and I liked it"  Where a craftsman would say I was trying to do that and I did that. Which shows expertise in the medium?   Of course some Artists are craftspeople and some craft's people are artists and some are one or the other in different aspects of their work.

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I think there's a misconception in Marc's last post that a craftsman is someone who fusses over a 10 minute project for 3 hours. 

I think that points to the inescapable truth that every word has its local and cultural connotations, and like most discussions, we're back and forth about the meaning of words, because one person perceives art as laborious soul-work, and another thinks it's a mix of snobbery and happy little accidents. Likewise, a craftsman is alternately viewed as a master workman, or a fussy sort of person with obsessively detail oriented focus at the expense of reason and practicality. 

A lot of it seems to be personal, in that if you're identifying yourself as an artist, it's because something about what you consider an artist to be speaks to your core set of values. The same is true if you call yourself a craftsman, tradesman, or entrepreneur. 

The real question is, what do your customers and competitors call you? 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Exo313 said:

The real question is, what do your customers and competitors call you? 

 

 

This is very true.

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On 11/10/2018 at 6:36 PM, George N. M. said:

I was recently invited to participate in a fairly high end art show by a friend who is a weaver and fiber artist.  I had to decline because we are in the process of moving and my inventory is too low to participate anyway.  I sent her photos of my booth and typical goods (brooches, neck rings, knives, pendants, kitchen ware, iron roses, Thors hammers, etc.) and she told me that it is a good thing that I wan't able to participate because multiples of a particular object would be discouraged.  Everything should be one of a kind and fairly expensive, nothing priced at less than $100.

Perhaps a reminder of the original post is in order. To me it is clear that the answer is in it. The art show had it very clear what the difference between craft and art is.

An object of art is unique to begin with. Leonardo did not make a dozen Mona Lisa.

Second ... that art object displayed in an art show are not cheap. Craft on the other hand are object that can be produced in numbers, all the same without taking away from what they are. My bottle opener is not less because there are many of the same.  

All the other considerations in relation to workshop management, sales strategy, inspiration vs transpiration are all very valid but do not cancel out each other or the original question of craft vs art. 

What constitute craft and what constitute art is one consideration. Who is a craftsman and who is an artist is a different one. It is the object that defines the person ... meaning that if I make craft I am a craftsman , if I make art I am an artist. Can I be both? I suppose that if i make garden tables during the week and sculptures on the weekend, I can be both. Will one detract from the other? Possibly in the eyes of an elitist customer, and something that wouldn't bother me and something I would laugh over, but we are not all the same. 

 

 

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So lithographs, engravings,  are not art?  Many famous artists did numerous variations of their work even in renaissance times.

So what are handbuilt wooden boats? 

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i don't think we can produce a definition set in concrete Thomas, we are just having a conversation over the original question.

Wooden boats are most likely craft. And that would depend from the quality. I don't know much about lithography but I think they are a type of art that can be reproduced, and the value of the print depends from the numbers produced (?) Like I said not one size fits all as is usually the case. 

How about hand printed books? Before Gutenberg's mobile letters, books were printed one page at the time. Does that make them art? Unlikely. 

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Exactly!  There is no one true answer save perhaps "I know it when I see it" and even that will identify different things differently on a per person basis!

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Perhaps the most important thing to highlight in a forum like this, would be to say that we can not consider one type of work over the other. 

I was hoping that defining what is craft and what is art would make it clear that they are two different animals and they can not be qualified as one better than the other. 

Is an artist of higher status than a craftsman? What is better to make, art or craft? what is likely to make me more money? ... and many other valid consideration perhaps are not possible to be answered but by the tradesman himself. 

 

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perhaps I can throw this into the fray too:

"The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water."      John W. Gardner
 

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In his book "Craft", Alexander Langlands says that the ancient word craeft was originally an amalgam of knowledge, power and skill, and an extended definition where a sense of wisdom and resourcefulness surpasses in importance the notion of physical skill. (His words not mine)

He goes on to describe how the word is a loaded term as it is a pragmatic description of how one earns one's livelihood. And how crafty as a description of character was always a positive description of an entrepreneurial character until Shakespeare  in King John and Hobbes in Leviathan give this word the meaning of sly and cunning. 

The best use of the word crafty to me is to describe the person that is the outsider, the one that has a way to do things differently, describing the modern day blacksmith to a te. 

It was Alfred the Great who united the concepts of learning and virtue with making the use of craft. "For Alfred the labour and work associated with making and doing was comparable to the spiritual strivings of philosophy "

Crafts, Alexander Langland says in his conclusions, "are a vehicle through which we can think, through which we can contemplate and through which we can be.

Craft is a form of intelligence and ingenuity that can shift in accordance with a changing world. "

The biggest merit of the author in this book is the ability to write 344 pages on this topic. Crafty indeed :) 

 

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Chapters 50-51 of the Rule of St. Benedict (6th century), with which King Alfred would have been familiar, and which established the rules governing the medieval Benedictine monasteries, instructed that monks who were working in the fields or doing other work at times of prayer were still in communion with God through their work.  Basically, "work is prayer."

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

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The Benedictine motto is "Ora et Labora": Work and Pray. Similarly, the litanies of the Eastern Orthodox Church contain petitions praying "for those who labor and for those who sing", who are clearly not necessarily the same!

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Prayer and Work? Putting the important one first...  I tell security in Mexico that I like working as I like eating---very Thessalonica!

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Of course, the motto of the college where I work is "Learning and Labor", and my salary here gets me my daily bread.

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