Craftmanship as Counter-Cultural

CWantique ring.jpg
Four unrelated stories coalesced in my so-called mind: hand-crafted antique toys, Peter Maxwell Davies new recording contract, shoppers pushing against the glass doors waiting for the doors to open at Walmart and Oliver Stone’s “Alexander.”

The first two recall a time past and occasionally present where craft rules.

Michael Beckerman reviews an exhibit of rare antique toys (Photo of Antique ring/Toy Above) that still delight. As his grandmother said of one toy, “can you imagine 92 years-old and I am still seeing new things.” Contrast that to the toys the hapless Walmart shopper will buy on the day after Thanksgiving: mass-produced, cheap, no surprises, little magic and on the garbage heap within 12 months. Such stuff calls for no craftsman and is efficiently manufactured with recycling in mind for consumers who do not require quality toys made of the finest materials and with care.

Anne Midgette tells the story of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, who at 70 announced he will no longer compose symphonies, but will concentrate instead on string quartets. Amazingly a record label will back the project despite the economic consequences: “What’s really remarkable, however, is the involvement of a record company in commissioning new music. The conventional wisdom at most major labels is that it’s hard enough to sell new music. Going out and helping it come into being is virtually unprecedented. “Like all recordings of contemporary music,” said Klaus Heymann, Naxos’s founder and chief executive, “this is a not-for-profit project.”

Compare this to Alexander, Oliver Stone’s big-budget product cranked out for mass consumption, which despite its adherence to pop-filmic epic formulas was described by Manolha Dargis as “filled with “puerile writing, confused plotting and shockingly off-note performances.”

Commitment to craft requires a counter-cultural pilgrimage and people of faith ought to be the ones to blaze such artistic trails. Our theology requires that we create beauty that is good, calling forth our best talent, using the finest materials, always attentive to the person who will receive our creations, which though aimed at pleasing God carry the delightful added benefit of bringing joy to another human.

Hans Rookmacher said Jesus came to make us fully human, which is the essence of being saved. Artists producing out of deep faith hold the greatest potential for saving us by restoring our humanness and pointing us to the one in whose image we are made.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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    Posted in Staublog in November 27, 2004 by | No Comments »

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