online: 22 (?) october 2005
modified: 22, 26 october 2005

16 october 2005 DIY as industrialised craftwork

22:28 Resting and writing after a busy Sunday planning and improvising new shelving (for rehousing my 1500 or so books in the new flat) - and changing plans to fit the industrialised possibilities and limits of a huge DIY warehouse nearby... with hundreds of others hurrying to fit their domestic needs or wishes before the expiry of the offer of a price reduction of 15% this weekend...

I realise that the stressfulness comes exchanging the leisurely, satisfying and expensive manner of traditional crafts (as described and practiced by William Morris, George Sturt and others*) for the cost-reduced and deskilled designs of the by now vast DIY (and flat-packed furniture) industries...

The result may satisfy us but its low price (and democratic availability of simplified high style) is obtained by replacing the personal skill and inventiveness of craftwork by the rigidity of the cost reduction process (with its absolute dependence on fixing the goal and thus eliminating human adaptiveness and freedom of decision)...

The result is inexpensive and apparently stylish but it excludes the personal discretion and quality of 'good work' as perceived, described and experienced by William Morris and many other artist craftworkers or theorists of handwork.

22 october 2005:
So, my enthusiastic welcoming of the DIY movement* in the 1950s was mistaken: i did not anticipate the industrialising of the thinking of craftwork.

What i predicted (the autonomous use, of the time released by automation, for non-mechanised skill) has not happened...

So what now... the end of industrial ends?

*26 october 2005:
After several days (during which this website has been inaccessible) i've found what i wrote about DIY in the 1950s:

In do-it-yourself we see manual work - the one element absent from the automaton picture - re-appearing at the domestic level and becoming once more an individual and creative activity...

The real social and economic value of do-it-yourself in a society bereft of paid manual workers is just what Morris, Ruskin, Gill and all the other apostles of craftsmanship, would surely recognise at once as the pre-requisite of any artistic or creative activity that is not to acquire the superficial, unreal and unessential qualities of the fine arts. Although the present do-it-ourself activities are remarkable more for an absence of skill and creativeness than the reverse, there is every possibility that they will not remain in this condition. It is more likely that the ever growing necessity for such activities will of its own force bring about an increasing element of intelligent and creative resource until home-made fittings, furniture, and even houses become as much associated with quality and competence as are home made cakes.

(J Christopher Jones, Automation and Design, 4 - work and leisure, Design, London, Number 108, December 1957, pages 50-54.)

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