online: 8 april 2002

7 april 2002 craft and culture*

This is the title of a new magazine that was sent me from Korea - and I'm amazed by it - amazed that it seems to have overcome the artificiality of other craft magazines that I've seen - the artificiality of making things by hand in a culture that depends upon making things by machine, by powers faster and cheaper than muscles and now with control systems faster and cheaper than brains... How does it happen that this magazine seems so real and so alive to the present?

Firstly by giving much space to interviews with traditional craftworkers, not intellectuals attempting 'art' but master carpenters, wood engravers and such, who build, make or repair the traditional palaces, temples, memorial inscriptions, musical instruments, etc, for which, in Korea, there is still a live tradition and a demand.

And also by the quality and intelligence of the writing (I'm only able to read the articles that are translated into English) - not fearing to criticise the social failures of modern building and by describing new handcrafts that are necessary to modern life... and all done with modesty, care, and great attention to quality, not just what is in fashion.

I feel inspired, by what I read in it, to attempt in my own way to do likewise. To connect the quality of good things from the past, that still survive, with the best quality of thinking and action to be found in modern life!

I hope that someone in the West is inspired to start a similar magazine here - and including new skills like software writing and message texting and 'education through art' and advanced graffiti and museum designing (and perhaps the advanced skills in any job or profession - for instance film animation - not only the visual ones?) as well as live traditional crafts and skills like archery, shoe making, knitting, cooking, and the like...?

Next day: As I contemplte that idea I realise that it could become a magazine or a website more of skills than of crafts - and that it could become the nucleus of what I have been calling creative democracy... the first step beyond specialisation... (is that my next move?)

Here are a few words from the first editorial of Craft and Culture:

How to Be a Sleek Tiger Chasing the True Sense of Craft the end of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), sleek tigers carved on the gravestone set atop a king's tumulus were imaginary animal protectors of the sovereign's power in daily life... the two sleek tigers sculpted on the column of a stone lantern were guides who linked the past with the present and descendants with their predecessors...

...We need to understand tradition not as the opposite of modernism, but as a dialogue with the present, as a living tradition...

...For us, tradition does not belong in a finely crafted box set in a museum showcase. Nor does it belong among the handwritten texts of precious books. Traditional values become part of a complete tradition when they breathe the air of the daily lives of people who love tradition. We would like to become your sleek tiger - an inconspicuous and capable guide.

by Chung-woo Lee, Editor-in-chief, and Yu In-jung and Min Soo-hong, staff writers

* Craft and Culture, a new quarterly journal, ISSN 1599-4309

Second floor, Shindong Bd. 1438-7, Seocho dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul, South Korea, zip code 137-070

Publisher: Ha Jung-choel, published by Institute of Craft & Culture. Editorial design: Hong design ltd.

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© 2002 john chris jones

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