The British Crafts Blog

Stephen Bateman, Publisher of the Mastercrafts book, asks ‘Why give up a comfortable office job to pursue a traditional craft?’

Posted in Book development, Heritage Crafts by britishcrafts on February 1, 2010


Stephen Bateman

Dear Mastercrafts friends

In less than 2 weeks the long-awaited Mastercrafts series and book will broadcast and publish simultaneously. 
The TV series, which we have already glimpsed here, promises to disclose the serene quality of another, more creative, forgotten but re-emerging and reasoned way of life; a way of life that is being rediscovered by everyday people in rural communities where traditional rural crafts are being embraced in favour of meaningless office jobs on the end of frenzied commuter lines.
Following my post on the Mastercrafts Facebook page  a week ago, I have set out to uncover the personal motivations that are driving so many people to reassess their working lives and opt to pursue a craft skill they value, even when the financial rewards are slimmer than they are used to.
Responses to my post last week helped me establish a clearer understanding of the higher drivers in people forcing this change to occur, and, over the course of the next 10 days, I will endeavour to broaden and extend the ideas on these motivations which, I hope, will help answer some the questions so many of us ask ourselves everyday, like: “How can I reach fulfillment and still earn money?” and “What will I have to show for myself when my working life is over?” I will post one thought a day until the program airs and hope that you, my fellow craft enthusiasts, will respond with your opinions, testimonials and anecdotes.
This is my first thought: Permanence  
I believe that people who excel in a rural craft do so and love their craft because they achieve and enjoy a greater sense of permanence from connectedness. Working with their hands and minds, thinking and shaping with hands and tools simultaneously to transform materials, releases, I believe, a deeper sense of connectedness. It is hard to describe to anyone who has not experienced this symbiosis but the feeling is truly addictive and is capable of putting one into a sort of trance.
I can vouch for this. When I have worked wood for a long time and feel I have achieved some measure of mastery, I feel myself after some hours, enter a state of contemplation and ecstasy, in which I shut off from the world outside and happily forget to do the mundane things such as eat and rest.
The feeling I am describing is something similar to that which I believe T.S Eliot describes in The Four Quartets, when, in his poem, he talks about being “At the still point of the turning world.”
A similar evocation comes from another author and craftsman I had the pleasure of reading this summer in the lovely little book titled “Delight”,  and published exclusively as a exclusive collection for Waterstone’s. In this little book, David Linley, the bespoke furniture maker and chairman of Christie’s, reminds us wisely that “you don’t need constant change to be happy, you just need things to last.”
Likewise the modern philosopher Alain de Botton, in his book “The pleasures and sorrows of work” points to the satisfaction that comes from reshaping a part of the world into an object of permanence which he describes as “the stable repository of (…) skills and an accurate record of (the) years, (…) collected together in one place, rather than strung out across projects which long ago evaporated into nothing (that) one could hold or see.”

I would be interested to hear anyone’s personal account of their communion in work. 

If you would like to, do leave a comment below, or join in the discussion with over 500 other supporters of traditional crafts on the Mastercrafts Facebook page

Find out more about the book and pre-order here

Stonemason Andy Oldfield features in this book

The Mastercrafts book


One Response

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  1. Anne Omand said, on February 1, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Dear Stephen,

    I had this page open on my laptop to finish reading later, as I was watching a programme I had recorded some months ago on sky plus. The programme is ‘Arena – T S Eliot’. For some reason I glanced down at this page and was astounded to discover that the next sentence I read referred to Eliot and in particular ‘The Four Quartets’ an amazing co-incidence considering I had just seconds earlier watched a recording of Eliot himself reading from this very work.

    Not really relevant to ‘Mastercrafts’ but just wanted to share my experience really. James Joyce and synchronicity spring to mind.

    Regards Anne

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