Defining “technology”

This entry is part of a series for Handful of Salt about the role of technology in high end craft and design. Read the original article here.

 

Standardized oil paints were first sold in tubes in 1841, by Winsor Newton‘s founders from Henry Newton’s home in Rathbone Place, London.

medieval pigment grinding

To be sure – artists had been using oil paints (and a variety of ingredients) for a very, very long time. But each artist made their own; grinding pigments then adding their own proprietary blend of secret ingredients.

But then all of a sudden – oil paints, available in tubes! No grinding! No mess! No excruciatingly long, difficult and dangerous process! How disgustingly egalitarian. Why now *everyone* could, theoretically paint. I’m sure the furor in the artistic circles was deafening.

Which is why I chuckled when I recently read the discussions around 3D printing on a leading professional jeweler’s board…I quote: “So now every housewife can make jewelry”.  The voice, dripping with disgust, could be plainly “heard” through the computer pixels.

I sense much the same dichotomy across the craft spectrum; if CAD is even on many craftspeople’s radars at all. Either, apparently, you are an “artist” who lovingly makes something by hand (preferably sacrificing for your craft by getting splinters or something), or you are an engineer, who uses a computer. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of intersection.

But why?  I’m not sure why there is always such disdain by the “old guard” every time a game changing technology emerges, be it pre-made oil paints or CAD software. They are just tools to create with; yes, they lower the barrier to entry.

Just as the advent of commercially available tubes of paint made it possible to be more spontaneous, paint outdoors, and have at your immediate disposal more colors than before (Renoir did say that, “Without tubes of paint, there would have been no Impressionism”).

CAD makes it possible to be intensely creative without having to spend the years apprenticing as a silver- or goldsmith; you can immediately completely visualize a design in  your head, iterating as you go – and indeed, change the nature of creation itself.

It’s a wonderful design tool which should make any artist/craftsperson flock to the computer, I would think. The ability to visualize and refine what’s in your head before you go make it, or indeed combine 3D printing with “real world” materials to create a new 3D collage – well, I think it’s a fascinating new frontier.

Good design is still, good design, creativity still creativity – and the tools are still just the tools.

I’d love to hear from artists & craftspeople as to what they think of this whole new emerging world, and how they are (if at all) using it.

 

 

 

 

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