When I think of craftsmanship I think of Tom Builder. Tom Builder is a character in the novel Pillars of the earth by Ken Follett. Tom is a master mason who gets the honor to build a cathedral. A cathedral is nothing but a big church, a church that should be an example to the community not only of the craftsmanship of the builder but most importantly it should reflect the wishes of the people that wanted it built. The Prior wanted it built to show God his appreciation and to convince his community thereof.

Pillars of the earth

So Tom did not build the cathedral for himself but he still put in a lot of himself while he worked with the Prior to get what the Prior wanted. And he used the right techniques of the time to build it. He used his knowledge to build something that he had to build something bigger than he had build before, but his techniques that were good for building smaller churches were not so good for building this bigger cathedral. The cathedral would collapse under its own weight if he did use the same techniques. So the techniques that make one church a demonstration of his craftsmanship are not the same as the techniques he would use to build this cathedral. In the end it comes down to him using the right techniques for the building he was building so that it would fit the budget of his master and the time allowed for building it.

One can actually say that Ken Follett, a craftsman writer, had to use techniques of writing that he was not used to. The book Pillars of the earth was a genre Ken had not written before. But Ken was and is passionate about his churches and cathedrals and that passion turned into a book. A book of which he sold many more copies than the genre of books he is well known for. This does not make him less of a craftsman, it makes him more of a craftsman.

I am also very convinced that the above should demonstrate that it is not the techniques you use that make you a craftsman it is the end result that counts. It is what your peers and others think of your work that counts to make it a craft and your work craftsmanship.

A woodworker can make the most beautiful chair they want, if it doesn’t hold together no one will consider it good craftsmanship. But he will be recognized as a craftsman if he can make the plainest chair that you can think of that will last for centuries and be enjoyed by many.

This also reminds me of that ad for a chocolate bar where the maker of the bar makes one bar of chocolate and goes out with it, gives it to a random person on the street to eat. He then watches the person eat the bar and enjoy the bar. This makes him go back in and make another bar. His only purpose as the maker of that bar is to make the consumer be happy about his product and that is what craftsmanship is all about to me; the end product and the satisfaction of the user. How you get there can differ as Tom Builder has shown but the end product must be created with the same passion and be good.

People will need to appreciate the end product for it to be of meaning.

Craftsmanship is a labor of love to satisfy his own need and to get the praise and recognition of others. Not only praise of your fellow craftsman but also, and most importantly, from the people you made your product for.

That’s why I’m sure time will tell whether or not you are a craftsman or not just using the right patterns and architectural designs will not make you a craftsman. The love for the product you are making and the wide acceptance of users will make you a craftsman. If you start asking yourself if you are a craftsman or not you have already lost.