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Embracing the Process of Craft

In defence of the amateur experimenters

Baked bread
Photography by Mike Kenneally

Think of the word craft and there seems to be a common association with forms of wildly expressed expertise. We conjure in our minds verifiable masters; possibly figures like Michelangelo, perched close to the ceiling in the Vatican, brush extended; or Rene Redzepi, the chef of the world’s greatest restaurant, NOMA. Maybe even a local venerated carpenter; 30 years into his practice; a master of the chisel and saw.

The word’s reputation goes even further. When we are crafty, we are perceived as evasive or sneaky; qualities not uncommon with magicians. Surely, those of not steeped in specific talents are surely too blunt, too obtuse, too distractible to master the mysterious subjects that craftsman work with. We affirm this with the habitual and somewhat damaging colloquialism ‘I can’t draw’.

I would argue that we come to such conclusions too swiftly. We ignore that standing firmly in reality; craft is simply a process, not a destination. It is a spectrum that includes all levels, not just the renowned and spotlight-bound. By trying something new and striving to learn, we are destined to learn something. Just how much… is up to you.

A recent set of experiences have reassured me on this line of thinking. I have taken up baking; sourdough bread to be specific, commercial yeasts wild and cantankerous relative. Set against a setting of esteemed sourdough bakeries all over the world, I certainly don’t plan to open a bakery and certainly won’t reach the quality of Bristol’s or London’s finest offerings. But that doesn’t matter. I have absorbed a great deal. I now know the difference between real and fake bread, how to knead dough and how to make it rise. As a result of all these things, I appreciate bread more. As is the way with anything we invest ourselves in.

Who knows what is next for me; perhaps craft beer, different forms of writing, growing plants, or even movement practices such as yoga. All of these are intriguing and they all have minimal entry thresholds, costing very little to get started. I know that they have depth I will never reach, but I am ok with that. The fundamentals are fun.

You don’t need to be a master to do something. You just need to do it. It’s all easy at the beginning. Start simply.

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