What Makes a Craftsman?

The_stability_of_generationsIn a society where honor rules, the craftsman has a special place. He is not a person who makes things mechanically without skills or thought. Rather he is an expert who develops sophisticated skills that communicate an artistic element to that which is produced.

What makes a craftsman? Richard Sennett writes that the standard measure of what it takes to become an expert craftsman is a training period of ten thousand hours. He claims this number constantly comes up because this is the time researchers estimate it takes for complex skills to become deeply ingrained. This can be even seen in training periods for sports, music and other skills. Apprenticeship programs often involved the ten thousand hours rule as did the grueling conditions of a doctor’s internship and residency.

Subscription13Such long hours of study and work may seem routine and mindless since it involves hours and hours of repetition. However, Sennett notes that, “For people who develop sophisticated hand skills, it’s nothing like this. Doing something over and over is stimulating when organized as looking ahead. The substance of the routine may change, metamorphose, improve, but the emotional payoff is one’s experience of doing it again. There’s nothing strange about this experience. We all know it; it is rhythm. Built into the contractions of the human heart, the skilled craftsman has extended rhythm to the hand and the eye.” (Richard Sennett, The Craftsman, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2008, p. 175.)