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The Nature and Art of Workmanship Paperback – July 3, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

Book Description

This is a digital reprint of David Pye's original 1968 edition. Within it he argues that the aesthetic quality of our environment depends as much on its workmanship as on its design, and that workmanship has been largely ignored. Mr Pye shows how and why we are conscious of finish and workmanship, goes on to ask why so much of our environment is impoverished and asks what can be done about it. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

David Pye, who died in 1993, was an architect, industrial designer andcraftsman. For many years he was also Professor of FurnitureDesign at the Royal College of Art, London. He is also the authorof Ships and The Nature and Aesthetics of Design.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: A&C Black (July 3, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713689315
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713689310
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 0.3 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #424,320 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 45 people found the following review helpful By wiredweird HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 7, 2004
Format: Paperback
Pye knows that understanding comes in two steps. The second presents the new knowledge, but the first step clears out old fallacies to make way for the new facts. To do that, he starts this book by thoroughly confusing the question of what is hand work, and what is done by machine. Once that is shown irrelevant, he starts on the points that truly matter.

First, the terms "craft" and "craftsmanship" have been co-opted and corrupted by so many authors that, with regret, he abandons them. Instead, he defines new terms. The first opposed pairs are the workmanship of risk and the workmanship of certainty. Certainty is knowledge that a piece of work will surely complete in the way intended, as is typical in mass manufacture. Risk is the chance that any workpiece could be damaged or destroyed at any step in its handling - a chisel could clip, a hammer could damage the surface, a saw cut might be placed wrong. It doesn't matter whether the tool is a simple hammer or a complex milling machine: either a reliable process or a fallible workman defines the result.

Pye's second distinction is "regulated" versus "free" or "rough" fabrication. Regulated work meets fine tolerances, has precise geometries and surfaces. Free work allows the workman to vary the workpiece somewhat. Free workmanship allows expressive notes, perhaps tool textures or subtle changes of shape. Rough workmanship goes farther. A wood fence, for example, may be straight and strong enough, with coarse shapes, knots in the wood, and even some checking.

None of that distinguishes good workmanship from bad. Good workmanship carries out the practical and esthetic intent of a design, or improves on them. Bad workmanship detracts from the design's usefulness or beauty.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Bruce S. on September 21, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was recommended as a supplemental reading in a pottery course. The author of the book primarily worked with wood and there are many examples of furniture and turned wood objects in the book.

The real value of this book is in articulating the aesthetics of hand made objects and what makes them special and wonderful as compared to machine made objects. It's an excellent read for anyone who makes things with their hands.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By George Oliver on April 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
I love this book. Pye, in concise and often beautiful language, defines the idea of workmanship as he sees it -- its history, its implications, how it might develop. He gives interesting commentary on the Arts & Crafts movement vis-a-vis Ruskin and Morris as well.
Pye really is a master of the old school, and I would encourage anyone to buy this book for both its own ideas and for a look at a wonderful mind. A great companion to Krenov.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Myron Smith on December 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
In this book David Pye accurately and concisely differentiates between hand craftsmanship and modern machine done work. He writes his philosophical yet practical, personal ideas on craftsmanship. It is a great discussion for anyone interested in fine workmanship. It attempts to answer questions (or at least provide an entry point into discussion) of why hand workmanship is important, why it appeals to us, and want makes it fundamentally different from machine build crafts. It does not focus on any specific craft (thought Professor Pye is a woodworker himself), but is meaningful and accessable to anyone interested in crafts and hand workmanship. This is a great book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ross Sackett on November 9, 2009
Format: Paperback
Other reviews have already set out the details; I'll merely add that I enjoyed reading it and it's had a profound effect on how I view my own craftwork. Realize that it is a craftsman's philosophical reflections, not a how-to manual of craft practice, nor as one negative review lamented, about quality control.
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27 of 36 people found the following review helpful By jump___ on June 13, 2003
Format: Paperback
I got this book basically because I wanted to learn something about how to tell a good piece of woodworking (furniture mostly) from a lousy piece of woodworking. But that's only touched on in a small fraction of the book, and, while I agree and sympathize with the author's views in many ways, mainly I found this book a boring read. In part it's because Pye's writing style is rather long-winded and archaic. He might have been more at home as an amateur philosopher in the 18th century, or soapbox orator in the 19th, than an essayist in the 20th. Just picking a couple of sentences at random: "Nor am I saying that free workmanship is better than regulated, nor that regulated workmanship is the ruin of our civilization. On the contrary, I say that on the contrast and tension between regulation and diversity depends half the art of workmanship." As for Pye's ideas, well, he goes to a lot of trouble to analyze and explore his concepts of "workmanship of risk" (simply put, workmanship where you can screw it really bad) versus "workmanship of certainty" (e.g. machine-punching), and "free" (open to variation) work, and the allied concept of diversity in the product, versus "regulated" (uniform, predictable--most machine production) work. Pye observations sound like this: "In our society at present the sensitivity of people to the quality of diversity in workmanship seems very uneven." "There is . . . a total incongruity and a sense of outrage about a piece of material with a highly polished surface and a raw, rough edge.Read more ›
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