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Cræft: An Inquiry Into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts Hardcover – Deckle Edge, January 2, 2018
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“In Craeft, Mr. Langlands excavates the scintillating history of our truest super power: making clever things with our hands. This history is rife with real-life magic and affection, for our earth as well as one another. I am damn grateful for this book.”
- Nick Offerman, author of Paddle Your Own Canoe and Good Clean Fun
“Hypnotic... In reconnecting with craeft, [Langlands] begins to see not just the beauty of an object or a building or a landscape, but the deeper purpose for which each has been created. And he understands, too, the environment they shape and upon which they depend.... At a time where our disconnection from the world around us is not just tragic but downright dangerous, recovering our status as Homo faber, the species that makes things, may be our salvation.”
- Michael Bierut, New York Times
“Alex Langlands is probably the only person who could have written this wonderful book, drawing as it does upon his extraordinary combination of experiences as an archaeologist and as somebody who has actively learned such a huge range of the traditional crafts which he explains. This is literally heritage in action, and artistry which produces practical rewards.”
- Ronald Hutton, professor of British history, Bristol University, and author of The Triumph of the Moon
“Alexander Langlands is spot-on: crafting isn’t just about creating beautiful, useful objects. It’s about reclaiming the knowledge, wisdom, and power that link us to the collective history of civilization. Craeft is what makes us human.”
- Carleen Madigan, editor of The Backyard Homestead
“Erudite, deftly argued, well written, and timely―Langlands weaves together the basic human desire to use our hands to make things with tradition, landscape, and the natural world. A delightful book that should be widely read.”
- Robert Penn, author of The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees
“Whether it’s the small-batch hot sauce or the rage for craft beer, today’s consumer wants tradition, quality, and artisan everything. Langlands offers a fascinating history of what’s setting trends today.”
“An engaging read imparting a wealth of historical knowledge with a touch of infotainment. With current interest in authentic arts and handmade goods, this unparalleled scholarly work will appeal to both specialists and casual readers. ”
- Library Journal, starred
About the Author
Alexander Langlands is a British archaeologist and medieval historian. He is a regular presenter for the BBC and teaches medieval history at Swansea University. He currently resides in Swansea, Wales.
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On the whole, this book is much better on WHY things were done than it is on HOW. To complete the picture, I would refer the reader to several of the many Eric Sloane books illustrating early American farm life and work. They are, perhaps, less engaging, but they certainly present the theme in a better-illustrated and hence a more digestible manner, and they are currently available here on Amazon!
The knowledge, skill, and wisdom developed over hundreds or thousands of years about creating a drywall, a thatched roof, a beehive, using and creating leather for many needs, baskets, ploughing and growing food, and all using local and natural materials, has been lost in many cultures, or of which few craftsmen exist.
Mr. Langlands' book asks us to recognize the knowledge, skills, and wisdom that went into creating and sustaining human life. How we adapted to our surroundings and thrived.
Read "Cræft" to understand our past better, and to learn that we are capable of so much more than what some say about how we can and should live. We've given up a great deal of ourselves and consciously or unconsciously made choices. We can decide to be and to live differently, or to at least recognize that there is another way to be in the world, and living even a little bit that way may be a gift we give ourselves.
The author periodically delved into the origins of various words, and he started off with cræft and how it's meaning has changed over time. Then he talked about the tools and considerations that go into haymaking, evolutionary flint tool development, various ways we still use sticks (like in shepherd's crooks), making wicker hives and beekeeping using these hives, building drystone walls and maintaining hedgerows, taking flax and wool from harvesting/shearing to making yarn and weaving, and making wattle hurdles.
He examined the various local materials that were used in thatching and how they were used to thatch a roof. He talked about how leather was tanned and the many ways leather has been used (like shoes and harness). He talked about his visit to a traditional farming spot in Iceland and about how British farms used to be very diversified. He talked about dew ponds and how livestock ponds were traditionally constructed, the many ways that pottery and baskets were used in the past, how baskets are made, and his adventures in lime burning. He also talked about digging, both as an archaeologist and in clearing land for a garden.
The one thing I found lacking was pictures. Except for one set of sketches showing some tools, there were no pictures of the places or objects he talked about nor pictures of people doing the craft. I think I would have been able to follow his explanations better if there had been some pictures. Overall, though, it was an interesting book about the author's involvement with traditional crafts.
I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher.