|Silk, Luther Hooper, Pitman & Sons|
The advantages and limitations of handicraft and machine work was the theme of an admirable address delivered recently before the Haslemere Microscopic and Natural History Society by Mr. Luther Hooper. As manager of the prosperous Haslemere Silk Weaving Works, and with his long experience in technical work and design, the lecturer spoke with authority. In defining the terms "handicraft" and "machine work," he said handicraft was not mere skill of hand acquired by constantly practising one particular movement or set of movements. In fact, the same uniform and uninteresting qualities which they deprecated in machine work might be, and often were, produced by the hand, which by constant mechanical practice and repetition had been degraded to the level of a machine. Work deserving to be dignified by the name of handicraft must be produced by the more or less skilful hand under the constant direction of the thinking power of the worker. Handicraft implied that the hands and tools of the worker were under the direct and deliberate control of his brain, and the excellence or otherwise of his work would depend exactly on the artistic power and judgment he possessed and brought to bear upon it.
|from Silk, Luther Hooper, Pitman & Sons|
"With much ability, Mr. Hooper reviewed his subject from two points of view - namely, that of the quality of work produced and the effects, respectively, of handicraft and machine work on the worker. The latter, he pointed out, was the more important consideration inasmuch as what a man was to become was more vital than what little thing he made. He believed in the use of machines and labour-saving appliances, providing the work done by their means could not be better done by hand. If large numbers of things were required exactly alike and a machine could be constructed to make them, why in the world should it not be used? It would save, perhaps, many men, women and children from monotonous, uninteresting, and in many cases unhealthy labour if used under proper conditions and restrictions. We must, however, see to it that the machine-made articles were as good for their purpose as the hand-made ones, and that the material was as good and strong and unadulterated as it appeared to be: that no finishing or heating or dressing was resorted to in order to enable the maker to sell his product cheaply or to make dishonest profits.
"That was the test to apply to all machine work, and that was the very point on which it was in most cases unsatisfactory. Up to a certain point and in certain subordinate positions the machine was a good, useful and economical servant, but it was surprising at what a low point its limit was reached. It could make nails and screws and pins and needles, it could saw and plane wood and iron, cut mortises and bore, punch and drill holes. It could wind and spin thread and weave cloth for commonest use. It could print cheap books and newspapers, calicoes and wall-papers, it could even make pigs into sausages, and a host of other things that did not require any judgment or art in them, but it could not make a horseshoe or a yard of velvet worth the name. Its perfection was a dead level of uniformity, unpleasing and dull, and its limitations of ornamental or other art were ghastly, vulgar, and pretentious failures. In short it could not give the impress of thought and mind to its work which render the simplest specimen of true handicraft more or less interesting and satisfactory.
|from Silk, Luther Hooper, Pitman & Sons|
"One undoubted advantage which handicraft conferred on the consumer was that it afforded him a reasonable chance of getting what he wanted and believed to be suitable for his special purpose, because in the treaty for it he came nearer to, if not, as was best, in actual contact with, the maker of the piece of work. He could order and confer, advise and decide, and in the end get something that had not only given pleasure, interest, and profit to the worker in making, but insight be a perpetual joy to the purchaser, because exactly fitted for the purpose for which he required it. Not only were works of handicraft likely to be specially fit for the purchaser's use, but he was sure to get better value for his money if he spent it in that direct way. Again, handicraft was of much advantage in that it gave an individual or personal quality to any work produced, and it was that expression of the artist's self which made it interesting. In order to give that quality to his work the craftsman must be well and conscientiously trained. It was sometimes with truth objected to work shown at Arts and Crafts Exhibitions, that though picturesque, it lacked good workmanship. That should not be. The technical should quite keep pace with the artistic training, and the artist-craftsman must see to it that no fault could be found with his work on that score."