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- "Without craftsmanship, inspiration is a mere reed shaken in the wind."
- –Johannes Brahms
- "Skill without imagination is craftsmanship and gives us many useful objects such as wickerwork picnic baskets."
- –Tom Stoppard
Historical Context Edit
Craftsmanship is simply the application of skill in the making of something, be it functional or just some decorative but otherwise useless knick-knack. Since there were so many unskilled laborers, ancient craftsmen were highly valued, whether slave or free. In Athens craftsmanship interacted with art and culture in intriguing ways; Socrates, for instance, was fond of analogies concerning craftsmanship and was reputedly himself the son of a skilled stonemason. Many a Greek grew wealthy from their craftsmen-slaves, such as those Demosthenes owned: some 120 tanners, flute-makers and cutlers. So valued were the skills of slaves that craftsmen themselves became a high-priced commodity in Rome, where weavers and tailors, metal-workers and engravers, leather tanners and shoemakers, and other pairings could be brought together in urban workshops to produce high-quality goods.
In the Middle Ages, once most craftsmen were free (if all that servitude to a lord is ignored), they began to organize themselves into guilds to promote their skills and their standards. In the guilds, those seeking to progress to being a master craftsman progressed through the stages of apprentice and journeyman first, insuring a level of excellence in their craft. But industrialization – the mass production of all those things – ended the need for craftsmanship, and in the decades after the French Revolution most of the guilds collapsed. Corporations could manufacture goods quicker and cheaper, substituting standardization for craftsmanship.
Today, in the popular mindset, craftsmanship has come to mean “made by hand” rather than “skilled production” … and these are certainly not the same.