David Pye avoided the word “skill” in his broadly influential book, The Nature and Art of Workmanship, preferring instead two more narrowly defined terms: the workmanship of certainty where “every operation during production has been predetermined and is outside the control of the operative” and the workmanship of risk where quality is determined by “care, judgment, and dexterity.”
More and more our studio depends upon the workmanship of certainty as we aspire less and less toward the workmanship of risk. So to compensate for our students insufficient care, judgment, and dexterity we have – like the proverbial boiled frog – altered our methods of planning and construction to reduce or eliminate the workmanship of risk from our shop. In order to maintain the standards of our craft we are literally taking the tools out of the hands of students – continuing the process that was started in their childhood educations. This process didn’t start with me. I realize now that I am playing a part in a long trend that began with the elimination of skilled work on Henry Ford’s assembly lines, what political economist Harry Braverman aptly described as deskilling. Essentially, my response to the pressures of the deskilling further up the supply chain of education has been to transform our artisan studio into just another assembly line.