5 Comments

  1. Thank you, Aidan, for these excellent thoughts. As someone in much the same boat as you (with regards to designing and making liturgical furnishings), I have experienced many of the same opportunities and pitfalls.

    We are designers and artists at heart, and our strength lies in conceiving of things and drawing them. Figuring out how to have them made efficiently takes so much time. There is a certain pleasure in this – in the engineer-mentality of coordinating a complex manufacturing operation. But in my experience, as soon as the process starts to become really efficient, it becomes so boring that it looses my interest. I just want to go back to making things with my own hands.

    I think that attempts to make artists and manufacturing engineers collaborate has always been a stressful marriage. There were famous efforts in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, like Morris & Co., Liberty of London, Stickley Furniture, etc. These operations produced wonderful things, but they were short lived and burnt out their artists.

    Our clients’ desire to have customized projects of handmade quality at machine-made prices forces us to attempt a difficult collaboration, somewhat unnatural for us artists. I sincerely wonder whether it is better for us to embrace it, so we can produce far more work for the church, or whether we should resist it, and make only small things with great love. I suppose there needs to be a balance of both.

  2. I am enjoying this journal. Excellent work!

  3. Thank you, Andrew, for your response. I suppose all of us would prefer 100% handmade work, so the aim of my article was to mull over the principles to have in mind when the budget requires some mechanisation. Each case is different, so I suppose the final guideline is to make the best possible work within budgetary restraints. In fact, often such restraints can lead to work with a higher spiritual quality. I made the silver lamp illustrated above (photo 32) with a masonry nail, tin snips, hand drill and hammer, and it is among my the lamps I am most pleased with. In fact, when the curator of the NY Metropolitan Museum visited Iviron looking for pieces to show in a large Byzantine exhibition, he initially mistook it for an early Byzantine lamp!

    1. That’s an amazing story.

  4. Dear Aidan,
    Thank you very much for such a text, – expressive and full of insights! I would be honored if you allow me to add a little note:

    Tools are “extensions of our hands” in one more very delicate sense.

    Technically from what we see in artworks of our predecessors, they calculated the amount of their efforts for every job very meticulously (grudgingly/skimpily?)… Of course, their physical interaction with materials was much harder, their clients were not so requiring et cetera et cetera, – there can be a great variety of explanations, but I would suggest a theological one.

    From what we can read of that time, the craftsmen of pre-industrial time considered their work to be kind of a dialog speech.

    Their part of the “talk” was applying their best the skills to materials, created by God. Other part was in the materials themselves, more precisely – hearing the God’s “word”, to be revealed through the materials.

    So, I would even dare to say that these craftsmen constantly offered the first place to God, letting Him reveal Himself through creation. These people were “saying” with their respectful hands as little as possible, when in their work they were consciously rather showing essential qualities of the materials than demonstrating their possibly great skills.

    In our days with electricity and other contemporary possibilities we feel much more skilled then our colleagues from the past. Current marketing situation and these new abilities tempt us to get “nicer” results, which consequently tempt us to “say” more with our skills, giving God less space in this dialogue. The same – applying of machinery and tools may be measured and applied in such an amount, which will be in first place praising God, rather than showing in this case achievements of modern technologies.

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