How working with our hands makes us more human
In our present age of computer-assisted design, mass production and machine precision, the traditional skills of the maker or craftsperson are hard to find. Yet the desire for well-made and beautiful objects from the hands (and mind) of a skilled artisan is just as present today as it ever has been. Whether the medium they work with is wood, metal, clay or something else, traditional makers are living links to the rich vein of knowledge and skills that defines our common human heritage. More than this, though, many of us harbor a deep and secret yearning to produce something – to build or shape, to imagine and create our own objects that are imbued not only with beauty and functionality, but with a story and, in essence, a spirit drawn from us.
Nick Kary understands this yearning. For nearly four decades he has worked on commission to make fine, distinctive furniture and cabinets from wood, most of it sourced near his home, in the counties of South West England. During this time, he has been both a teacher and a student; one who is fascinated with the philosophy and practice of craft work of all kinds.
In Material, Kary takes readers along with him to visit some of the places where modern artisans are preserving, and in some cases passing on, the old craft skills. His vivid descriptions and eye for detail make this book a rich and delightful read, and the natural and cultural history he imparts along the way provides an important context for understanding our own past and the roots of our industrial society.
Personal, engaging, and filled with memorable people, landscapes and scenes, Material is a rich celebration of what it means to imagine and create, which in the end is the essence of being human, and native to a place. As Kary puts it, “Wood and words, trees and people, material and ethereal – it is here I love increasingly to dwell.”
‘With grace and humility, Nick Kary has crafted a deeply felt and intimately observed portrait of a magic English landscape of authentic makers working amidst the remnants, scars and generational stories of forgotten crafts and industry. Material: Making and the Art of Transformation beautifully weaves together the pathos and promise of traditional materials and methods, and the intimate bonds that form between artisans and their medium as they bring meaning to their making. Nick Kary has gifted us, giving eloquent voice to thinking and feeling with one’s hands.’-Christopher Bardt, author of Material and Mind ‘It was as if Nick Kary’s outstretched hand took mine and, tucking my arm under his, gently led me into an enchanted world. There is an exquisite poignancy in this book, an honesty, a fearless enquiry that shifts from sunlight to shadow, along paths mostly hidden from a world grown weary of beauty. Material meets maker in a sensuous weave of insight, wonderment, ordinariness, and deep humanity. I will read this book again, and slowly, in the way I might cup hands and, dipping them to clean spring water, pause to drink.’-Mac Macartney, author of The Children’s Fire: Heart Song of a People ‘Nick Kary understands that to be a maker is to be a seeker – creating to a personal standard not only out of the material of the earth but of memory, one’s relationship to place and history, the force of time. The work of our hands affirms a stewardship of the land that is also an imperative. Material is a quiet, heartfelt assertion of why craft so deeply matters.’-Anne Michaels, author of Fugitive Pieces ‘A profound and personal delving into the ancient connection between man and matter and our increasingly tenuous relationship with nature. An important book, brimming with insight.’-Nicholas Evans, author of The Horse Whisperer ‘In Material, Nick Kary mines the deep knowledge of makers and creatives, and the resultant nuggets from carpenters, weavers, smiths and masons are often gold. This book offers a timely retort to a world in thrall to fast, ephemeral fashions. A marvellous mix of the heuristic, didactic and expedient; a celebration of the local, old-school and hands-on, Material is generous, wise, fascinating and fundamentally humane.’-Dan Richards, author of Outpost
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