‘Comeliness’ – the workmanship of risk….
… ‘If I must ascribe a meaning to the word Craftsmanship, I shall say as a first approximation that it simply means workmanship using any kind of technique or apparatus in which the quality of the result is not predetermined but depends on the judgement, dexterity of care which the maker exercises as he works. The essential idea is that the quality of the result is continually at risk during the process of making, so I shall call this kind of workmanship ‘The workmanship of Risk’
With the workmanship of Risk, we may contrast the’ Workmanship of Certainty’, always to be found in quantity production and found in its pure state in full automation.
‘The Nature of Art and Workmanship’ – David Pye
In short, when I was five, David Pye was writing the text above about workmanship and it still stands true nearly 50 years later. Reading his words in relation to ‘craft’ gives me a deeper understanding of what I am doing with a needle and thread, an eye for detail, a mind to experiment and a power knit machine that, although can turn out ‘workmanship of certainty’, the route to that can be long and more fulfilling with its errors, mistakes and risks. Every turn I take with the lace knitting is ‘workmanship of risk’ – craft – though the journey starts with a thought and a hope, travels through time in design and out at the other end from a power Knit machine. Every step is gradual, considered and handled carefully even through the power process, it is considered.
For some time, my knit has drawn upon my love of Shetland, the islands, its landscape and language. My knit is not just stitches and a pattern and here lies the art / craft. Or, as David Pye later writes, ‘Comeliness’ which implies the ability to give an aesthetic expression, or to add to it.
I’m knitting vests, or so I am led to believe. But I keep straying. Comeliness is not a word linked to vests but is a word associated with women. The life of these vests stem from Shetland to Nottingham through conversations that opened up discussions of it being ‘visually polite’ on to questioning mending the errors thrown out by the power machine which found my patterns too difficult to master due to conditions.
The vests are comeliness – not in shape but in aesthetic. Within them is a life and a story. Each one will be ‘crafted’ Each one will have a name.
I am learning technical conditions and terminology and can do nothing but learn to speak in ‘take down’, ‘tension’, ‘ transfer’ ‘technical file’ and ‘half-gauge’. Coming from a long life of drawing with a line of yarn in hand-knitting, initially, I was out of my depth with Power Knit machines and Computer Aided Design (CAD) – splashing around in an unknown sea of errors. Now, I tread water like when I thought I could swim as a child but could not. I tread water alongside the technician at Uni who is aware of my errors, guides my ways, shows me steps at such great speed that I am left back at the shore only to tentatively swim out again and have a go. Repetition is the key.
The start is pleasing. Each time I look back at my previous work – even if only a month ago, it looks naïve.
If, as David Pye suggests, workmanship is judged by a criteria of ‘Soundness’ and ‘Comeliness’ –
Soundness being – the ability to transmit and resist forces as the designer intended, there must be no hidden flaws or weakness.
And Comeliness being the ability to give that aesthetic expression which the designer intended, or add to it
– then I’ll embrace Comeliness every time.
Thanks to Jamieson & Smith for sponsoring me with the Shetland Supreme lace weight – the darned knit in image one.