4 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

When I went to college and university I learn how to make things out of metal to greater and greater precision on a variety of tools. When I got to work we were taught how to use one of the very first CNC machines that were that old that they used punched cards to program the machine. Now days an engineer doesn’t even need to venture out onto the workshop floor to see a piece being made to very high precision.

Whilst we need high precision for some things, I can appreciate the care and attention that has gone into a hand made and beautiful object. There is something about the way that these items are crafted, that each is unique in its own special way and that there are still people with the skills to turn, wood, metal or ceramics into useful objects. Kary knows this process intimately, he began as a designer, manufacturer and supplier and now is a designer and maker of his own furniture from local hardwoods near to his home in Devon. His style has changed from what he learnt as an apprentice, rather than remove all the imperfections of the raw material he now works with the flaws to make them part of the finished piece.

His journey to find others who share his philosophy on making things with his hands will take him to basket makers, boat makers, a riddle maker, bodgers, ceramic specialists and foresters. With each of these people, he sees how they are taking the raw materials, working with those materials to transform them into something functional, useful and yet still beautiful.

Hard labour it would be, yet within it, to really make it work, there is something that transcends labour, a spirit which connects the human, the task and the transformation. There is magic here.

For a number of people the things that these artisans make, are not going to be affordable, which is why he has been involved with camps and teaching people who would not have had the opportunity to learn these crafts otherwise. Even though he is a master craftsman, he still finds techniques and skill that he has not yet come across. I really liked this book. Each chapter is preface with the beautiful illustrations of Lou Tonkin. Kary writes in a gentle and subtle way, teasing out the stories from the craftswomen and men that he meets on his journey around the country, whilst expanding on the principle, it is not what you are making, rather it is the process of making that we need. It is a similar philosophy to that of Peter Korn in his book, Why We Make Things and Why it Matter (which I can also recommend).

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