Friday, May 27, 2011

TED and Nancy

A couple of weeks ago, wrote about the death (invulnerability) of craft. The crux of the issue was the communication of tacit knowledge from one person to another in a contemporary context. I used glassblowing as an example of a craft that is prospering against the odds. Serendipitously, a week later glassblower Nancy Callan gave a TED Talk describing her work and her journey into the craft of glassblowing. In many ways, Nancy is the embodiment of the modern craftsperson and is a perfect example of what I was talking about.

In spite of being an American (and a woman!), Nancy is a direct heir to the Italian glassblowing legacy and a lineage of craft that stretches back more than six centuries. The story of her knowledge stretches all the way back from a little island isolated off of the coast of Venice, to the backwoods of Washington State, to an auditorium in NYC and now the Internets (the world)!  For any generation, it just takes one Nancy to keep the skill alive. HOWEVER, that shouldn’t excuse for complacency, it should be a call to arms (and hands)!

Nancys don’t just appear out of nowhere. They are cultivated, nurtured, and challenged by a community and culture of sharing. This is an essential concept and one that I believe is deeply human. You don’t have to be a master, to make a contribution to this collective culture. You just have keep your mind open to new things and be generous with whatever it is that you have learned or discovered.


Stereoette said...

man, this TED talk has been circulating around my little gang of glassies. It was wonderful to see Nancy talk, especially since I am sort of obsessed with her Bee Butts ;o) But I think the best thing for me, watching this, was the reminder to ASK, even when the person you are asking is scary, even if you think your question is stupid, there is no learning without asking. Nancy asked, and we all profited. I hope some of my asking comes to the same end.

nielscosman said...

Yup, it's been making the rounds. I thought i would push it out into some other circles as well!

It's funny I found that no matter how "scary" a person might seem, most people respond well to genuine enthusiasm and earnestness to learn. This is especially in glass. Most people have been at the bottom ladder and really appreciate someone who is willing to show up, pay attention, and work really hard. At this point, I've met most of the glass "rockstars", and they are generally NOT scary people!