What’s in a word?
Whenever someone asks what Vic Tesolin does, he says ‘I do a lot of things.’ But lately he's been thinking about how he identifies as a craftsperson.
With all of the current social distancing and alone time, I find that I have more time to think about things. Normally this would be concerning and result in overthinking, but in this case it’s quite interesting. There is a lot of talk these days about how one identifies – normally centering around gender and sexuality – but I’ve been thinking about how I identify as a craftsperson.
Whenever someone asks what I do, I always seem to pause, then say “I do a lot of things.” At the core of it all, I work with wood, so I guess that makes me a woodworker. My formal schooling at Rosewood Studio was centered on furniture design and making, so maybe I’m a furniture designer/maker? But then again, maybe I’m a studio furniture maker…but what is that exactly? Someone who designs and builds in a small shop/studio/space?
Craftsperson seems right, but what about the honorific “master?” I’ve seen this term a lot but how does one achieve mastery here in North America? I know how a master was created in the guild system, but since we no longer have a guild system that would bestow such a title on a person, where does this designation come from? In the absence of a guild, how does an individual become a “master?”
I don’t think that I’m an artist. It’s my understanding that one doesn’t label oneself an artist. I don’t feel like an artist, although some of the things I do are artistic, so maybe I am. There is also the simpler term, “maker.” I make stuff, but when I meet others that call themselves makers, I don’t seem to fit in.
Then I wonder, is all of this just marketing? Are we all just trying to sell ourselves to the people around us? Why do some use terms like bespoke and artisanal while others call it one-of-a-kind or original? Original? What does that even mean? Is anything original, or is it just the result of many sources of subtle influence that leads to something else? Why do I need a label to sell myself?
I’m not trying to be smart here, I’m just trying to answer the question “what do you do?” What seems like a simple question and conversation starter is actually quite complex and philosophical. When I stop to think about it, I realize I do a lot of stuff. I design furniture and wooden objects. I build things from wood. I occasionally turn wood or carve it. I make tools. I write about working with wood in magazines, blogs, and books. I teach others how to work with wood. So, what does that make me besides busy and content?
Maybe I don’t need a term or a pigeon-hole to be placed into. I don’t need a title, nor do I want one foisted upon me by someone else. I am just a human who does a lot of different things in this world and perhaps I’ll leave it at that. One thing is for sure … all of this time to sit and think is good. It’s nice to get to know myself a bit better. So what do you do?
In order to understand, you must do. – V