This isn’t just about the boats, is it? Nor is it just about collecting the skills to make one, or even about the sailing or the dreams of cruising lovely shores with a bit of string in one hand and a tiller in the other. And it isn’t just about exploring or being out of doors in good weather, or meeting people who share our daftness, or even about having as much fun as a grown up as we had in the bath with very small boats when we were striplings. It isn’t just about lovely curves that look different as you move about them, or great lines that intersect on large plans that need reading like another sort of nautical tale, or the promise of one. It isn’t either just about having a knockabout grasp of the use of a range of tools and materials, or making a solid edge from a mere line drawn by someone else, somewhere else.
It is about all of those things, but it’s also about needing beauty in a time of some unease. It’s hard to be a thinking person in the world now without becoming overwhelmed sometimes by the issues of climate, resources, social and economic upheaval and issues of hatred and war. It’s hard not to feel knocked over by the news some days, so it is important to do things that keep our feet on the floor.
I’ve always been a great believer in the renaissance sort of person; the universal thinker and the interdisciplinary mind. Leonardo and Alberti are two of my heroes. This type of person will turn their hands to any problem and be prepared to think laterally, and work with a range of technologies in the process.
In contrast to the world in which those two artist/sculptor/architect/designers made so many contributions, our world of Modernity demands of us that we specialise in ways that lead us to know more and more about less and less until we feel as if we know everything about nothing. The result of this kind of thinking is that, ironically, our systems become more monolithic and simple, the vastness demanded by the economies of scale reduce even agriculture to narrow bands of phenomenal productivity totally dependent on specific, manufactured conditions. The consequent reduction of diversity produces an equal increase in the risk of disasters of unprecedented magnitude.
By so predominantly becoming specialists we also lose flexibility and adaptability- personally and at a national level, and I would attribute to this also the loss of meaning felt by so many in their lives.
But there is real hope in the rag-tag collection of bloggers, artisans, craftspeople and enthusiasts who share their passions locally and electronically, who develop facility with tools and processes no longer needed in manufacturing, who take pleasure maybe in growing food no longer economically viable for supermarkets, who make art that doesn’t fit the colour schemes of contemporary penthouses, who prefer a bit of string in their hand to a plastic steering wheel, who keep livestock breeds that have been reduced almost to extinction, and generally give modernity a flick of indifference that not only feels good, but may help us make sense of the stifling greyness of the industrial and post-industrial market place.