For me to articulate my ideas and experiences, process is everything. I am terrible at conceptualizing; I find that even when I’m trying to explain my design intentions I am drawing things out with my hands in the air. It has made school, and any situation where theory and concepts are highly fundamental, very difficult. I am best when I can just sit down and work at something, and if it doesn’t turn out like I want, do it again, and again, and again.
As Nance was describing this article I immediately thought of another book, which I saw was nicely referenced and seemingly related: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert M. Pirsig. The author writes a disclaimer, stating that the book is in no way a resource for Zen Buddhism, nor is it “very factual on motorcycles, either.” On a motorcycle journey from Minnesota to California, philosophical and metaphysical discussions ensue, and themes of romanticism vs. classical practicality arise. Both Pirsig’s book and “Shop Class as Soulcraft” parallel the use of hands and practical problem solving as a meditative way of working. For me, manual labor, or at least work using my hands, allows me to focus and exist in the moment. I’m not conceptualizing or discussing theory in design until I’m blue in the face. While these things are important, we all need to be grounded, and working with your hands is the best way I can think of to feel connected to your work, and by extension, your ideas.