Design Anthology - Asia Pacific Edition

Return of the Artisan: How America Went from Industrial to Handmade

- by Grant McCracken SIMON ELEMENT

The recent renaissanc­e of maker culture points to a previous absence, which lasted perhaps two generation­s; pre-war generation­s certainly embodied a DIY ethos, but it may have been lost in the culture of convenienc­e created in the post-war boom.

Cultural anthropolo­gist Grant McCracken also situates the apotheosis of industrial culture in the post-war US of the 1950s. Return of the Artisan traces the developmen­t of the country’s artisanal scene from the hippie countercul­ture of the 1960s to the boost it has received in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which precipitat­ed a return to making bread and tending kitchen gardens, among other pursuits. Indeed, food is a thread throughout, its own history symbolisin­g the post-war ethos of ‘buy it pre-made’. The breezy work also discusses the pioneers of the artisanal movement in the US, as well as outlining major waves and their impacts on a few towns, before giving a ‘howto’ for budding artisans and some thoughts on the impact of the pandemic on the future. While often romantic, sometimes to the point of utopian, it’s a worthwhile read for anyone interested in further exploring maker culture.

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