The hierarchy of craft

By: Raymund Fernandez February 02,2016 - 10:57 PM

We all began with stone. That is, if we look at us, craftspeople, as a planetary collective.

Take one stone harder than another; use the harder stone to shape the softer one. And, voila!: the adze, the spearhead, etc.  And, for over 2 million years thereafter, man would use stone on stone to shape almost everything that he needed. In due time would come a facility with other materials, especially bronze and iron. Coming with this was an increased valuation of the human ability to give materials useful shape, a sort of hierarchy of artisanship and craft.

And one sees this hierarchy even now, and no less as in the local construction industry where the lowest rung is occupied by “the helper”. The helper digs, carries, mixes mortar, cuts wood; but only according to the measure determined by the carpenter; or, in the language: the panday.

There are many classes of panday, of course, and their classifications, diverse. And one must be curious, how these classifications come about. The common determining factor is that the panday must know how to use the rule to measure properly. The panday must know the use of other tools related to measurements: the level rule, the level hose, the L-square or eskuwala, etc., and other related techniques besides. This facility is paramount in determining how good the panday is. This, as well as the use of shaping tools for wood: all manner of saws, planers, or sapilya, the lap-raise, and more recently, power tools.

The craft of the panday has always been diverse. And even now, it is not unusual to find pandays with a wide range of abilities. The term panday, while still used as a generic classification, have within it a range of applications. A mason is a panday, even if a mason, in current usage, is a specialist of the use of cement or mortar. A specialist of metal is locally called, a welder. And there are other sorts of panday: the plumber, the electrician, etc.

Contemporary requirements in the construction industry exert a pressure on the panday to specialize. Even if good pandays are more often than not good at everything; what pandays generally refer to with the word “round” — meaning that the panday is good all around with wood, mortar, plumbing, electrical, etc. Pandays more often than not build their own houses, in many instances, on their own and by themselves.

But in all cases, the highest rungs of craft are occupied by the finishing panday. The finishing panday creates the final look of the thing being constructed before the painters and finishers come in.

The finishing panday is often a supervisor, doing quality control on the work of other pandays under him. He gets paid higher than everyone else. In many instances, he is a teacher, what other pandays call a “master”. His ability is somewhat of a rarity nowadays, along with other types of panday, including especially, the furniture maker.

And since the construction industry now uses a full range of construction materials, wood, mortar, metals, ceramics, plastics, glass, along with a full range of finishes, the craft of the panday has been divided into specialized fields. Over time, the distinctions within the craft, the hierarchy itself, has become ever more complex, even as the number of craftspeople now working in the field has grown more in number with the boom in local construction.

The entry of new technologies applicable to crafts will certainly have a profound impact. Material shaping machinery using robotics technology are quickly coming into the local playing field. This, along with the growth of craft-related professions like design. How will this affect the world of local craft?

The most fundamental questions about local craft still have to be asked. How, for instance, is a panday made? Is there a school where pandays learn the intricacies of the climb from “helper” to “finishing panday”? Did they learn from a father? Or, do they, still as in the old days, just teach themselves, observing the work of the master panday and then slowly developing their abilities over the years? It seems, the construction site is itself a learning environment for most pandays. It is likely that most learn on the field as they go along.

Which tells us immediately how little forethought is being applied now in developing local craft as it grows now and into the future. Its importance is manifest and, in fact, quite obvious even now. And clearly, more questions need to be asked before we arrive at the answers we sorely need.

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TAGS: art, craft, evolution, Man, Stone Age
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