Friday, September 14, 2012

Too Much Blood In My Coffee System:: Where I've been and where I'm going...

Lots of things have been happening recently, not least of all a two-month experiment into whether or not cutting off all caffeine would improve my body's ability to sleep through the night. 

It did not work.

Coffee doesn't cause my insomnia. Anyone who still thinks so is welcome to shut up about it. And while I'm not saying that there's definitive proof that the decaffeination had anything to do with my inability to blog; your conclusions are yours to draw. 

Because it totally had everything to do with my inability to get as much writing done during my still-extended days.  It's bad enough to be awake for 20-22 hours a day; being decaffeinated the whole time is intolerable.

Now that I am once again properly caffeinated, I feel it is time to announce my new project...

The Renaissance Artisan

This month, I launched a new project that has been eating up all of my limited attention span: School of the Renaissance Artisan is a non-fiction blogging/video/book project that unites my love of history with my love of making neat things.

"Cooking is a craft, I like to think, and a good cook is a craftsman -- not an artist. There's nothing wrong with that: the great cathedrals of Europe were built by craftsmen -- though not designed by them. Practicing your craft in expert fashion is noble, honorable and satisfying."   
- Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential

That quote popped out at me as I was recently re-reading Bourdain's book.  The recent rise of the Maker Movement has revived the ethos of working with your hands, of -- as the name implies -- making the things that you use.  It has revived the aesthetic of craft and elevated it beyond Aunt Susie's pom-pom animals and building forts with Popsicle sticks.

Man, I miss building forts out of Popsicle sticks.

Bourdain is right.  The quote above comes in the middle of a paean for a workmanlike approach to food, a lengthy rant against the American and European idea that everyone who works in food or paint or wood should be an artist or they are somehow inadequate.

I am an artist. I went to art school just to be sure. But I come from a long line of craftsmen and I wanted to take a moment to turn the clock back to a time when the maker movement wasn't a curious spike in pop culture, but The Way Things Are.  The high point of this was, of course, the renaissance. 

I think we forget that the renaissance wasn't just artists and soldiers and kings and popes, but a groundswell of normal, ordinary people advancing their lot generation by generation, building themselves up through the sweat of their own brows and the callouses of their own hands and, for better or worse, creating the modern world.

School of the Renaissance Artisan will be an in-depth exploration of the trades and crafts of the 16th century. A close look by someone who is not an historian at what it really mean to be an actual 'renaissance man'. Not a Davinci or a Michelangelo, but a 'Bill, the man who fixes the roof when it rains' or 'Jack, the guy that bakes the bread at the market'. 

For one year (January - December 2013), I'm going to use the framework of the 54 livery companies that had royal charters in 16th century England to explore the crafts and lives of the men who made the renaissance.

I'm going to do this by making the most of my contacts in the renaissance faire and reenactment communities, drawing out of the shadows the people who are keeping alive the arts and crafts of the 16th century.People keeping alive crafts and skills that would die out completely were it not for them. And if by failing miserably at my attempts to learn these crafts brings attention to their superior craftsmanship, so much the better.

So I invite you to please join me here as I take you with me back to school in a possibly impossible attempt to become an honest-to-God renaissance man.

As I go I will blog my efforts (I've already started, actually) and share with you the resources I'm using, the things that inspire me, and the people who are helping me. Along the way, we will build a sort of virtual library of historical source material and present-day experts that will aid and abet reenactors and "makers" who want to learn a new craft and, of course, any writer who wants to write an historical novel set in this time period.

If nothing else, I invite you to watch me fail in a spectacular and possibly amusing manner.

This will be a multi-media enterprise, including the blog, a YouTube channel called The Rest of the Renaissance and possibly tapping into other venues for sharing information as well with the hope of eventually turning it all into a book. Possibly even a hypertext eBook with embedded links to the videos and other interactive materials.

This is going to be fun. I hope you will come and play along.

1 comment:

Pages to Type is a blog about books, writing and literary culture (with the occasional digression into coffee and the care and feeding of giant robots).