And here is where Toshio added something very important: there is something else that is not always being grasped by many woodworkers in the craft: the social responsibility of the craftsperson, be they woodworkers, musicians, photographers, doctors, or writers. Each of these persons practices a craft and in that craft they are expected to produce a result that carries with it a social responsibility. And that responsibility is where the person’s skill and even artistry must be used to serve others. For example, if a joint is used to show off a person’s ability to create a showy piece, but fails when it comes to joining two pieces of wood securely and efficiently, that person has failed at their responsibility to society—even if the joint “looks beautiful.” But the craftsperson who makes a solid joint, that looks “good enough,” does its job and holds for decades or centuries to come—that person has fulfilled the responsibility society asks of them. Even if that joint is hidden, it has the spirit of being a good joint. Odate made a comparison to comfortable and attractive undergarments—they are out of sight, but if they are strong, comfortable, warm, and last, they’ve done their job well, and can even bring a smile to the wearer’s face (I’ll admit that the comparison brought smiles to our faces at the time).
What about hobbyist and enthusiast woodworkers, I asked? If you are a hobbyist or enthusiast, Odate explained, and you are not publicly committing yourself to being a craftsperson for public hire, you don’t have the weight of that social responsibility. But once you commit to making a piece for a client, or a family member, that responsibility is there, to those people. It’s your job to make sure your design and your workmanship serve the needs and desires of your clients, and that the techniques and materials you use serve those ends. Anything else is superfluous, and runs the risk of being dangerous, or at best, ugly.