The 8 Key Characteristics of Craftsmanship

At over 85 years old, Jiro Ono is the oldest chef to ever be awarded a three star Michelin rating. His sushi restaurant — which is in a subway station — is also quite atypical compared to the rest of the world's culinary elite. But as anyone who has seen the recent documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi can tell you, it's no surprise that Jiro is widely recognized as the world's best sushi chef. He has devoted more time to sushi than many of us have been on the planet.

It's not simply time and effort that have made Jiro great, nor is there something particular to sushi — or other types of cooking or creating — that make stories like Jiro's possible. What makes Jiro the best sushi chef in the world is craftsmanship, and craftsmanship is an attitude and a practice — not a skill set. It is medium agnostic; and whether your profession has been in existence for a few years or a few centuries, you can apply the spirit of craft to your work and be better for it.

Jiro is but one example of someone who has given himself deeply to craft. There are many others. They're all around you. And, if you're having trouble spotting them, there's also a great site — Those Who Make — where you can burn your weekend marveling at the craft of others.

At Nebo, we value creativity, but we value craft even more. Whether you're a developer, designer, project manager, marketer, or copywriter the characteristics of crafstmanship can be applied. Within the nuances of each discipline there are innumerable tactics that make one skilled, but some of the key characteristics of excellent craftsmen carry across categories:

   1. They are motivated by mastery rather than attaining a status.

   2. They are willing to make sacrifices in finances, free time and relationships.

   3. They believe in the end-value of what they are making.

   4. They balance a passion for history and tradition with a drive to innovate.

   5. They plan and think things through first.

   6. They immerse themselves and can maintain focus on their work.

   7. They put in the hours for their craft to become a habit of daily life.

   8. They know that you've never really "made it".

Even if you don't think of yourself as creative or crafty — say you've never made something with your hands in your life — it doesn't matter. Craftsmanship is an attitude, and one we believe is important enough to cultivate.

(photo source)

Written by Chris Allison on September 4, 2012


Add A Comment
Crafts says:

Thanks for sharing this.
I really agree with line and like it.
3. They believe in the end-value of what they are making.

Thanks for sharing the link, Eric. Good read. Hopefully people like Frew start getting more recognition. With blogs like Put This On and others gaining momentum, the value of well-made clothing is starting to get talked about a bit more these days.

Eric Van Fossen says:

Chris, this is one of those topics that is sort of rolls around like a catchy tune. So, hard to say if this item found me or I sought it out. Nonetheless, I think it's an interesting layer to the concept of craft via the bespoken suit (something I don't know much about in either the commissioning, wearing, finding, etc...)

Excellent post. I cannot help but wax philosophical here. :) Craft is also one of those activities that, while it can provide for you (and a company) financially, also ends up providing one with a rich life. Treating a profession like a craft makes you happier, produces better work, and satisfies the spirit for a lifetime.

Thanks, Eric.

"Is contemporary craft the ability to finish and perfect or to iterate and attempt."

I think it has to be both; it's a constant striving towards perfection which means giving your all to your current work and being hungry to try again regardless the outcome.

Eric Van Fossen says:

Good stuff, Chris. Craft is a noble pursuit. As you detailed, it does come at a price for life is cruel for the craftsman. Economics teaches us the last makers of anything tend, by definition, to be the most craft-driven. The last buggy-whip maker had a great deal of pride and probably could name his price to his (few) very appreciative customers. So, I wonder, what will define 'craft' of digital communication? I think those 8 markers may distill or mutate into 5 involving detail awareness, persistence and malleability. Is contemporary craft the ability to finish and perfect or to iterate and attempt?

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Chris Allison