Tag Archives: David Pye

Function and Form

All things in nature have a shape, that is to say, a form, an outward semblance, that tells us what they are, that distinguishes them from ourselves and from each other. Unfailingly in nature these shapes express the inner life, the native quality, of the animal, tree, bird, fish, that they present to us; they […]

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The Nature & Aesthetics of Design (2)

As I discussed earlier, aesthetics was added to Pye’s Nature of Design at a later date. That’s a thorny problem, and something that has always puzzled me is: just what makes something beautiful? I grew up in Southern California, and I was surrounded by industrial design. It resonated with me in a way that flowers, […]

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The Bricoleur

Never do we achieve a satisfactory performance. Things are simply not ‘fit for their purpose’. At one time a flake of flint was fit for the purpose of surgery, and stainless steel is not fit for the purpose yet. Every thing we design and make is an improvisation, a lash-up, something inept and provisional. We […]

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Locating David Pye

As I’ve deepened my readings/re-readings of David Pye over the years, some interesting things have started to pop out at me. He’s got an Aristotelian knack for taxonomies and frameworks, but there are some real prejudices in there that are troubling. First, he clearly privileges the visual over the tactile; second, he’s strongly biased against […]

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MC: Are you that interested in objects as such, or is it the process of making that’s important? DP: Oh my God no, oh Lord no! The result is what matters. Because if it’s bad, one tries desperately to think of a way of improving it. If you can’t alter it you chuck it away […]

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The Nature & Aesthetics of Design

In 1964, David Pye published his second book, a slightly longer (91 page) volume called The Nature of Design. I haven’t tracked an original down to look at it, though I’m curious about the differences between the original and revised edition. There are references to computers in the revised edition that I’m sure probably weren’t […]

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The Things We See

David Pye is frequently listed among the authors to read for woodworkers, famous more as a theorist than an artisan. It took me a while to get around to surveying his works more carefully; The Nature and Art of Workmanship is the standard text on everyone’s list, with its deconstruction of Arts and Crafts via Ruskin […]

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a civilization ‘outside in’

The art forms of a community are the crystallizations of its culture (which may indeed be a different thing from its civilization), and pottery traditions art no exception to the rule. In the T’ang period it is not difficult to recognize the Chinese genius for synthesis, here reinterpreting Greek and Buddhist ideology in terms of […]

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Talking Shop

You won’t find Talking Shop on many woodworker’s “must read” lists. I started it a while ago and put it aside, once I got the gist of it’s thesis. I was enjoying it, but it just didn’t seem relevant to the other craft reading I was doing until now. I thought of it soon after […]

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