On my visit to New York in September 2012 I visited the knife maker Joel Bukiewicz in his workshop – Cut Brooklyn. I knew about Joel’s work through the beautiful Made by Hand short film and also because he spoke at The Do Lectures 2012. I wasn’t able to go to Do last year, so I was excited to get the chance to meet Joel on his home turf.
We had a great chat as he showed me around his studio and knife making workshop. I interviewed him about his views on craft, process,and beauty for my book project The Craftsmanship of Doing. More news on that soon.
Joel’s story about how he came to knife making is a really interesting one. For a long time he wanted to be a writer but in frustration at not getting anywhere with his book writing he turned to something more hands on. As he says himself, “It’s not always success that takes us to the place that we belong.”
Above is a portrait I took of Joel in his Brooklyn workshop on Friday 14th September 2012, and below is a great excerpt from our conversation about making.
“I think it’s about respect for the materials and tools. It’s far more important, rather than learning a task, to learn how to behave in a workshop environment, how to approach the machines. You have to have this constant terror mixed with a certain degree of confidence, because everything downstairs in the workshop will take your hand off in a second. One slip and you’re down to the bone on your knuckle. So having the right combination of fear and competence… well, it’s an attitude that’s most important.
One of the best skills I learnt very early on was when to walk away. If something goes wrong you hold your hands up, when a second thing goes wrong you take your headphones off and really pay attention, if three things go wrong you have to turn off all the machines and walk away.
Go outside, even for five minutes, to breathe some fresh air. When you come back you address your machines and materials a little bit differently. You have to be willing to step away and in order to be able to do that you really have to be in tune with the machines when everything is going well. This ‘shop sense’, understanding that it even exists, is the most important ‘talent’ for any knife maker.”