Wedgwood Museum put the relationship between science and craft into perspective for me. One of the things for which Josiah Wedgwood is famous is the experimental quantitative rigour with which he perfected the materials for mass-producing his fabulous decorative tableware. One of the museum's iconic exhibits is a tray of ceramic slips, each having been fired with a slightly different glaze, which he used in the research for what became known as Jasperware. So that is a kind of exemplar for a scientifically based production process: the glaze needs to be mixed like this, and not like that, for the best results; the research says so.
But if you go to the demonstration area, where staff will show you how pots and vases are actually made, you get a different picture. Yes, everything which they do depends on the precisely controlled composition of their materials; the maker of slipware vases needs a plaster mould which absorbs water out of the slip at a predictable speed, they know and allow for the precise percentage shrinkage on firing (it's 12% by the way), and they can count on their glazes and pigments working properly even though their original toxic ingredients such as lead and arsenic have been replaced with less harmful substances tested and selected to still behave just as Josiah Wedgwood intended. And yet, when it comes to hands-on working, what counts is craft skill, with craft or folk terminology.
The custom-made tools, or tools put together from things lying around, and the folksy names for them, are characteristic of craft and its culture. You couldn't ask for a clearer demonstration that no matter how scientific you get, you still need a Waggler, a Knocker, and a sponge on a stick.
|The sponge on a stick|