Conversations on Technology

Conversations on Technology happened during a couple of cold winter evenings, Stanley Lechtzin and Michael Dunas examined ideas raised at the November symposium “Innovations/Applications: Technological Pioneers in Metalsmithing,” sponsored by the Pennsylvania Society of Goldsmiths and held at Tyler School of Art.

Their resulting conversation is published here in abbreviated form. Lechtzin has subsequently shown his video on computer-aided metalsmithing, entitled “Hands Off! Will the computer eliminate the hand?” at the annual conference of the Society of North American Goldsmiths in June, 1988 at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY.

Conversations on Technology

Michael Dunas: Why are you investigating the applications of computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacture (CAD/CAM) to metalsmithing?

Stanley Lechtzin: I’m looking for methods of utilizing the computer to minimize the amount of handwork necessary to create objects. The practicality of this is already well documented. It will not be very long before I will be able to show metalsmithing applications and therefore raise philosophical questions about the technical aspects, such as, are we engaged in a handwork activity or is the resultant objects and its communicative values more important? The use of CAD/CAM points the way to a different future.

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MD: Your position sounds more like a polemic than a case for practical innovation.

SL: I think it is.

MD: Did your interest and concern with divorcing yourself from handwork precede your introduction to CAD/CAM or did it come about as a result of working with CAD/CAM?

SL: That’s an easier question for me to answer today than it was years ago when I was developing  my uses of electroforming I was obviously thinking about it subconsciously and the advent of the computer allowed me to realize what before could only be speculation.

MD: Is your interest in technology contingent upon your interest in metalsmithing?

SL: In the product of artists as well as artisans there are paradigms that overlap but these do not necessarily require hand skills.

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MD: So what then distinguished the metalsmithing activity?

SL: The exercise of intellect, the manifestation of the form. But nowhere is the mark of the hand seen as crucial to the definition. I think what I’m suggesting is to eliminate that confusion. The importance of an object is not in how well crafted it is but in how communicative it is of the human condition. The computer is the impetus for an integration of the process so that in the future the process will be of minimal consequence. The activity is not substantially different from that of a designer, only the product will differ.

The activity of the metalsmith, as I have now defined it, probably does not differ greatly from the activity of architects, engineers or other practitioners engaged in creating objects. They might use the same materials and the same work habits. You only know you’re a metalsmith if you are producing objects normally made by metalsmiths, or the subcategory jeweler or silversmith. The activity is the same and will be rather generic there will be more conceptualization and less manipulation.

MD: What you seem to imply is that, like architecture, metalsmithing is defined by a historically acceptable morphology. In architecture the history of building types defines the architect’s work regardless of the process by which he designs those buildings. Is that a correct assumption?

SL: Yes, I accept that definition because I see my colleagues as producers of holloware, jewelry, functional and sculptural forms. We have our paradigms and we subscribe to using these paradigms. Therefore, as I see us moving into the computerized studio, we will continue to produce the types of objects that initially attracted our interest, but no longer will we need to master hand skills, which many of us devoted many years to acquire.

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MD: Assuming that CAD/CAM is fully accepted, not only by metalsmithing but by ceramics, woodworking, etc., do you then find any value in handmaking?

SL: Not in and of itself. It is a romantic notion that at this time is still dependent upon many of the ideas put forward by William Morris and his friends. It was a reaction to many of the negative social manifestations that industry and the machine created in society. I do not see the computer as doing the same sort of thing, either economically or socially. I see the computer as quite the opposite, as a true creator of freedom and independence. It’s inexpensive, readily available, universal in its applications; anyone who wants it can have it. Therefore the need to separate ourselves from the users of the machine is no longer important. In the past it was important to say that we are individuals capable of retaining mastery of tool and material and to set ourselves up in opposition or as an alternative to the machine product, which was seen as working to dehumanize. The computer isn’t doing that and therefore there’s no need to defy it; there’s no need to take issue with it, and therefore we no longer need to hold onto the romantic notion of the individual working alone, producing beautiful objects with little more than their own hands.

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MD: You mentioned that the professional must take CAD/CAM seriously and you distinguish between the professional and the hobbyist. Could you clarify the difference between the two?

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SL: Perhaps a better work would be amateur in the real definition of the term. An individual who isn’t engaged in these activities for significant economic gain can easily afford to produce objects using any methods that they enjoy or wish to pursue for other reasons. However, if one must work efficiently and in competition with others who are addressing the same marketplace, the advent of this technology will quickly give an economic edge to those who are using it. When I make this statement, I make it not on esthetic grounds but on economic grounds, and history has shown us that when a better tool is invented, those who ignore it go out of business.

MD: You’ve limited the definition of an effective tool by dealing with its economic consequences, thereby limiting its benefits to a certain audience, in other words, those who are “production” oriented. Is the introduction of a more efficient tool of primary interest only to those concerned with labor/time/cost savings?

SL: When the perceived values of two objects being compared by the consumer are equal and yet one is significantly less expensive, then, obviously, the less expensive product will drive the other off the market. I’m talking strictly economics—I’m not making value judgments. So, anybody who engages in our craft for economic gain must examine this technology very carefully. At this point, it isn’t developed enough to be a serious contender for their investment capital, but soon it will be, and when it becomes that significant they will have to accept it and utilize it.

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Recent issues of The Crafts Report have contained articles on fiberspeople who are using the computer. It has immediate applications for them because of the primarily two-dimensional nature of their work. It’s easy for them to translate their drawings to the loom or silkscreen or whatever. So, we can trace the history of industrialization to the weavers in England at the turn of the century; CAD/CAM is following the same path. The weavers are picking up on CAD/CAM, but it will quickly affect all of us. Those weavers who are doing their designing and presentations and finished product with the aid of a computer have an advantage over their colleagues who are not. For example, for the commission we’re (we being myself and Daniella Kerner) working on now, we were able to deliver 15 renderings when in the past we could only deliver three. Were I to compete with someone for the same commission, my 15 I think would be more impressive than their three. And if they were doing it manually, I’d have an edge. It has nothing to do with esthetics nor art, it has to do with this labor/time issue.

MD: I would like you to consider a different class of metalsmiths—those who produce one-of-a-kind work that requires labor intensity but not efficiency, as well as those in academic metalsmithing who are investigating ideas about metalworking forms and processes where neither labor intensity nor efficiency is important. Does CAD/CAM offer anything for them?

SL: I think that we may be embarking on a period in which that labor intensity will no longer be a useful criterion; I’m not sure that it is a clear criterion today. When we start examining it carefully, we come to the realization that people are evaluating subconsciously how labor-intensive the production of an object appears to be and assigning esthetic value to the more labor-intensive object.

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The term professional encompasses all those individuals who are in the academic community as well as those who are doing serial production and one-of-a-kind. I think, in the end, as professionals, we are all engaged in the field for economic gain; we are not doing it strictly out of a love of the activity. I’m directing myself to all those individuals when I discuss CAD/CAM and point out the importance the technology will have for them. I think at this time that labor intensity, the perception of labor/time embodied in this product, is still an overriding concern of the consumer and critic. As long as we’re engaged in a dialogue between maker and consumer, then we’ve accepted the labor/time/value at some level and have all addressed it in our own ways. If it disappears, or if there’s a question suddenly in the consumer’s mind as to how labor-intensive a piece really was, then the old values, the old ways of measuring labor/time disappear. We’re going to have to look at these things differently from an esthetic point of view. Now, there is going to be that transition period where you’re not going to know whether the maker is using a computer or not and the products are going to be very similar in nature, but eventually it’s going to be common knowledge that most of these people are using computers.

I’m working with an architect for an addition to my house. I am now assuming because of my background and my knowledge that a man who is asking for a fee to do drawings is asking too much because he wants to sit at a drawing board. And I’m looking for an architect who will sit at a computer and do it more efficiently and give me those drawings at a lower price.

They’re going to be equally creative and equally useful. And the same thing is going to begin to affect us in our own profession.

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MD: Could you equate the value of metal sculpture with the value of commercial jewelry—based on labor intensity and material?

SL: If you would accept the fact that it is not a firm formula or a direct linear equation . . . the amount of work that people perceive you’ve put in is an indication to them of how much they’re willing to pay. The mystique of the bronze casting has always been considered the classic, ultimate manifestation of the sculptural activity—why? Because it was the most involved. It took the most energy, the most assistance, the most people in order to get that big bronze cast. And so it commanded a higher price. The clay model never did; the wax model never did; the marble carving, maybe. But is the bronze casting intrinsically esthetically superior? I content it is not. Its value is a manifestation of how much work went into producing it.

MD: Another question on the value of labor: You have said, “I’m uncomfortable in the need to have others assist me in my work, particularly for pay or for hire, and this [CAD/CAM] potentially frees me from that aspect of this activity.” Why is that of concern to you?

SL: Because I understand the economics of exploitation. If I were to engage another individual to do some or all of my work for me, the only way that I could derive any economic benefit personally from that activity is to sell it for a price that is much higher than the price I will pay this worker to produce it for me. That, by definition, is an exploitive activity and one that I do not wish to engage in. That’s a moral and ethical consideration that probably wouldn’t stop many people, but it does me.

MD: However, you know that your Marxist concern for alienated labor becomes suspect once you’ve entertained the idea of selling your work in the marketplace of a capitalist system.

SL: I can’t exploit myself but I can exploit others. It’s a matter of definition. I can work as hard as I want and derive the benefits of my labor. This is perfectly moral and justifiable activity, but when I utilize somebody else’s hands and reward them with less than their productivity warrants, then I’m exploiting.

MD: It seems that CAD/CAM plays an important role in your idea of a historical progression, from a primitive state of naïve hand labor to a modern state of intellectual production.

SL: The concept of progress is yours, not mine. I don’t see these activities in terms of progress, I see them in terms of history. I would characterize them as freeing individuals from labor, which I consider to be somewhat onerous, something that ought to be avoided by intelligent people. I don’t look to demonstrate to my friends, associates and potential supporters that I am capable of lavishing innumerable hours on an object for the sheer love of spending the amount of time. Now, I know that much of the content of crafts is of that nature. It communicates this lavish expenditure of time. In some cases that may be the only thing of value that it communicates. I don’t think that’s very intelligent at this time in our history. If you want to characterize it as progress you’re free to, but I’m uncomfortable with that term, because I don’t really know how to define progress. What I’m proposing will make it easier for me, personally, and for those who wish to follow in my path, to produce worthy objects that others, I hope, will desire to own—produce them without the need or expectation that others will assist in that productive activity, whether paid or unpaid. I’m uncomfortable with the need to ask others to assist me in my work, particularly for pay or for hire. And this potentially frees me from the aspect of this activity.

MD: In using CAD/CAM as a major tool or technology for producing metal objects, what human facilities does it enhance? What are the benefits for the creative user?

SL: To me what I’m about to say is beginning to sound very much like a cliché, because I hear it all the time. I don’t know how many of my colleagues are in touch with the computer subculture, but if you’re in it at all, you hear what I’m about to say very often. What it enhances is the ability to quickly generate and express ideas. I view this as central to what an artist does. When this technology is fully realized, we will be able to process ideas very quickly and therefore generate more objects of higher quality in the same lifespan. I see that as an enhancement.

People who currently engage professionally in one of the writing crafts have discovered that once they’ve turned to the work processor they can’t pull back from it. They know that it enhances the creative process. Very simply, we’ve discovered in the classroom that when teaching writing youngsters, one of the most difficult things in the past has been getting them to go back and refine their work. It’s too laborious. Give them a work processor and they’re more inclined to do the polishing of their papers to an extent never before considered possible. The same thing is available now to people working in three dimensions. You can continue to refine and polish that idea until you get it right. You don’t have to settle for an approximation. In the past I’ve always had to settle for approximations.

It occurs to me also, and here I break with the word-processing analogy, because the word processor really isn’t capable of producing more sophisticated literature than the author is capable of before approaching the word processor. I think CAD/CAM has demonstrated to me the ability to do things with form that until now I’ve not been able to do, in much the same way that electroforming allowed me to do things that I was unable to do directly in metal. The CAD/CAM technology opens up machine tool manipulation that I cannot directly accomplish with the same machine tool. The computer is so much more versatile than I.

MD: What interests me is your notion of ideas and how they’re made real through process. For example, the Brillo boxes Andy Warhol made are indistinguishable from actual Brillo boxes, but we call his “art” because the ideas that surround them inform them as art. Brillo boxes themselves are insignificant. So, hypothetically, we can dispense with the Brillo boxes and be left with the pure idea, which would then commend Andy Warhol’s contribution as one equal to a philosopher’s. Do you hold that position, that art is in pursuit of the pure idea and that we can dispense with the object?

SL: No, because we really don’t care to dispense with the object. If I were interested in collecting Warhol, I would insist on having the physical manifestation of that idea in my collection rather than strictly the concept. As a craftsman, obviously, I’m a much more pragmatic person than the conceptual artist of the 60s. I value the idea, however. I value it highly. I place it central to the object, with the object as the manifestation of the idea.

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MD: But at no time are you willing to relinquish the object if the idea is made clear to you in some manner other than your craft?

SL: No, I’m an object maker and I will not take the step from object maker to conceptualizer. I enjoy making objects, but I don’t necessarily value the actual labor that goes into the making. This may be an indecisive position, but I can’t go beyond it.

MD: During the technology symposium, a provocative question was posed: if, hypothetically, the CAD/CAM process was totally interactive, meaning that as you acted through the keyboard, the actual metal would respond and pose questions and give answers to you and so on, in real time, then that would dispel any qualms about process. However, what came to mind as I pondered this hypothesis was that this borders on simulation, that you are not actually working with the metal, but you have successfully simulated working with the metal on the screen. You have simulated physical labor but actually not engaged in it. Is not something lost when you have removed the “presence” of the material?

SL: I think you’ve confused two concepts when you talk about completely interactive and simulation. If it is truly interactive, by the definition you’ve given, and I think it’s a good definition, then you’re not simulating in any way. It is real. You are directly creating a real metal object or an object in real materials. That, by definition, is no longer simulation. Now, simulation is something that occurs interactively today in some CAD/CAM systems, in which on the monitor you see an object being created, manipulated and finally finished. It still resides in the memory of the computer, not as a real object that we can handle. I feel, with the computer, I have a level of freedom and safety that I would not have if the machine tool were linked in real time to what it was doing at the keyboard terminal. I would be violating the concept of simulation, putting at risk the real material, the real tool. Simulation is designed to avoid that.

MD: I want to pursue this: Imagine a photograph of a tree. You believe it’s a real tree because it looks right. That’s a leap of faith. Now, that is different than actually being in the presence of a real tree. I think that although the computer heightens the intellectual aspect of any operation, it detracts from any tactile or intuitive or emotional knowledge that might be located somewhere outside of intellect, encouraged by physical labor and materiality.

SL: What you’re suggesting is that one of the ways that we learn to make art is through the experience we have with the materials we employ. That is true. As a teacher of the craft, I know it is true. I know that when you put slides on the screen and ask students to compare techniques that might result in similar but not identical results, you trouble them, because they know the difference, having experienced it. They understand that there will never be identical realizations when approached from two technically different paths.

I grant that there is some merit to that position, but intellectually I have taken another step and that is the realization that all that we know about materials and process can be communicated through a master craft data bank, which will ultimately develop, and therefore the knowledge of the hand in contact with the material will probably no longer be necessary. Engineers have discovered this already. They have vast data banks that they plug into when they need to know about materials. And, getting back to the idea of simulation, they can simulate and find out very quickly through the use of the computer how the material is going to behave. Well, we can do the same thing. I don’t think that direct contact with materials will have anything to do with the production of art.

MD: What you’re saying about metalsmithing and engineering, does that apply to all artisan activities?

SL: I quickly jump to the easel painter and am aware that the camera didn’t put those people out of business. Now is the computer in a stronger position that the camera in that respect? I suspect not. I vacillate, because now suddenly comes to mind the entire field of computer graphics and what it can do. Will that put the painter out of business? I doubt it. I think we’re culturally too committed to the idea of paint on canvas, much more than we are to the idea of hands making things. In all other ways we can utilize the computer to supplant paint on canvas.

MD: You have said, “I would insist on having the physical manifestation of the idea in my collection rather than strictly the concept.” You also say, “I value the idea, I value it highly. The object is the physical manifestation of the idea.” On a practical basis, how does the idea change for you as it goes from your own conceptualization to its rendition on the computer screen until the actual production of the physical object through CAM on the other end? What changes in those steps?

SL: The computer hasn’t really made a great deal of difference in that process as yet, because the concept is always purer and more magical than the reality, and every step taken beyond the idea and moving closer to the reality is a step leading to disappointment. It’s my hope that the computer will allow me to minimize that disappointment, that the steps from concept to realization will be smoother and more accurate than they are currently. The sketch or rendering of an idea is never really capable of communicating what I envision, and as I attempt to render it in materials there is an increasing dissatisfaction with my ability to communicate that original idea. This has always been a motivating force for me to go on to the next object. As I mentioned earlier, the computer now allows me at least to render more ideas in the same amount of time. Soon I’ll be able to make more of those things in the same amount of time. The expectation is that I’ll get closer and closer to that ideal. I can’t be sure that will occur, but it’s my expectation.

The computer is a virtual tool. That means it can be anything I want it to be, which means I will have, in effect, many more tools at my disposal. The computer will allow me to completely explore an idea, with the hope that I’ll get much closer to that idea. Things get in the way when you’re making something. You go from this beautiful concept to having to find the right material and the right tool and the right time and make sure you don’t screw up along the line, and then finally the thing is realized. But never do things go smoothly. It just doesn’t quite come off. But you accept it. It’s an acceptable approximation; you have to go on. But, assuming I have this fully integrated CAD/CAM system, I just push the button again and try it with another variation.

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MD: Does the notion of an aleatory effect come into play with CAD/CAM and how? I bring that up because much of creation and innovation has been based on aleatory stimuli and effects, a romantic epiphany, unexpected and unstructured. Is there such a thing with CAD/CAM?

SL: I can envision programming that in, but then you would not accept it any longer as an aleatory effect, because it has already been planned, even though the artist may not expect the result. So, I’m ambivalent.

MD: There was similar controversy about John Cage’s work with the “prepared” piano, which he said was created in order to facilitate aleatory music. His critics said he had structured the aleatory effects.

SL: Exactly, and that’s what the program that I’m reffering would do.

MD: Cage countered that by saying that although the tool was prepared, the aleatory effect comes from the artist’s use of the tool. The tool did not control the artist, or what the artist did with it was totally unpredictable. And he was only concerned with the artist’s reaction not with the reaction of the machine or the piano. Is CAD/CAM for you as flexible? In its interactive nature does it reprimand you for aleatory use, or is that part of the presumption for using it?

SL: That it would reprimand and then deny me that, no. It’s not an inherent quality of the computer. It could be if one wished it to be. But you don’t have to have that occur. In the simplest drawing programs on the computer, you’ll find complete freedom to develop whatever you wish on the screen. However, there are drafting programs that will constrain you to produce a perfect radius and perfect circles and perfect squares if you so desire. You can have it either way. I can envision a program that would not allow me to exceed the tolerances of my machines and my cutters and my materials, etc. It would just preclude those accidents, those errors of judgment on the part of the designer. But I could also, just as easily, turn that off.

When we talked about the necessity to acquire the manual skills that have been so important to the knowledge of the craft down through the centuries, then I could envision a time when they would no longer need to be acquired, because the knowledge of the hand could be programmed into the computer, so that you would have that data base and anyone could utilize it. And when it became that accessible, nobody would think it particularly important. So a beginner, knowing nothing, could turn on all this artificial intelligence and create technically perfect pieces—dull, boring, repetitive, clichéd perfection.

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MD: In our discussion of the handmade versus the machinemade, I wanted to clarify a point you made, that for the consumer of metalwork it made no difference whether a piece was machine—or handmade. And I assumed you meant because of the social history of metal forms manifest in forks or cups or jewelry. Is that what you meant, that the public really doesn’t care?

SL: My experience is that the public really doesn’t care. It is the rare individual who really cares that much about the process.

MD: Is that a condition to be rectified?

SL: No, I don’t think so. I don’t think we have to educate people to know if a piece was done with a hammer and anvil or a press.

MD: Because you think there is no intrinsic value to having something done by hand?

SL: Not any longer for me. Now, this is a point that I know most of my colleagues will take issue with. They’ll say you’re missing the whole reason for the crafts’ existence. But, as I said before, that is a 19th-century romantic attitude. I did subscribe to it for many years, and I can understand how what I’ve just said might seem to be really off the wall.

MD: I think it’s hard to defend the craft tradition, but I think that we as a civilization believe in the inherent humanity of the personal gesture manifest in individual action and consequently in individual making. Since you can communicate gesture in poetry, even though it is not physically perceptible, do you find metalsmithing with the use of CAD/CAM transcending its limitation of process and materials—transcending the poetry of the physical?

SL: You can have it either way, depending on what you’re looking for. If it is the mental thrust, then you can find it, whether the piece has been made spontaneously by hand or created through some other device. If what you’re looking for is the mark of a hand-driven tool, then that’s the only way you’re going to find it, and I contend that at this point in our history, the mark of the hand-driven tool isn’t all that important.

MD: Because society doesn’t conceive of it as important?

SL: No, because I, as an artist, don’t conceive of it as important.

MD: But you accept that the physical gesture and the mental gesture can coexist? One does not preclude the other. You have just personally chosen the mental gesture as more valid for you at this point?

SL: Yes, I think it’s more in keeping with the society I’m living in. I’m living in an information age. That’s what comes through to me on a regular basis and I respond to it.

MD: In evaluating technology’s credibility, let’s make a short list of its assets and liabilities.

SL: I think I’ve already enumerated the assets. Liabilities –I would say at this point, our lack of experience with it and its very, very short history. It’s clear that all I envision can’t be realized at this point. I can’t go out and prove conclusively to all detractors or questioners that what I am propounding is capable of realization. But by analogy, and from what I see in industrial manifestations of these technologies, I’m convinced that we will soon be able to realize the benefits of these technologies, and the liabilities that they bring with them at that point, I suggest, are far fewer than any other technology available to us today. Our technologies, up to the advent of the computer, have been clearly limited individually. The computer is so amorphous a machine and a technology that virtually any limitation that one can identify can be overcome, given the will and the commitment. And that’s new.

MD: Trying to sum up, it seems that you are saying that metalsmithing is somehow determined by the forms of its history, which is culturally determinant, and that the value to society and the culture is primarily in the finished product. The culture generally doesn’t care how it’s made as long as that finished product is acceptable. Therefore, we can go and find any method of production or creation in order to satisfy that need for a finished form, a finished product to satisfy culture’s expectations. Where in that process is the need for cultural innovation and where does that innovation come from?

SL: When you talk about innovation, I assume now that we’re not talking about technology, we’re talking about the ability to generate the unique esthetic object.

MD: I mean the finished product that culture finds acceptable, that’s what you described. The process is immaterial to the culture. But the culture is concerned with certain forms and certain finished products, which then give metalsmiths validity. Is there any room in that definition for innovation? And if there is, where does it come from?

SL: I see that as an esthetic concern. Human beings seem to crave visual stimulation and visual satisfaction. Repetition is perceived with lack of interest. We’ve developed in a search for kitsch or a search for higher artistic expression, it seems to pervade all cultures, and technology seems to be irrelevant to it. Regardless of what technologies are employed to create these serviceable objects, there continues to be a communal desire for this continued re-evaluation and I think it stems from this human condition. I’m not a philosopher in that respect and I don’t think I can explain that need more fully, but I think it is apparent that we have it.

MD: What I’m asking is, does the technology of CAD/CAM enhance the need for innovation?

SL: That’s one of my fundamental precepts. By eliminating much of the labor, it allows for concentration on the innovative aspects of objectmaking. It allows the individual to continue to refine and change forms. If they’re worthy, so much the better for all of us. If they’re not, there will be a greater proliferation of trash, but that isn’t the fault of the computer. It’s the fault of the artist running it. But most definitely I project a future in which the creative individuals will be able to have a much greater effect on their society.

MD: Obviously, CAD/CAM is a double-edged sword and CAD generally reflects back to the maker. It can be potentially an interactive process. But CAM, meaning the manufacturing process, is involved in reproduction and dissemination. In your scheme, is the manufacturing as important as the design, more important, equally important, and what role does it play?

SL: It’s as important. Without the CAM capability, what we would have is just a glorified sketchpad. And that might be nice, and, early on, I thought that might be enough. But I realize now that in order to justify my enthusiasm, the CAM capability must exist. Industrial-strength CAM suggests multitudes of widgets all identical, in a never-ending stream. And that’s what so intrigues the investors in these large systems. I am subversive. I see it as a way of producing unique objects in an equally endless stream. That’s not efficient economically, but it is efficient artistically. Once we eliminate the overwhelming physical investment, we open up the opportunity to continue to explore the permutations of an idea until we are totally finished with it. At this point I’m not able to do that. I have to accept one or two manifestations or something that approximates the vision that I had going into a project, because I don’t have the time, the energy or the enthusiasm to continue. Our ideas tend to flow at a far more rapid rate than our ability to execute them. And when you are involved in the execution of an idea, it isn’t long before the new ideas are forcing their way into your consciousness, with a pressure that precludes continuing with the old ideas. Therefore, the exploration that I’d like to see occur in my own work has never actually occurred. I have to move on because of that pressure. The CAM aspect of CAD/CAM I believe will allow the luxury of that continued exploration without denying the pressure to move on.

MD: How soon do you think you can realize the full potential of CAD/CAM in metalsmithing?

SL: When the objects I wish to create are being produced as rapidly as I wish them to be, in the number that I wish, of a quality that I’m satisfied with. Now, that doesn’t answer your question, nor do I think I’ll ever really be satisfied. I guess we could conclude by saying that I’ll never realize it.

MD: Then, the ultimate value of your research, whether it ends tomorrow or 10 years from now, will probably reside in the polemic.

SL: Yes.

Stanley Lechtzin is a Professor and Chairman of the Crafts Department at Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia, PA. Michael Dunas lectures and writes on craft, design and art.

By Stanley Lechtzin & Michael Dunas
Metalsmith Magazine - 1988 Summer
In association with SNAG's
Metalsmith magazine, founded in 1980, is an award winning publication and the only magazine in America devoted to the metal arts.
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