Is A Craftsman Made Or Born?

According to my Webster dictionary, a craftsman is “one who creates or performs with skill or dexterity especially in the manual arts.”

I was reading National Geographic magazine this morning. The article was about a potentially rediscovered Leonardo da Vinci chalk-and-ink drawing that was originally procured in the late 90s by an art dealer for twenty-something thousand dollars, changed hands after a few years, and now, pending confirmation of its authenticity, could be worth as much as $100 million.

The magazine features a full size replica of the drawing — which is only about as big as a legal pad — that allows for readers to study the minute details of the piece. I’m not an art aficionado; in fact, I couldn’t really even be considered a dilettante. However, even I can tell that no matter who painted the portrait, the details are amazing. I suppose that an artist is not tantamount to a craftsman, but the supposed da Vinci drawing struck me as a sort of craftsmanship in its own right.

Like anything done exceptionally well, craftsmanship is about innate ability and a passion to invest the time and energy into a particular pursuit. Some would even argue that, for high-achievers, nurture plays a far greater role than nature.

A craftsman at work

Take for example the Hungarian Lazlo Polgar. Back in the 70s and 80s, Polgar and his wife pulled their three daughters from State-run schools in order to homeschool them. Polgar’s thesis was, “Genius is made, not born,” and he set out to prove his proposition by educating his children at home (despite resistance from the socialist government) and extensively training each of his daughters in a specific discipline: chess. The end result was three highly educated daughters who are fluent in 4 to 8 languages each, and each chess grandmasters, with one young lady in particular becoming the strongest female chess player in history.

Now, to tie that back to craftsmanship … It’s obvious to us that some people simply don’t have an aptitude for fine workmanship. On the other hand, with a nurturing, educational environment, even the most mechanically inept individuals can achieve a degree of proficiency.

Perhaps there’s a craftsman in all of us?