The inept man

Several months ago, I came across a quote that has become central to the way I view life as well as craft. The quote, 「不器用の一心に勝る名人なし」(西岡常一)roughly translates to “the inept man who shows wholehearted dedication will be surpassed by not even the most skill master”. People who find skills easy to obtain without facing much adversity tend to become content with their progress quickly, while those who face adversity initially often grow to a greater extent once they grasp the concepts.

This fits very well with my observations of several craftsmen over the years. The people I would call true craftsmen (and a number of them are also in the top echelon of their trade) are often quick to point out their faults and always show an interest in learning something new, regardless of who it is from. This dedication is a major part of what makes a Japanese craftsman, not some innate ability.

Although this idea of striving for perfection fully knowing it is unachievable is becoming more are more old-fashioned, even here in the Japanese countryside, it is still so very important.

I am very happy to have finally encountered the words that aptly express this great ideal and will do my best to bring them to life.


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