Notes form the book "The Nature and Art of Workmanship" by David Pye, published by The Herbert Press


The phrase "workmanship of risk" means that at any moment, wether through inattention, or inexperience, or by accident, the workman is liable to ruin the job.

David Pye points out, "…all the works of men which have been most admired since the beginning of our history have been made by the workmanship of risk, the last three or four generations only excepted."

…rigorously carrying out his intentions with clarity, experience and dexterity. Indeed, this is the thing rarely seen any more: highly regulated work, made by workmanship of risk.

Pye, unlike most other intellectuals who write about art, design and craft, was himself a maker of things. He not only made things, he always made things, he thought from the perspective of the workman, and he took great pleasure in the activity of making. This put him directly in touch with the problems of designing and making, with the issues that cofound every thoughtful workman. Unlike so many of us, however, Pye was also highly educated, and gifted with a sharp and lively intelligence. Thus he not only had his hands immersed in te issue, he was able to formulate a set of definitions and truths that have eluded other intellectual.


..qualities and attractions which our environment gets from it workmanship are almost invariably attributed to design.

Design is what, for practical purposes, can be conveyed in words and by drawing: workmanship is what for practical purposes, can not.

…on the contrary, indeed, the designer is deep in its debt, for every card in his hand was put there originally by the workman. No architect could have specify ashlar until a mason had perfected it and shown him that it could be done.

Designers have only been able to exist by exploiting what workmen have evolved or invented.