Defining Craftsmanship

The Workshops at Howard Heights joins several other craftspeople in the area, such as Cooper Ironworks and Mastercraft Upholstery, as the southern entry point of North Charleston's "craftsmanship zone."

We embrace the concept of craftsmanship and the craftsman, but want to be clear about what this often overused, marketing term means to us in day to day life.   

Craftsmanship as less about what is made and more about how it is made. Reaching across sectors, craftsmanship can be practiced by the individual maker of doors, upholstery, ironwork, bread, beer or spirits, cutting boards, clothing, high end lighting, mattresses, all of it up to the latest airplanes. Craftspeople are creators at heart, defined by their action rather than taglines or claims.   With a willingness to get into the details, working, learning, and refining, craftsmanship is about being creative for creation's sake. 

Craftsmanship stands on the hands and ideas of its craftspeople.  While some say they can feel the energy of the humanity behind craftsmanship, everyone should able to see its evidence with its warranty and customization.  Craftsmanship is always evolving.  It is about the journey more than the destination: a process rather than a production. Craftspeople stand behind their work because their work is a representation of their effort and also because feedback improves the next iteration.  

Craftsmanship loves the "one off."  The customization of craftsmanship sets it apart from mass production. This does not mean that craftspeople cannot offer a line of products, but it does mean that craftsmen are more than happy to customize and tweak their work to meet a client's needs.  Whether it is personalizing an item by tweaking it or working from a unique set of plans, customization is possible because craftsmanship is about serving and responding to its market versus requiring the marketplace to acquiesce.  

Craftsmanship is not always more expensive.  A true craftsman is happy to explain and justify their costs.  Advertising campaigns love to drop the word "craftsmanship"into their product descriptions and then demand higher prices. There is no doubt that hand crafted items loose the economies of scale found in mass production, but do not assume that craftsmanship is always more expensive.  Make the call, email, or visit and ask.  A true craftsperson and company with pride of craftsmanship can explain how their prices are derived and demonstrate the costs of materials, labor, and overhead that factors into their prices. They may also be able to offer ways to lower costs by choosing different materials, increasing production, or scaling back details. When comparing prices, make certain you are comparing apples to apples and use the accessibility of your local craftsperson to ask them questions. 

At its core, craftsmanship is about relationship: the maker and their craft, the craftsman and their client, and the craft and the world in which it functions. If you have a need that you cannot fill on your own, broaden your search to find a craftsperson who meets that need, take the time to get to know them, allow them to get to know you and your needs, and let the options begin.