I recently discovered A Craftsman’s Legacy on two of my local PBS television stations. Show host Eric Gorges (which for many episodes, I heard as “gorgeous” and thought, “Oh yes, you are”) travels around the United States, visiting craftspeople in their studios. He spends a couple days with them, interviewing them and learning the basics of their craft. Gorges is a craftsman himself; he’s a master metalworker and makes custom motorcycles at his shop, Voodoo Choppers, in Detroit. At this point, I’ve seen 12 of the 13 episodes in Season 1 and all four of the Season 2 episodes which have aired for the current Season 2.
The show’s website says, “Each episode will tell the story of an Old World Craft and its importance in the building of America.” Towards this end, each episode starts with a short overview on the history of the craft, presented as pictures with voiceover by host Gorges. This is the least interesting part of the show to me. While I am interested in this background, I find the presentation a bit dry and rather tortured. The main reason for this is that Gorges’ voiceover sounds bored. This is not at all true during the rest of the show. He clearly enjoys meeting and talking with the craftspeople. He loves the tools and workshops and learning new things. His obvious enjoyment of the process is absolutely charming and a big part of what makes the show so engaging to watch.
At some point in most episodes, Gorges asks the craftsperson, “Do you consider yourself an artist or a craftsman?” Everyone has an immediate answer to this question; clearly each one has thought about the differences and similarities between the two words, and what the implications are as they pursue their work. A few reject the dichotomy. One or two think it depends on the task or project. The rest are evenly split between the two categories.
Crafts highlighted on the show include glassblowing, stone carving, metalsmithing of various flavors, boat building, woodworking, and many more. Season 1 included a Native American basketweaver; this is the closest the show has come to a fiber craft so far, but upcoming episodes in Season 2 include a weaver (Juanita Hofstrom) and a quilter. I love the variety of crafts presented in the show. I don’t expect to ever pursue any of these crafts, but I love to see the ways people have organized their lives so that they can make a living with their crafts. I also love seeing the work spaces, tools, and processes used in the various crafts. I find the show inspirational and it provokes me to think about my personal approach to the crafts that I love.
If A Craftsman’s Legacy is not available on any channels in your area, you can join the “Legacy Society” on the show’s website. It’s free to join and this gives you access to full episodes of Season 1. So far, they haven’t added any episodes from Season 2. I’m not sure if they are waiting until the season ends or if they will add the season 2 episodes at some point before then. However you access it — local TV or through the web — the show is absolutely worth a watch.