A Dutch archaeologist finds artisans and thought leaders who are redefining craft, skill and, ultimately, the real meaning of a knowledge economy. Author — Todd Oppenheimer.

Noemie Viaud has been playing violins since she was seven, making them since she was 15, and working with master violin makers in Canada, Norway, and Denmark since 2003. She started her own workshop in Denmark in 2007. Photo by Nikolaj Lund

One day in December, 2003, when he was a young archaeology student, Maikel Kuijpers was attending a workshop, at the Netherlands’ National Museum of Antiquities, and was handed a sword made during the Bronze Age. The workmanship of the ancient weapon immediately captured him. “The lines, the details, the fine balance when holding it,” he recalls. “The attention put into its making was still resonating 3,000 years later.”

Kuijpers realized that this ancient weapon posed enough questions about the nature of knowledge — how it’s produced over time, and why knowledge matters — that it could inspire a long-term program…

As the economy’s reliance on innovation grows, the offering of toys for girls remains–well, somewhat less than innovative. Fortunately, a few smart women are starting to solve this problem by reviving the time-honored principles of tinkering, this time for girls. By David Munro.

photo courtesy of Rachelle Doorley

My daughter hates princesses, and I love her dearly for it. She also loves fairies, and I love her for that, too. The distinction may seem like the caprice of an 8-year-old mind, but it’s actually a simple matter of job description. A princess’s job is being a princess. Fairies put in work.

When bike riders test the work done at the Orbea factory, they get to ride through roads like these, which are etched into the cloud-capped limestone mountains of Spain’s Leniz valley. photo courtesy of Orbea

In the Basque country of Northern Spain, the Mondragon Corporation — the world’s largest co-operative business enterprise — has found ways to weather economic crises, avoid severe income inequality, and build long-term worker loyalty. Why don’t more businesses follow “the Mondragon model”?


I’m driving on a circuitous, narrow country road that leads to Aretxabaleta, one of many medieval Basque towns in the storied Leniz valley. Up above, mist-sodden forests and dreamy trails thread through cloud-capped limestone mountains, the rocky backdrop to towns teeming with legends — and a sequence of economic crises, ancient and modern. The Basque…

In a growing number of artisanal shops dotted around the globe, small-scale perfume artists are bottling a world of scents left untapped by commercial fragrance houses.


To make his perfumes, Spain’s Alberto “Berti” Fernández wildcrafts the raw materials whenever possible. In this case, Berti is helping with the annual lavender harvest at Dos Padres Vineyard, situated an hour outside of Barcelona in Torrellas de Foix. photo by U.B. Morgan, courtesy of Alberto Fernández

Every August, Alberto Fernández travels to Northern Spain where his family owns some land in the mountainous region of Omaña. The land lies inside a United Nations-designated biosphere reserve whose natural flora include unusual plants that spill over to the open fields and roads leading into town.

Fernández forages the property for lavender, rosemary, tree barks, moss, and other leafy material to distill or grind into tinctures. Using beeswax from his…

Like many American cities, Durham, N.C. is turning once-abandoned factories into tech hubs and microbreweries. It’s also building a shared commitment to its most vulnerable citizens. Barry Yeoman, a veteran journalist who has lived in and loved Durham since 1985, digs into the layers of the city’s soul.

One City Center, a brand-new glass tower with condominiums topping $1 million, dwarfs the rest of the skyline in downtown Durham. It has become a symbol of the city’s shifting demographics — and for some, of the real-estate boom that has displaced working-class families and people of color. Photography: Alex Boerner

The area code for Durham, North Carolina is 919. And so, at 9:19 on a Friday night, about twenty teens, mostly African American, converge on the city’s main square. …

Story and Photography by Andrew Sullivan

In the mountains of Michoacán, Mexico, a band of determined indigenous women led the overthrow of a criminal cartel. Their victory revived the town’s traditional livelihood, and ushered in a model form of self-government.

The call to Catholic mass at Templo del Calvario had sounded at 6:30 every morning for as long as anyone could remember. But this morning was different. On April 15, 2011, the church bells tolled before the sun had even come up. Throughout the town of Cherán, a small, indigenous community in the mountains of Michoacán, Mexico, people awoke with a start. …

In the Guangdong region of China, a small company named Ziran makes a special silk, called xiang yun sha, through a process that has remained unchanged for 500 years. Ziran says all the resources used to make xiang yun sha come directly from mother nature: ‘’sun, earth, water.’’ photo courtesy of Ziran Silk

For most women like me, when a fine, silk blouse catches our eye in a clothing store, we don’t think much about the worms that made the silk. If you do, here’s the story you will typically find: A few days after silkworms disappear inside their cocoons, right about the time they finish spinning, the little pods are collected and submerged in boiling water. To make a pound of raw silk, up to 5,000 worms must die.

To People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the nation’s leading animal-rights group, that’s a pretty destructive process for the cause of…

From our recent reporting on The Culinary Frontier, a look at what’s on the menu in the warmer, drier years ahead. Some of it’s pretty tasty.


In perennially water-starved Patagonia, Arizona, just 18 miles from the Mexico border, Gary Nabhan, well known as an author and ethnobotanist, farms a worldly array of desert crops that could make any food lover salivate. The harvest, more than 120 varieties strong, includes Sonoran pomegranates, Baja California Mission guavas, Winter Banana apples, amaranth, asparagus, globe artichokes, and even an arid-friendly Texas Mission variety of the infamously thirsty almond. …

How I stumbled upon the world’s most perfect eating utensil


I have always found a well-formed spoon hard to resist. Though no higher on the utility scale than the knife and fork, the spoon is by far the shapeliest and most charming of the utensil big three.

So when I heard not long ago that the great designer Massimo Vignelli had died, I headed right into the kitchen, opened a drawer, and took out what may be the most perfect teaspoon ever created. Thirty years ago, I walked out of Palio restaurant in mid-town New York with their Vignelli spoon in my pocket…

Wild agave gives the Mexican liquor its prized, hyper-local flavors. Can Oaxacan makers cultivate their way out of a fast-developing supply crisis?

Cuauhtémoc Lopez and his father, Abel Lopez, makers of Montelobos mezcal, come from a long family line of agave growers. Abel, now 72, learned to make mezcal as a teenager from his father. His native language is the local indigenous tongue, Zapotec.


What was for centuries an unknown drink — the everyday firewater of poor Mexican farmers — is suddenly a premium global spirit with the cachet of whiskey. Mezcal enthusiasts from London to New York to Hong Kong are lapping it up, enchanted by its complex flavors and the quaint idea of its traditional, rural, small-scale production.

Yet that surging demand is driving a potentially suicidal production boom. To continue making mezcal, producers depend on a steady supply of wood, water, and agave. All three ingredients are critical, and all three are at risk if production keeps rocketing…

Craftsmanship Quarterly

Multi-media online magazine using long-form storytelling to give artisans & innovators a voice and bring new meaning to traditional & innovative craftsmanship.

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