Handwork: How its Worth Shapes Language and Culture


Fall 2014 and Winter 2015 quarters

Taught by

music composition
law and public policy, environmental law

What connections between hand, mind, eye, and ear do we develop when we knit, vote at a meeting, carve stone, gesture during conversation, throw or draw something, make and eat a pie, or tune and play a guitar? Musicians, visual artists, and writers create artwork in highly structured and sophisticated ways, using tools specially adapted to the hand's shape and structure. Hand crafts, from sewing and quilting to basket-weaving and beyond, all require creativity, physical dexterity and persistent practice. Yet, the financial rewards in these fields have consistently fallen in relation to non-manual skills – and sometimes their status value as well. Despite the intimate, deep connections between crafts work and human culture, hand work and hand labor have been rewarded with declining economic rewards in America ever since the rise of the industrial revolution. What do the ways in which handwork is valued, sustained, taught, and deployed across society reveal about the larger culture? 

In lectures, seminars, films, and guest presentations, we'll explore the ways in which hand work can define artistic, linguistic, and social structures. During the fall quarter, we'll study stories concerning hands, histories of hand workers, and scientific explorations of human cognition and perception. In weekly workshops, students will investigate how hands, eyes, and mind work together. While some background in arts or crafts will be useful, it is not expected.  Students with the requisite background may earn credit for studio work and pursue a group show at the CAB student gallery or in-house performances. Alternately, students can choose to pursue a related research project profiling a particular artist working with a handwork technique or a social trend affecting handwork, such as 3D printing. In weekly group workshops, all students will have the opportunity to learn to play the ukulele and sing or pursue their own music, art, or craft projects in small groups. We will study local, state, national, and international policies concerning labor and art and meet with guests working in public policy. During the winter, students will either pursue internships in Washington state government or nongovernmental organizations or complete a large research or creative project.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

art, handcrafts, political communications, labor, and music.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


Buy books for this program through Greener Bookstore.

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning: Access to web-based tools required, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

Special Expenses

$75 for an ukulele and digital tuner.


Date Revision
June 4th, 2014 This program has been cancelled. Andrew Buchman will be joining Between Land and Sea. Cheri Lucas-Jennings will be offering Individual Learning Contract opportunities.
April 21st, 2014 $75 special expense added.
March 31st, 2014 New opportunity added.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Fall); 16 (Winter)

Class standing: Junior–Senior

Maximum enrollment: 50


Course Reference Number not yet available.


Enrollment Closed

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