Adjunct Assistant Professor Dr. Thomas Martin’s first book, Craft Learning as Perceptual Transformation: Getting ‘the Feel’ in the Wooden Boat Workshop , has been published by Palgrave Macmillan in January 2021. Using first-person participant fieldwork in three wooden boat workshops on the East Coast of the United States, the author examines “his changing sensory experience as he learned the basics of the trade. The book reveals how experience in the workshop allows craftspeople to draw new meaning from their senses, constituting meaningful objects through perception that are invisible to the casual observer.” Dr. Martin’s research on skilled work practices is directly related to his teaching of Guttman’s hallmark Ethnographies of Work course, wherein students utilize the methods of ethnography to learn about diverse work experiences.
The book was preceded by the publication of Dr. Martin’s article, “Relational Perception and ‘the feel’ for Tools in the Wooden Boat Workshop,” in the December 2020 issue of Phenomenology and Practice. “This paper presents insights into the lived experience of maritime carpentry practices, based on six months of sensory-ethnographic fieldwork as a wooden boat builder’s apprentice[, particularly] the widely-reported experience of tools ‘withdrawing’ from consciousness as craftspeople master their use.”
Dr. Martin holds a doctoral degree from Oxford University, where he researched perception and understanding among wooden boat builders on the American East Coast. He is interested in sensory ethnography, studies in perception, and other anthropological theories and methods that connect mind, body, and socio-material world. Dr. Martin has served as Core Faculty on the M.A. in Critical Craft at Warren Wilson College, as well as teaching within the City University of New York (CUNY). In teaching Ethnographies of Work in Guttman’s First-Year Experience, he focuses on theories and research methods for the study of embodied practice, particularly where it involves skillful aesthetic perception. In his current research, Dr. Martin continues to investigate the sensory aspects of practical understanding while also considering the humanistic potential of craft learning within and beyond the paradigm of liberal education.