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From the former director of the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, a timely and passionate case for the role of the well-designed object in the digital age.
Curator and scholar Glenn Adamson opens Fewer, Better Things by contrasting his beloved childhood teddy bear to the smartphones and digital tablets children have today. He laments that many children and adults are losing touch with the material objects that have nurtured human development for thousands of years. The objects are still here, but we seem to care less and know less about them.
In his presentations to groups, he often asks an audience member what he or she knows about the chair the person is sitting in. Few people know much more than whether it's made of wood, plastic, or metal. If we know little about how things are made, it's hard to remain connected to the world around us.
Fewer, Better Things explores the history of craft in its many forms, explaining how raw materials, tools, design, and technique come together to produce beauty and utility in handmade or manufactured items. Whether describing the implements used in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, the use of woodworking tools, or the use of new fabrication technologies, Adamson writes expertly and lovingly about the aesthetics of objects, and the care and attention that goes into producing them. Reading this wise and elegant book is a truly transformative experience.
Glenn Adamson is at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
"Inspiring . . . Fewer, Better Things is deeply personal, full of stories about Adamson’s family that are by turns funny, eye-opening, and moving . . . Adamson invites readers to follow along on a series of thought experiments about the objects in our lives, our relationships to them, what they mean, and how we might go about distilling them so that our material footprint is greatly reduced. And this isn’t just an exercise--the future of humanity might depend on it." - Architectural Digest
"[Adamson] makes a powerful case for limiting our purchases to things (including food) that we find to be beautiful, meaningful, or useful." - Psychology Today
"A powerful and personal account of the meaning and wonder of craft by one of its leading voices. Through a compelling mix of family lore and cultural history, Adamson explores the practice and purpose of craft with elegance and insight. As craft enjoys a well earned renaissance, this work explains why it matters and why more of us are realising it matters." - Tristram Hunt, Director, Victoria and Albert Museum
"Genial and elegant writing . . . Combining elements of memoir, reportage, material history, and curatorial studies, Fewer, Better Things is an erudite but accessible global survey of the contemporary material landscape and how we can be better informed to shape it . . . For the design-inclined, Fewer, Better Things will sharpen the way you think about the world around you." - Modern Magazine
"If we are to navigate out of our cluttered and over-accessorized worlds, we need the kind of critical thinking that Fewer, Better Things beautifully and succinctly delivers. Reflecting a lifetime of study on material intelligence, Glenn Adamson’s remarkable book asks us to radically reconsider the objects we choose to surround ourselves with. I thoroughly enjoyed it and can see it becoming a manifesto for modern living." - Alexander Langlands, author of CROEFT: AN INQUIRY INTO THE ORIGINS AND TRUE MEANING OF TRADITIONAL CRAFTS
"Rich with examples and stories of objects and their makers . . . Adamson’s crafty enthusiasm is infectious." - Kirkus Reviews
"Adamson, a former director of the Museum of Arts and Design in New York and author of several books on craft, views the suffering of the natural world through the prism of our increasingly tortured relationship with it." - New York Review of Books
"In Fewer, Better Things, scholar and former museum curator Glenn Adamson inspires readers to reflect on the physical items they encounter . . . Adamson argues that objects cross cultural barriers . . . and provide a shared understanding of culture and history. By creating meaningful connections to objects, we can move towards a sustainable world where we surround ourselves with fewer, but better, things." - Shelf Awareness
"[Adamson’s] book will awaken those who have tuned out from their surroundings." - Publishers Weekly
"This new attention to craft, to work done through some close contact between hand and thing, has been enriched by the publication of The Craft Reader . . . Even readers who think they're not interested in craft will be more engaged than they expected, if they give the anthology half a chance." - Barry Schwabsky, The Nation on THE CRAFT READER
"At a time when technical skill has been widely dismissed or outsourced in the production of art, Glenn Adamson crucially adds an entire spectrum of hand-crafted objects to the creative history of the post-war era." - Thomas Crow, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University on THINKING THROUGH CRAFT
"[Adamson] is the best writer on craft since Peter Dormer . . . From the politics of labour to the intricacies of lacemaking, this is a superb book that covers a huge territory and is stuffed full of ideas and unexpected associations." - Edwin Heathcote, Icon Magazine on THE INVENTION OF CRAFT