I'm reading Utopian Communities in America, 1680-1880, and it became clear to me that the author is smoking the crack. Possibly all of the crack. Here: "We should not assume, therefore, that the Shakers were unhappy because they were subject to restrictions and repressions that might seem to us to be unbearable." Okay so far, but the next sentence is: "The facts of Shaker craftsmanship alone, deny unhappiness. No one who was frustrated, repressed, discontented, or ill-adjusted to life could have produced such simple and eloquent work, which breathes the air of tranquility and fulfillment. It is only when we begin to cast an eye on the tortured furniture, the gaudy and tawdry trappings, and the grotesque upholstery of the 'world' at the same period that we can see the products of frustration and neurosis."
Uhhh...riiiiiight. We have gone from "we shouldn't assume that everyone wants the same things out of life" to "I don't like the rest of the furniture at the time, therefore the Shakers must have been contented and the rest of the world miserable neurotics."
We seem to need to repeat this idea often enough that I would like to tattoo it backwards on some people's foreheads: happiness and artistic success do not enjoy a simple relation. Some people do good work when they're happy. Some do good work when they're miserable. Some both. Some neither. Got it? Honestly.
Also, I know it would be extremely convenient if everybody whose art/craft you liked was a nifty and happy person and everybody whose art/craft you didn't like was a miserable jerk, but the world is just not arranged that conveniently. "What a lovely dress! Clearly the laborers who sewed it must lead charmed lives!" No, no, and also no. But in some ways it's nice to know in which directions the writer is smoking the crack so that I can adjust, I guess.