Saturday, 30 June 2012

In Praise of Craftsmanship

by Linda from The Witches Kitchen

Every year in my community, as part of our winter solstice celebrations, we have a gift giving ritual.  We draw names out of a hat six weeks earlier, and hand make a gift. This year, Garry drew me and made me these bellows for my slow combustion stove.  I can't seem to stand still for photos, but you can see my expression when I was given it. 

It is the most beautiful thing.  The wood is smooth and oiled and smells delicious. The brass nozzle is shiny and perfectly proportioned. The leather is soft and attached with a strip of reinforcing leather and rows of painstakingly positioned studs. The handles are rounded and smooth and shaped to fit perfectly in a grasp, and have little wedges holding them at the right angle.  It has my name etched in the front and a sun etched in the back and "Yule 2012" inside the handles.  Every part is beautiful, but then the whole is something more.  Perfectly proportioned, shaped, textured, designed.

And it works. Magnificently Last night it was wet and cold and we had been out late and busy and had no dry kindling. I managed to light a fire with paper and hardwood and my bellows. No kindling.

Stuff. There is Annie Leonard's Story of Stuff, and there is this, and they are at opposite ends of a continuum. My bellows are made from recycled parts, but that's not the point. They are a thing made with craftsmanship, and I think if all our "stuff" was made with craftsmanship, that's all the revolution we need.

Craftsmanship is where design and execution both peak together. It's where a uniquely human big brain creates a concept for a thing that is both beautiful and functional, or maybe beautiful because it is so perfectly functional. And then where our uniquely human opposable thumbs and long life allow the development of enough precision and dexterity and skill to manifest the design. Craftsmanship is where quality comes together with beauty, where thought and skill and attention meet and the result is something that will last and will be treasured for a generation or more.

So this post is in praise of craftsmanship.