Friday, March 23, 2012

What Is Hand Made? - Part 1

- Think Continuum, SHADES OF GRAY, instead of BLACK $ WHITE. -

For me handmade is a product, that is the result of the creativity, ingenuity, talent, skill, expertise and passion of one or a few artists or craftsmen, artisan (amateur, hobbyist or professional alike). Hand made products also need to be created with really significant amount of hands on work.The creator of handmade items finds great satisfaction in her/his work and proud of it! Creating something from raw materials, realizing an idea or concept is elevating and enriching to both the creator and observer, buyer. 

There are only very few items, that you can create only using your bare hands. An example: I can make a ring from a piece of grass: This is HAND MADE! I can also make a similar ring from a piece of wire: No doubt it is still hand made, but think about the awesome amount of tools ant other people's work to make that piece of WIRE, that I used! A few other examples of things, that you can create with bare hands: baskets , pottery , knapped items ( but for this you need a tool too, although that tool is not the result of human activity: another flint) jewelry from vegetation or feathers ( grass ring, feather necklaces, or leaves woven into head pieces...), mudhouse, sandcastle...

The rest requires some tools and materials, that had already been pre-processed by others. I mean, seriously, you would not expect me to dig and refine my own gold, copper, silver, cadmium, platinum and whatnot that I use for my jewelry? But on the other hand, you can rightfully expect me to put my own skill,  work and creativity into making my jewelry. 

I guess, by now it is clear, that the limits are not clear in the hand made market, just like in any other areas of life. We live in a University of CONTINUUM, determined by the laws of QUANTUM mechanics ( if that theory holds up at all).

When we go shopping for handmade, however it seems, that everything out there is claimed to be handmade and this plethora of hand crafted product sometimes makes it really hard to find real hand made items. If you keep the above "definition" in mind during shopping, it will help. It is important, that all criteria are fulfilled otherwise you just get a product with certain functionality and aesthetic values, but it will not necessarily be hand made.

By the time I got to this point in this post, I realized, this was  going to be a series again. Just too many thoughts, too little time, too slow typing.

custom jewelry, custom design, hand made, hand crafted, handmade, jewelry
From concept to realization
The first thing, that got me really seriously  thinking and moralizing about what makes a product hand made vs. mass produced , was a chapter in the book : "Making a Living in Crafts" by Larks Books. 

There is the story about how a potter turned profitable. First she was throwing her own pottery and "painting" them. People liked her style and demand grew. So she outsourced the clay part to China and kept painting the pots... 

The question here: Are her pots still hand made? I have no problem with her not liking sitting at the wheel, but I can't really get the idea of mass produced pottery, hand painted. How does she keep up with the incoming mass of pots and kegs? Or how much of the paint work is hers? After a while does her involvement  get reduced to signing the stuff? Again, it is no problem to run up a business and start making money, but where is the point from where it cannot be called hand made anymore? Does this story really belong in this book, as a viable way of turning your hand crafts profitable?

So, what difference does the involvement of the worker-creator make?

Let's see a positive example here: I found this video:  The Making of Cartier Jewellery  through the blog of  Narelle . In case if you won't watch it, I tell you what it told me: The jeweler in this video, working for Cartier, hand crafted a bracelet  - timepiece. 

He spent about 1200 hours making the piece from scratch. Think about it: Based on 5 days a week, 8 hours a day schedule, he spent 30 weeks, more than 1/2 year of his life making this piece come true. 

He is obviously tremendously proud of his achievement, even though the design was somebody else's ( I don't know if the designer's time is included in total 1200 hours). His vision is to cover a piece in gemstones, that the metal in not visible. He is an extremely skilled, proud, visionary craftsman... he is probably reasonably satisfied with his life . Maybe even an artist on his own ( I don't know if he designs anything... just for the fun of it...that would qualify as art, but he may as well, with such a drive in him). All thumbs up!

Another one, still not a very bad one. It's story for me is, that many of us can be content to perform a job well, that does not require much creativity or very wide set of skills, as long as the physical and mental requirements of human being is respected and taken care of.  ( Side note: many of us is happy to live out their creativity, the desire to make things, the desire that is common in humans and make us humans in the first place.)

I had a trip to a Mercedes factory and realized how much hands on work goes into the making of our cars. But that still does not make Mercedes cars hand made.  Just as hand painting an ornamental line on a Rolls-Rolls does not make it hand made. Hand decorated at most.

Mercedes have realized, that monotony in job is cutting into their profits, so they made it a policy to rotate workers between tasks: Today you drive four screws into the driver side door 500 times a day, A few weeks later you are fixing up the rear bumper with lights... and so on. But this still does not make a car handmade.

Now let's take a trip to the dark side. The recent fallout from a very disturbing video made at an Australian slaughterhouse made me think: What made the person in the video hitting the half dead swine a hundred times with a steel pipe? Did that happen because the guy is rotten sadist ( as many comments would suggest), a potential serial killer - child molester - rapist - would be Jack The Ripper? 

Warning ! This video IS really disturbing : Warning ! This video IS really disturbing! .

There is another - IMHO more likely - reason for his acts, and that makes the guy as much a victim as the swine: He acted this way out of piety. 

WHOA ! How can you say that? Did you loose your mind?
No, I don't think I did. I think the pork beater lost it, because he has processed too many half dead, wriggling pigs in his life, and could not bear more suffering. I think he wanted to end the both of their - his  and the pig's - suffering and acted in this primitive, hysterical way. I think he wanted to beat the life out of that pork the quickest way, using the first tool he had handy, and beat all his frustration over his own f...ed up life and monotonous, not-satisfying job at the same time.  He may even saw his employer on that table, whaddaya know?

The other side of the coin is the report I read a few weeks ago in a paper, about a sticker ( is this right word for a professional, who goes to houses and kills the pigs and helps in processing the meat?) who was a balanced individual, proud of his profession (he should be, after all most of us eat meat, just like a million other creatures of Mother Nature). He would not trust anybody with cleaning his tools and has his own sausage recipe.

Can you imagine this person going into a rage,  hitting his pig with a steel pipe a hundred times in the head, just to end its struggle, like a madman? No, because he RESPECTS the PIG and HIMSELF.

It is hard to argue against the necessity of mass production, against the slaughterhouses and car factories. But if we give in to the BUY MORE , BUY CHEAPER mentality, it will come back at us with full vengeance.

Good night, Children, sleep well... See you later.

No comments:

Post a Comment