craftsmanship, consumerism, virtue, privilege, and quality

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The ability of machines to mass-produce items, which in turn cost less because of economies of scale, is not something I have a problem with. It is the steady flow of profits away from under-compensated labor toward over-compensated capital that seems to me like the essential problem to address. That and overconsumption in general.

― Aimless, Thursday, 3 November 2011 19:29 (1 hour ago)

otm!

iatee, Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:01 (4 years ago) Permalink

i'm writing off the cuff here, but in my experience a lot of the current iteration of 'craftsmanship culture' i.e. 'dudes who have a hobby making shit' gets elevated all out of proportion into 'artistry' that shortchanges long-time practitioners and career creators of that same ("mass-produced") items. maybe i'm thinking narrowly (though not – sorry – appealing to prejudice or bald-faced self-serving) but in the case of my uncle the snobby pro-'artisanal' attitude cost a good and devoted laborer his job.

turkey in the straw (x2) (remy bean), Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:04 (4 years ago) Permalink

In other words, I guess I agree with CAD.

turkey in the straw (x2) (remy bean), Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:05 (4 years ago) Permalink

there's a real arrogance to the new breed of millenial craftsman, i.e. the kids who went to college in the '90s and '00s and then realized they liked doing manual work that was, by their standards, "below" them. To justify their own egos and intellectual pretentions they take to correspondingly hiking the prices/ramping up the cultural "worth" /finessing the language in their copy to include shit like "artisan-made" and "uniquely sourced and crafted" so that they feel their middle-class prejudices being satiated while they're doing work that would otherwise be, you know, plain old labor.

(and I don't buy for a second that the high cost of labor is due to some benevolent workers' solidarity with their underpaid brethren)

it goes beyond 'justifying their own egos and intellectual pretentions' - if you can sell shit for more money by marketing it differently, *that is a good idea*. this happens in basically every market for everything!

iatee, Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:06 (4 years ago) Permalink

otm

Mr. Que, Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:07 (4 years ago) Permalink

how about when the product is bank accounts, iatee?

turkey in the straw (x2) (remy bean), Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:08 (4 years ago) Permalink

this is really easy to run into if you buy liquor these days--microdistilleries are popping up all over the place and using words like "local" "artisinal" and "craft" and they pretty much ignore some basic facts of the beverage alcohol industry (liquor branch in particular), such as 1) distilling is really hard; 2) once you can do it it's really easy to do large-scale; 3) market competition and consumer choice have resulted in an environment where 95% of midshelf and higher products are quite high-quality.

the response of microdistillers is to give something "unique" (i.e. a gin that can't be used in martinis) or to essentially just put something out there and provide no reason for drinking it beyond who/how/where it was produced (i.e. the glut of awful, pointless "white whiskies" that you can get now).

call all destroyer, Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:11 (4 years ago) Permalink

i'm writing off the cuff here, but in my experience a lot of the current iteration of 'craftsmanship culture' i.e. 'dudes who have a hobby making shit' gets elevated all out of proportion into 'artistry' that shortchanges long-time practitioners and career creators of that same ("mass-produced") items. maybe i'm thinking narrowly (though not – sorry – appealing to prejudice or bald-faced self-serving) but in the case of my uncle the snobby pro-'artisanal' attitude cost a good and devoted laborer his job.

― turkey in the straw (x2) (remy bean), Thursday, November 3, 2011 2:04 PM (2 minutes ago) Bookmark

yeah, i can see how the appeal to "artistry" is arrogant, especially when there are so many other people who make and sell the same kind of thing in a factory and do a good job and don't loudly claim to be "artists" and probably aren't white. agreed that mass-produced <> "lovingly crafted" etc. xp

ah, how quaint (Matt P), Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:16 (4 years ago) Permalink

it goes beyond 'justifying their own egos and intellectual pretentions' - if you can sell shit for more money by marketing it differently, *that is a good idea*. this happens in basically every market for everything!

― iatee, Thursday, November 3, 2011 2:06 PM (10 minutes ago) Bookmark

yeah, i mean, that's where things get complicated imo

ah, how quaint (Matt P), Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:17 (4 years ago) Permalink

the Global website has just this one photo of dudes grinding knives

whoop, up the butt it goes (silby), Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:19 (4 years ago) Permalink

if he had a beard maybe he would be ok to work out of brooklyn instead of japan

call all destroyer, Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:20 (4 years ago) Permalink

i guess i think there should be a distinction made b/w stuff that "appeals to artistry" in a way that is kinda slimy and stuff that is actually "artisan" by definition. and if ppl wanna pay $600 or for an actual artisan knife i guess that's their prerogative?

J0rdan S., Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:20 (4 years ago) Permalink

competition in the market for personal bank accounts is a great idea and the fact that large banks don't seem to want to offer a competitive price (free) anymore is why people are switching to alternatives. xp

overall if someone is consuming less cause they're spending more money on fewer things, I'm totally cool w/ artisan stuff. if it's just creating more needless consumption opportunities otoh, there's a good argument against it.

regardless of 'higher quality' (true sometimes, bullshit sometimes) this trend has to be looked as primarily as marketing. you know what else has marketing behind it? all the cheap crap in the world.

anyway I find this interesting but am getting on a train. surely will be 500 posts while I'm gone.

iatee, Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:21 (4 years ago) Permalink

xp what is artisan by definition?

call all destroyer, Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:21 (4 years ago) Permalink

Many of the best chefs in the world use knives costing 1/2 - 1/3 as much as those in the OP, made by folks whose family/ancestors have been in the "artisinal" "knife"-making business for centuries.

Global is not very "artisinal" fwiw, it's a fairly large manufacturer.

citation needed (Steve Shasta), Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:22 (4 years ago) Permalink

thanks for this thread, this is a subject i've been mulling over a lot lately. *mulls*

elmo argonaut, Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:23 (4 years ago) Permalink

also, making one particular thing is like 95% tedious and brutal anyway, it's not like someone making knives in their warehouse is going to know something ^those guys don't. factories improve quality control for products like that big-time. xposts

ah, how quaint (Matt P), Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:26 (4 years ago) Permalink

(it's only on ilx that i remember what a socialist i am, at heart)

true story:

my Uncle J spends 30 years making a niche product so successfully that it becomes ubiquitous in his corner of the [classical music] industry. Uncle J charges a very reasonable fee to make a custom, one-of-a-kind [widget], and takes on an apprentice who studies with him for six months. apprentice comes to my Uncle, and says he wants to become a partner –– AFTER SIX MONTHS –– because he's learned everything Uncle J. has to show him about making very complicated [widgets]. Uncle J. says no, not yet, and apprentice informs J. he'll be quitting if he can't make more $$$; what he feels is fair compensation. Uncle J. asks what fair compensation is, and the kid lists a price that is easily three times what Uncle J., himself, makes. Uncle J. is already paying the new kid a pretty top-shelf salary (middle five figures) roughly equal to 4/5 of J.'s own salary, in an industry that is flagging in this recession. Uncle J's apprentice quits and a few weeks later opens up a business at the other end of town where he charges many many times more than Uncle J. for the [vastly inferior, vastly less-experienced version of the highly technical widget –– now made with recycled! metal!]. Uncle J. loses all of his clients, who (are carefully seduced by the former apprentice to) feel that his product is inferior and less "ethical", because Uncle J.'s his experience and craftsmanship and desire to be reasonable are trumped by the geewhiz factor of a kid who slightly alters a half-stolen design and stamps ARTISANAL and HANDCRAFTED over a product that has always - obviously - been artisanal and handcrafted. Reducing my (inchoate) argument to a nut, I find it reedikerus that 'artisianal' and 'craftsmanship' are currently applicable to anything that, say, a 23-year-old has done for less than a few years.

turkey in the straw (x2) (remy bean), Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:26 (4 years ago) Permalink

I don't think I thought that Global was particularly artisanal, just their knives are more expensive than and probably better than random stamped piece of crap knives from Target. So from a purely use-value perspective ("I want an objectively good knife and will pay more for quality because this matters to me") they are competitors. xps

whoop, up the butt it goes (silby), Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:27 (4 years ago) Permalink

obv. i know this is not a generalizable anecdote, but it's illustrative of the attitude that bothers me

turkey in the straw (x2) (remy bean), Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:28 (4 years ago) Permalink

yeah that kid sounds like a massive tool

whoop, up the butt it goes (silby), Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:29 (4 years ago) Permalink

The customer is always right, even when the customer is a flagrant idiot.

Aimless, Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:30 (4 years ago) Permalink

ha i finally looked at the links in the original post and pretty much had the same reaction tbh xxp

ah, how quaint (Matt P), Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:31 (4 years ago) Permalink

that story has nothing to do with the word artisanal and everything to do with the apprentice being a dick

also why would the customers pay more for something? they are dicks too

Mr. Que, Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:32 (4 years ago) Permalink

In the future everything will be artisinally made by laid-off hipsters and sold out of a truck.

citation needed (Steve Shasta), Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:35 (4 years ago) Permalink

moral of the story: kid is better at marketing than your uncle.

The Uncanny Frankie Valley (Shakey Mo Collier), Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:35 (4 years ago) Permalink

also the way you tell it everybody in the story is an asshole, except your uncle

The Uncanny Frankie Valley (Shakey Mo Collier), Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:36 (4 years ago) Permalink

In the future China will outsource to 8-year-old children of American hipsters

ah, how quaint (Matt P), Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:37 (4 years ago) Permalink

ok but remy, the force of your argument here is basically not new at all, it's a jeremiad against dishonesty and greed and deliberate poor quality masquerading as something it isn't, not craftsmanship or even young people who want to be genuine artisans (for whatever reason, including silly reasons) (young people often take up careers for silly or pretentious reasons; some of them turn that round)

in what practical sense is the interloper's work poorer quality* -- when and how will the difference manifest in a way his gulled clients will notice?

*i realise you may not want to answer this question directly, to keep uncle J reasonably anonymised, but what i'm getting at is that a significant part of artisanal (true sense) added value is in quality that sustains itself over time (objects that keep their qualities for years; craftsmanship that you can return to year in year out and discover maintenance of quality)

multiple x-post bcz i fashion my posts in the tradition of my ancestors

mark s, Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:37 (4 years ago) Permalink

do you have to set wooden type and letterpress your posts onto fine cotton paper, or do you whistle the letters into your modem directly?

whoop, up the butt it goes (silby), Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:38 (4 years ago) Permalink

i think there is a risk of needless over-generalization here, if we are to assume that 'handcrafted' and 'artisinal' and 'responsibly sourced materials' are completely hollow marketing terms. i mean, stop me if i become stupidly obvious here, but customers are not only buying a product but buying into a set of values expressed by the means of its manufacture, if not the quality of the product itself, but I don't necessarily think you can generalize that those values are empty or false or unworthy.

elmo argonaut, Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:41 (4 years ago) Permalink

what if people en masse can no longer be relied upon to objectively judge quality and craftsmanship? i.e. the yelper effect

ah, how quaint (Matt P), Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:44 (4 years ago) Permalink

lol no longer?! when have they ever

The Uncanny Frankie Valley (Shakey Mo Collier), Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:50 (4 years ago) Permalink

etsy.com

turkey in the straw (x2) (remy bean), Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:51 (4 years ago) Permalink

Can't wait till I can post some recycled jokes itt via an artisinal computer running on sustainably sourced electricity

Do you know what the secret of comity is? (Michael White), Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:55 (4 years ago) Permalink

can we talk about the $116 scissors? http://www.bestmadeco.com/collections/frontpage/products/shears

call all destroyer, Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:56 (4 years ago) Permalink

My sister has insanely expensive scissors (she cuts hair)

Do you know what the secret of comity is? (Michael White), Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:57 (4 years ago) Permalink

i think it gets complicated when supposedly extrinsic use value turns into fluffier or harder-to-define symbolic value. i mean, there is "this is going to last longer and work better, and i can prove it with the numbers", but what exactly the numbers prove can get a little lost on the way somehow. and now you do get the sense that at the ass-end of this stuff, both makers and purchasers are trying to inscribe some moral dimension into what never really had a moral dimension in the first place and what are really just the same market principles by appealing to 100 years ago or whatever.

i think a big part of the problem comes down to locating good/bad in materials/products themselves, when it's the organization/structure responsible for the material/product that needs to be held accountable. it's like, the world's too big and complicated, but that looks handmade i think i'll buy it. fuck i feel better already!

ah, how quaint (Matt P), Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:57 (4 years ago) Permalink

My sister has insanely expensive scissors (she cuts hair)

― Do you know what the secret of comity is? (Michael White), Thursday, November 3, 2011 5:57 PM (55 seconds ago) Bookmark Suggest Ban Permalink

well that makes sense! these are just, like, scissors for cutting paper or whatever you use scissor for

call all destroyer, Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:59 (4 years ago) Permalink

These days? Stabbing myself in the head, mostly

Do you know what the secret of comity is? (Michael White), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:00 (4 years ago) Permalink

can we talk about the $116 scissors? http://www.bestmadeco.com/collections/frontpage/products/shears

― call all destroyer, Thursday, November 3, 2011 2:56 PM (3 minutes ago)

If you are "crafty", you can find these online with shipping from Japan for ~$60. Still $60 scissors, lol.

citation needed (Steve Shasta), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:01 (4 years ago) Permalink

I will start a new service that will artisanally search the internet for you by hand and find you the best prices.

citation needed (Steve Shasta), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:02 (4 years ago) Permalink

hand-typed searches

ah, how quaint (Matt P), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:02 (4 years ago) Permalink

i went into michaels last week to buy scissors and was p stunned by how many pairs of exorbitantly priced scissors they were selling

J0rdan S., Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:03 (4 years ago) Permalink

created in my bedroom

ah, how quaint (Matt P), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:03 (4 years ago) Permalink

my fav part is the description:

We have gone through at least a dozen mediocre pairs of scissors at Best Made: they lose their edge, are cumbersome to handle, or have flimsy plastic handles that wouldn't pass muster at nursery school.

i would humbly suggest the problem is not with the scissors!

call all destroyer, Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:04 (4 years ago) Permalink

one take on our annoying future

http://thinkprogress.org/yglesias/2011/03/07/200135/the-yoga-instructor-economy/

goole, Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:07 (4 years ago) Permalink

http://www.artisanalpencilsharpening.com/

Stevie T, Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:09 (4 years ago) Permalink

Mark,

My uncle makes a musical instrument traditionally manufactured in a fairly high number of pieces kluged together to the rough specifications of the musician. Kind of ... plug and play, mix and match. Uncle J. figured out a (very ingenious) way to manufacture the instrument bespoke, in (essentially) one large piece without the valves, fittings, and joints that are prone to failure in the ordinary process. Uncle J.'s pieces take a lot longer to make, are highly, highly customized to the playing style and needs of each musician, and require an extreme level of skill, experience and precision to manufacture successfully. The instruments are pricey once-in-a-lifetime purchases for professional players of the instrument, and each one comes with a 'forever' guarantee and unquestioning repair work from J. and his assistants. J. worked for 15 years making instruments the traditional way for [the equivalent of Suzuki] before going into business and getting a name for himself. The former apprentice's instruments appear to be crafted in the same style as my Uncle's instruments, but they're just a modified (for aesthetic effect) version of the traditional process; prone to wear, fatigue and failure. While my uncle's marketing acumen is undoubtedly less polished than his apprentice, I don't think the marketing is entirely at fault. There's a burden to be carried by the consumer as well as the producer, and it concerns the incoherent valuing of anything with artistic credibility over experience and workmanship.

For the record, I never said my argument was new. It's old-fashioned, kind of in the tradition of "slow food," and it does owe a debt to the old ways are the good ways camp. But I genuinely believe that when we're bragging about the moral superiority of – say – an artisan-made ottoman crafted from locally sourced Alpaca fibers ($500) vs. a Walmart generic footrest in synthetic green ($30), what we're doing is, in an implicit part, stating that we value the work-hours of acculturated Western white people with good educations who can Talk Our Talk more than we value the work-hours of an anonymous poor Malaysian fella stapling gunny-sacks to a pile of coils. I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't pay for quality, or fairly compensate skilled workers –– just that there's a class-sorting mechanism often apparent in the (sometimes) slimy categorizing of between craftsman/artisianal/handmade product.

turkey in the straw (x2) (remy bean), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:10 (4 years ago) Permalink

Despite his often biting comments in the book, Weingarten is quick to point out that he’s not so different from that which he mocks. “This isn’t some jock-bully out to take down the hipsters,” he explains. “This is coming from someone who lives in Brooklyn, plays in noise bands, goes to Film Forum and Smorgasburg, and buys artisanal ketchup from Sir Kensington.”

buzza, Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:10 (4 years ago) Permalink

I mean many rich people.

Guayaquil (eephus!), Friday, 18 December 2015 02:12 (1 month ago) Permalink

hmm. It sounds like a lot of the supposed "fraud" was early?

uh in reading the whole thing it seems like as of now they're not stating origins and not being transparent in their production processes while saying they are in interviews in stuff.

i don't really care about chocolate or this story but seems pretty obvious what they were planning all along.

call all destroyer, Friday, 18 December 2015 02:39 (1 month ago) Permalink

The only thing shocking there is that they were using the Gallagher brothers as style icons in 2007

Kiarostami bag (milo z), Friday, 18 December 2015 20:34 (1 month ago) Permalink

The idea that someone would play fast and loose with the truth in order to enhance the price of their luxury-market products is far from surprising. It is the American Way. It's fine with me to expose them as frauds. That also is a fine old American tradition.

It's just that outside of the few people who pay super-premium prices for ultra-high-end chocolate bars, nobody else cares.

a little too mature to be cute (Aimless), Friday, 18 December 2015 20:43 (1 month ago) Permalink

bushybearded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the chocolatey dynamo in the machinery of beans

big WHOIS aka the nameserver (s.clover), Friday, 18 December 2015 20:54 (1 month ago) Permalink

i had one of their bars once, my wife included it as a stocking stuffer. i enjoyed it but i also don't have a refined chocolate palate.

their brand feels like part of this more recent movement, elevating this kind of food to artisanal status. for example god knows how many overpriced grilled cheese restaurants opened in the past few years around here.

nomar, Friday, 18 December 2015 20:56 (1 month ago) Permalink

Would rather have $10 worth of dairy milk than one bar of that, however nice the wrapping is.

koogs, Friday, 18 December 2015 21:01 (1 month ago) Permalink

I mean the bottom line for me is I think their chocolate is very tasty and different from other chocolate I've had, and I'm also very rarely going to spend $10 or even $5 on a chocolate bar. I rarely even buy a chocolate bar. As far as whether they're lying, I have mixed feelings about that sort of lie, because it's very part-and-parcel of story marketing. I mean the whole bushy beards, we brought cocoa beans on a sailboat stuff, it's the kind of stuff that, if you're the kind of person who wants to buy into it, you might suspend disbelief a little. It's a narrative, it's a fantasy, etc. A lot of luxury products offer that. A lot of "traditional" high-end chocolate makers also offer a semi-bullshit story about craftsmanship etc., it's just usually couched in terms like tradition, family, history, decades/centuries of experience, etc.

on entre O.K. on sort K.O. (man alive), Friday, 18 December 2015 21:08 (1 month ago) Permalink

i think the bean-to-bar thing is a lot less of a gray area than you're making it out to be

call all destroyer, Friday, 18 December 2015 21:14 (1 month ago) Permalink

In truth, despite their claim that they “had come up with how everything is done every step of the way,” the Masts picked up at least some of their knowledge on the thriving online community of chocolate makers that has existed for more than a decade. A public website, Chocolate Alchemy, is a hub of information, where chocolate makers could trade tips and advice for making small-batch chocolate.

Does the "authentic, artisan" thing lose some cachet in this era where you can learn all this stuff on the internet and not have to hunt down rare books or elderly craftspeople? Does it matter to consumers?

lute bro (brimstead), Friday, 18 December 2015 21:27 (1 month ago) Permalink

elderly craftspeople = traditional apprentice situation etc

lute bro (brimstead), Friday, 18 December 2015 21:28 (1 month ago) Permalink

i guess that's separate from the "wide-eyed, lone wolf / mad scientists" thing

lute bro (brimstead), Friday, 18 December 2015 21:31 (1 month ago) Permalink

i think the bean-to-bar thing is a lot less of a gray area than you're making it out to be

― call all destroyer, Friday, December 18, 2015 4:14 PM (28 minutes ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Yes and no. It's still a story about how a thing is made rather than a property of the product.

on entre O.K. on sort K.O. (man alive), Friday, 18 December 2015 21:43 (1 month ago) Permalink

linguistic turn gone mad

Karl Rove Knausgård (jim in glasgow), Friday, 18 December 2015 21:46 (1 month ago) Permalink

My favorite part of the story is the before photos of them. "BUSTED! Mast Brothers grew their beards and were not born with them."

on entre O.K. on sort K.O. (man alive), Friday, 18 December 2015 22:09 (1 month ago) Permalink

Ppl judging on any aspect of process or back story will continue to be mugs and long may they remain so

darraghmac, Friday, 18 December 2015 22:12 (1 month ago) Permalink

i remember when i found out my favorite ice cream wasn't actually from sweden. broke my heart.

scott seward, Friday, 18 December 2015 22:33 (1 month ago) Permalink

and then when i found out that Häagen-Dazs didn't actually mean Joyful Cream Bowl or something and was just a made up thing? i never trusted again.

scott seward, Friday, 18 December 2015 22:34 (1 month ago) Permalink

let's not lose sight of the fact that allegations of virtual bean mistreatment have been made in this case

home organ, Friday, 18 December 2015 23:20 (1 month ago) Permalink

I lost any sympathy I may've had for the marks brother when I saw that picture of him wearing a T-shirt with his own name on it.

HD has a good story behind the name fwiw -
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/H%C3%A4agen-Dazs#Origin_of_brand_name

koogs, Friday, 18 December 2015 23:24 (1 month ago) Permalink

Scott DFW from Dallas Food Blog previously took down NoKa chocolate, for similar reasons of style/packaging over substance, and deception around their chocolate-making process (plus in NoKa's case, an absolutely insane markup in their prices):
http://dallasfood.org/2006/12/noka-chocolate-part-1/

NoKa went out of business in 2011.

Plasmon, Sunday, 20 December 2015 08:58 (1 month ago) Permalink

2 weeks pass...

nomar, Monday, 4 January 2016 04:31 (1 month ago) Permalink


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