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 (2 years ago) Permalink
― Mr. Que, Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:07 (2 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 (2 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 (2 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 (2 years ago) Permalink
― 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 (2 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 (2 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 (2 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 (2 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 (2 years ago) Permalink
xp what is artisan by definition?
― call all destroyer, Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:21 (2 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 (2 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 (2 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 (2 years ago) Permalink
(it's only on ilx that i remember what a socialist i am, at heart)
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 (2 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 (2 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 (2 years ago) Permalink
yeah that kid sounds like a massive tool
― whoop, up the butt it goes (silby), Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:29 (2 years ago) Permalink
The customer is always right, even when the customer is a flagrant idiot.
― Aimless, Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:30 (2 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 (2 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 (2 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 (2 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 (2 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 (2 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 (2 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 (2 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 (2 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 (2 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 (2 years ago) Permalink
lol no longer?! when have they ever
― The Uncanny Frankie Valley (Shakey Mo Collier), Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:50 (2 years ago) Permalink
― turkey in the straw (x2) (remy bean), Thursday, 3 November 2011 21:51 (2 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 (2 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 (2 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 (2 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 (2 years ago) Permalink
― 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 (2 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 (2 years ago) Permalink
― 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 (2 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 (2 years ago) Permalink
― ah, how quaint (Matt P), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:02 (2 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 (2 years ago) Permalink
created in my bedroom
― ah, how quaint (Matt P), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:03 (2 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 (2 years ago) Permalink
one take on our annoying future
― goole, Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:07 (2 years ago) Permalink
― Stevie T, Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:09 (2 years ago) Permalink
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 (2 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 (2 years ago) Permalink
i need a locally-sourced, sustainable and renewable editor
― turkey in the straw (x2) (remy bean), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:12 (2 years ago) Permalink
this is the second time i've seen reference to whiney's artisanal ketchup buying; brb need to commit suicide
― call all destroyer, Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:14 (2 years ago) Permalink
More like wbrb, eh?
― Do you know what the secret of comity is? (Michael White), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:16 (2 years ago) Permalink
not enough energy in it iirc? have to eat it continuously, hence the eating/shitting thing. and I think I have existential crises. imagine trying to winnow meaning from that fucked up reductive mechanic.
― Fizzles, Friday, 13 September 2013 14:39 (1 year ago) Permalink
no wonder they struggle to bother with reproduction, can't imagine that panda teenagers have mcuh to be thankful for- and it's not like they can go any gother
― his LIPS !!! (darraghmac), Friday, 13 September 2013 14:40 (1 year ago) Permalink
It's almost like the plankton feeding of the terrestrial arena, except not graceful and apparently incredibly tedious and fucking gross.
― i believe we can c.h.u.d. all night (Jon Lewis), Friday, 13 September 2013 14:43 (1 year ago) Permalink
― dan selzer, Thursday, 19 September 2013 18:51 (1 year ago) Permalink
pretty funny/well-executed even though the joke is a little played
― #fomo that's the motto (Hurting 2), Thursday, 19 September 2013 19:00 (1 year ago) Permalink
Lol so after posting abt my bamboo iPhone case last Friday I was like oh fuck it might as well try it on, and now I kind of love it and have not had it off since. I left out the most important thing before which is that the back side is taken up entirely by a laser etched US flag.
― i believe we can c.h.u.d. all night (Jon Lewis), Thursday, 19 September 2013 21:30 (1 year ago) Permalink
This seems worth discussing, although I wish it was a little more developed and longer:http://www.brooklyntheborough.com/2013/10/the-mallification-of-brooklyns-creative-makers/
― #fomo that's the motto (Hurting 2), Thursday, 17 October 2013 22:54 (1 year ago) Permalink
Oh, here's an article on what it was responding to, for context:http://hyperallergic.com/88183/blessed-are-the-makers-the-rise-and-fall-of-3rd-ward/
― #fomo that's the motto (Hurting 2), Thursday, 17 October 2013 22:55 (1 year ago) Permalink
IDK if there's a non-critical craftsmanship thread but I guess I'll post this here
― 龜, Thursday, 12 June 2014 11:56 (4 months ago) Permalink
My parents are there right now! Sending to them.
― Orson Wellies (in orbit), Thursday, 12 June 2014 13:30 (4 months ago) Permalink
We had a neon sign made for our wedding from this husband of a co-worker:
He does really good work. The hipster brooklyn artisinal neon place is here:
It's in the Old American Can Factory which now has a Whole Foods across the street at the corner of 3rd and 3rd in Brooklyn. I used to work at a letterpress shop across the hall. I'd walk by and see a neon sign on the wall that just said SYD BARRETT. That building would pretty much make this thread's head explode.
Don't remember if I plugged it here, by my contribution so craftsmanship, consumerism, virtue, privilege, and quality is here:
― dan selzer, Thursday, 12 June 2014 15:28 (4 months ago) Permalink
meant to comment on the neon sign stuff, as I'd seen that interesting mini-documentary and been to the neon sign boneyard in vegas in the space of a couple of weeks. there couldn't have been a better introduction to vegas than a history told through its discarded neon signs.
couple of things, defining craftspeople away from western bourgeois microindustries -
one is the political and social importance of the craftsman in Gaza (low levels of technical infrastructure, area in need of constant repair), the role of craftsmen in maintaining and improving Gaza's military capability, and the successful mobilisation of the craftsman by Hamas. The Yorkshire Ranter touches on this here. (and has several interesting pieces on how military logistics define the recent intensification of conflict here and here.)
In the Gazan context, the question might be “how much of the work needs a real craftsman, and how much can be done by an underemployed 19-year old who may also be the one to fire it?”, followed by “which of those two is more likely to vote Hamas?” Siege is a fundamentally economic form of warfare; the Israelis are besieging Gaza, and the Gazans are trying to impose a counter-siege (John Kerry wasn’t entirely wrong). As always, it requires the political mobilisation of the skilled on both sides.The Israelis reckon that the production is organised in craft workshops, about 70 of them, with about 250 employees, i.e about four employees per business. If you assume that each shop is run by a craftsman, this is quite a skill-dense process. That said, this 2009 Der Spiegel piece by a reporter who actually witnessed rocket manufacturing seems to suggest a more informal process, more closely linked to the launch team, although it also identifies that an apprenticeship career path exists or existed. Now that’s interesting!
The Israelis reckon that the production is organised in craft workshops, about 70 of them, with about 250 employees, i.e about four employees per business. If you assume that each shop is run by a craftsman, this is quite a skill-dense process. That said, this 2009 Der Spiegel piece by a reporter who actually witnessed rocket manufacturing seems to suggest a more informal process, more closely linked to the launch team, although it also identifies that an apprenticeship career path exists or existed. Now that’s interesting!
second, was reading a UN report on Somali/Horn of Africa piracy recently - they have three models of piracy: the artisanal scheme, low level, self-funded piracy, the co-operative scheme (an extension of the artisanal scheme, and usually funded by a committee of financiers), and the individualistic scheme (where the whole is more controlled by a single financier rather than the participants, who resemble a well-ordered militia).
The artisanal SchemeNot all pirate operations are part of a wider syndicate. For instance, some “ama- teur” pirates have been seen operating in the Gulf of Aden (UNODC 2011a). It is not known what proportion of pirate activities are being sponsored in this way. These operations are of a lower scale and are mainly composed of members of the same family or relatives who share the cost of preparing the operation, either by bringing money or instruments, such as weapons, or a ladder, for instance (Hansen 2012; UNODC 2011a). The cost of such an operation is estimated to be no more than US$300 (Hansen 2012), and its success rather limited. The return on investment is proportionate to the original investment, based on the ransom received and after all costs have been deducted.
(Somali piracy itself has declined significantly in recent years, with piracy having shifted over to the west cost of the continent aiui).
finally, dan - that stuff looks great!
― Fizzles, Monday, 25 August 2014 09:08 (1 month ago) Permalink
great, ferociously interesting post. more please.
― imago, Monday, 25 August 2014 09:14 (1 month ago) Permalink
cheers imago, they're placeholders for further reading as much as anything else - the Yorkshire Ranter pieces are well worth reading tho. For the moment should just note that excerpt came from a World Bank report, not a UN report.
― Fizzles, Monday, 25 August 2014 09:32 (1 month ago) Permalink
Excellent post and very apt choice of thread, Mr. Fizzles T. C. The importance of craft emerges more prominently as available capital recedes, but even in a heavily capitalized venture it's always there, even if it is mostly sunken from view.
― Aimless, Monday, 25 August 2014 15:09 (1 month ago) Permalink
― 龜, Tuesday, 26 August 2014 11:47 (1 month ago) Permalink
― nakh is the wintour of our diss content (darraghmac), Tuesday, 26 August 2014 13:32 (1 month ago) Permalink
support craftsmanship, or at least give me a sliver of a chance at become a craftsman, and becoming one full time. Vote for my letterpress business here:
― dan selzer, Wednesday, 15 October 2014 04:40 (1 week ago) Permalink
congrats on your wedding
― Spirit of Match Game '76 (silby), Wednesday, 15 October 2014 04:51 (1 week ago) Permalink
thanks! 6 months this past weekend.
― dan selzer, Wednesday, 15 October 2014 05:30 (1 week ago) Permalink