craftsmanship, consumerism, virtue, privilege, and quality

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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 (2 years ago) Permalink

http://www.artisanalpencilsharpening.com/

Stevie T, Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:09 (2 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 (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

"Are you a bad workman? With our hand-made artisanal tools, even you will be able to do your job adequately!" <-- am tempted to try this pitch out

xp yes I wasn't calling you out, just noting that hipsters didn't invent lying and cheating, and that words that confer value degrade pretty quickly in a commercial context -- as your uncle's former clients are presumably going to discover. "Artisanal" is already degraded: it means square pizzas! The judgment of quality is in the (sustained) use: there isn't actually a shortcut.

mark s, Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:16 (2 years ago) Permalink

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

sorry but this is wrong

The Uncanny Frankie Valley (Shakey Mo Collier), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:16 (2 years ago) Permalink

the idea that Walmart does not Talk Our Talk is ludicrous.

The Uncanny Frankie Valley (Shakey Mo Collier), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:17 (2 years ago) Permalink

i know so so so many people who brag about never having set foot in a walmart. how is that ludicrous?

turkey in the straw (x2) (remy bean), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:18 (2 years ago) Permalink

i.e. people who draw distinctions between shopping at pier one and target

turkey in the straw (x2) (remy bean), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:18 (2 years ago) Permalink

I'm not really sure what your uncle's story has to do with, say, the aforementioned knifemaker or artisans in general. It was a shitty thing to do, but one asshole doesn't represent anyone other than himself (and local consumers who r dumb)

The knifemaker in the OP is right in the ballpark on what custom knives (of all sorts - chef's knives or pocket or w/e) cost - he's not calling himself an artisan for no reason and underbidding traditionalists.
The guy who made my jeans isn't putting some old-timer who's been hand-making jeans for his entire life out of business.
The guy who made an absurdly nice cabinet/shrine for a Buddhist center we remodeled rightly calls himself an artisan, and his work is amazing.

Kiarostami bag (milo z), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:19 (2 years ago) Permalink

Artisinal is just marketing borrowed from Latin languages where it means handmade.

Do you know what the secret of comity is? (Michael White), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:19 (2 years ago) Permalink

i.e. people who draw distinctions between shopping at pier one and target

these are different how

The Uncanny Frankie Valley (Shakey Mo Collier), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:20 (2 years ago) Permalink

they aren't -- that's my point!

turkey in the straw (x2) (remy bean), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:20 (2 years ago) Permalink

lol at "the yoga instructor economy." i've been thinking about dropping away from my current "career track" (i.e. what i paid 100k for a grad degree in) to become a personal trainer. 1) i think i'd be good at it, 2) i'd actually enjoy it, 3) if i was good enough and enjoyed it enough, maybe i could make some money doing it. otoh it's crowded out there! and oh yeah, i'm a liberal arts major.

what do we think about "life coaching"?

ah, how quaint (Matt P), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:20 (2 years ago) Permalink

it seems to me your primary complaint is with marketing language and the associated inability of people to make informed decisions based upon it

The Uncanny Frankie Valley (Shakey Mo Collier), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:21 (2 years ago) Permalink

i think that's what a lot of this discussion is about

call all destroyer, Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:22 (2 years ago) Permalink

Once the publishing industry collapses presumably freelance editorial services will be easier to find many xps to remy

whoop, up the butt it goes (silby), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:22 (2 years ago) Permalink

i mean if you just want to talk about truly artisanal goods that provide tangible value over mass-produced equivalents and are fairly priced there's not really a lot to talk about

call all destroyer, Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:23 (2 years ago) Permalink

Pier 1 is not as evil politically as Target

Do you know what the secret of comity is? (Michael White), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:24 (2 years ago) Permalink

they aren't -- that's my point!

okay, but just because marketing language creates an artificial and perhaps misleading distinction when there isn't one does not in fact preclude the possibility that there ARE goods that are well-made, locally ,by appropriately-compensated workers, and that this is type of product is preferable (for a number of reasons) to the mass-produced in near slave-labor conditions and then shipped around the world crap. Your issue is not with this distinction, it's with products that make false/spurious claims based on this distinction.

xp

The Uncanny Frankie Valley (Shakey Mo Collier), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:24 (2 years ago) Permalink

facepalm

ah, how quaint (Matt P), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:25 (2 years ago) Permalink

Pier 1 is not as evil politically as Target

I'm not well-versed enough in the politics of either (I was referring more to their range of products and where they come from) but I'm curious what makes you say this

The Uncanny Frankie Valley (Shakey Mo Collier), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:25 (2 years ago) Permalink

Appropriately-compensated?

Do you know what the secret of comity is? (Michael White), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:26 (2 years ago) Permalink

Pier 1 doesn't make the same kinds of political contributions that Target does and Target donates primarily to Republicans

Do you know what the secret of comity is? (Michael White), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:27 (2 years ago) Permalink

Appropriately-compensated?

y'know, a living wage

The Uncanny Frankie Valley (Shakey Mo Collier), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:28 (2 years ago) Permalink

can this conversation be had by americans

puff puff post (uh oh I'm having a fantasy), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:31 (2 years ago) Permalink

I understand the desire for a living wage or even just better wages but I am wary of second-guessing those labor markets. Would it be better to entirely forego products from some place because they don't pay wages I think fair and thus potentially deprive those workers of any wage at all or reduce the very advantage that they have in the global market?

Mind you, I'm not against socially ameliorative purchasing strategies, I'm just wary that 'fair trade' too might be a form of cynical marketing.

Do you know what the secret of comity is? (Michael White), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:33 (2 years ago) Permalink

pfft the only product that doesn't involve cynical marketing is probably something made by someone you know and given to you for free, ie a homemade gift

The Uncanny Frankie Valley (Shakey Mo Collier), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:36 (2 years ago) Permalink

"artisanal" is a word that's come back into fashion recently, but it's been in english usage for centuries: it was a distinction the arts and crafts movement popularised in the 19th century, to register approval of maker-knowledge they feared was vanishing, with the mass move to cities and the growth of factories and the machine-made; they wanted to differentiate skilled handwork from the unskilled work that (many) machines fostered. It probably comes from artigiano, but another possible source is artitianus (via artitus, past participle of artire, meaning to instruct in the arts)

(second derivation being key, since it's about a skill being passed on rather than lost)

mark s, Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:36 (2 years ago) Permalink

alright, but handwork has nearly always been associated with luxury in some products -- i'm thinking specifically of textiles, esp. handworked lace and embroidery -- because of the sheer amount of labor required to make them and make them well, and they are very easily distinguished from their machine-made equivalents. but that labor is also acknowledged to be tedious and even (literally) punishing.

a product made with attention to detail implies the wealth of the owner, and always has -- not just wealth, but class distinction and all the heightened discriminations that go along with it. you do not buy it because of its details, you buy them to demonstrate that you are the type of person who appreciates those details.

elmo argonaut, Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:40 (2 years ago) Permalink

elmo otm

blind pele (darraghmac), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:41 (2 years ago) Permalink

elmo otm. they're a more significant iteration of the impulse that lead a lot of us to hang band posters in our dorm rooms

turkey in the straw (x2) (remy bean), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:42 (2 years ago) Permalink

it seems to me your primary complaint is with marketing language and the associated inability of people to make informed decisions based upon it

It's more an argument with willfully deceptive (and often self-deceptive) self-definition. I can go out tomorrow and hang a shingle over a blanket in Harvard Square and sell tiles I've pornographically Sharpied and call myself a wandering artist in the tradition of Basquiet. I can even believe in my art, and maybe have some real raw talent for it. Maybe I'll get rich from it. Who knows? But the fact is that I'm not a wandering artist in the same way as somebody who's spent twenty years at his trade, or in the same way I'll be in twenty years. It doesn't necessarily mean that I'm not an artist, or that my art is invalid or inauthentic. But if I set my prices at an ego-gratifying $500/tile, when there are tiles that are roughly as pornographic for $12, two blankets away I'm basically acting in an entitled, delusional and borderline-dishonest way. And even moreso if I induce customers to spend an extra $488 under the justification that there's some moral superiority to purchasing from me.

turkey in the straw (x2) (remy bean), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:44 (2 years ago) Permalink

[I get that this is an unpopular opinion here, and I'm also sure this is why I'm always gonna be poor, but I don't think it has as much to do with marketing as the impulse behind the desire to market in a certain way.]

turkey in the straw (x2) (remy bean), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:45 (2 years ago) Permalink

Artizan (manual laborer) is attested in French from the mid-16th Century, mark.

Do you know what the secret of comity is? (Michael White), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:48 (2 years ago) Permalink

I still don't buy that completely, I think it's also about (maybe unconsciously) trying to forge connections in an anonymous economic culture, a desire to know something about who's producing your material goods. Even if you haven't met face to face, buying a print from a hipster on Etsy is more of a personal link than getting a poster from Ikea.

Kiarostami bag (milo z), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:49 (2 years ago) Permalink

And even moreso if I induce customers to spend an extra $488 under the justification that there's some moral superiority to purchasing from me.

Caveat emptor and all that. There's a sucker born every minute.

Do you know what the secret of comity is? (Michael White), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:49 (2 years ago) Permalink

Also, 'roughly as pornographic' is a felicitious turn of phrase

Do you know what the secret of comity is? (Michael White), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:50 (2 years ago) Permalink

that was a xxp about handmade as luxury

Kiarostami bag (milo z), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:51 (2 years ago) Permalink

M White OTM

The Uncanny Frankie Valley (Shakey Mo Collier), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:51 (2 years ago) Permalink

thing is, this specific fashion-shift, by a sector of the educated middle-class, towards approval of (and patronage of) the hand-made, for a mix of reasons (actual politics, pseudo-politics, genuine interest and connoisseurship and knowledge, moral swank, blunt wealthy-person showing-off...) has happened several times in the last 150-odd years, ever since morris and ruskin: awareness of it falls in and out of art history -- it's obviously on a big upswing at the moment (others were the 70s, the 20s and the 1880s), but all the exact same issues swirl around

mark s, Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:52 (2 years ago) Permalink

$500 vs $12 and ignoring all the ethical dimensions in favor of 'artisanal' that have been brought up is some wicked strawmanning

Kiarostami bag (milo z), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:52 (2 years ago) Permalink

But if I set my prices at an ego-gratifying $500/tile,

if people are going to pay this, then it is the smart thing to charge this much. ego doesn't have much to do with it, beyond maybe feeling smug about ripping off people. which is the sort of behavior/mindset encouraged by capitalism.

xp

The Uncanny Frankie Valley (Shakey Mo Collier), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:53 (2 years ago) Permalink

idk i'm just spitballing here but i'm highly skeptical of the ethical dimensions in favor of "artisanal" esp. as some kind of blanket concept

call all destroyer, Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:54 (2 years ago) Permalink

My real point, Remy, is that dude selling $500.00 porno tiles a blanket down from $12.00 ones had better have some massively compelling moral-superiority marketing and even then he's probably going to outright fail or at least end up making less money.

Do you know what the secret of comity is? (Michael White), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:54 (2 years ago) Permalink

Artisanal, to me, is useful when it indicates something tastier or rarer or more aesthetically pleasing somehow. If you're artisinal gougeres are no better than the Taylorized bakery across the Bay and the ingredients are the same, why should I pay twice as much? Otoh, if they rock, here's my money.

Do you know what the secret of comity is? (Michael White), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:56 (2 years ago) Permalink

you're? Sheesh...

Do you know what the secret of comity is? (Michael White), Thursday, 3 November 2011 22:56 (2 years ago) Permalink


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