The Real Deal

I interact with people around my work and artisinal work in general, I notice in them an anti-machine bias.

For instance, I might receive a gracious compliment about my furniture followed by the statement: “It’s so nice to see people hand making furniture.”  Likewise, a presentation by noted artists in our area always seems to begin with how Western civilization ran off the rails when the industrial revolution occurred.

The reality of the physical artifacts around us is called into question because the machine is so prevalent, and the organization of labor is tied to production.  The assumption seems to be that the machine automatically leads to dehumanization of the laborer and products made for obsolescence.

Thus, through machine and mass production one receives only products which neither reflect the humanity of the maker nor stand the test of time.  They are only consumables, made to motivate us to want more.  Their reality is paper thin and temporary.

My contention is that this is a problem of the human heart and not endemic to the machine.  Take the word, ‘sincere,’ for instance. It comes from two Latin words: sine, meaning without, and cere, signifying wax.  It refers to a way of faking marble posts in the production during the Roman Empire.  You could fake a marble post by giving it a marble skin and filling the rest of it with wax.  This was long before the practices of the industrial revolution.

There is no more now than then stopping anyone from fabricating a durable and beautiful product, a piece that expresses its maker’s sense of design and will increase in value through the years.