As 2015 hurtles toward its inevitable demise and the dawn of 2016 rapidly approaches, I find that the long absent muse is finally upon me once again.
I have had some time now to sort through some of the topics I want to set down here in The Madcap Woodwright Blog/The Madcap Manifesto.
One of the topics that most occupy my thoughts is the notion that there may yet be a movement of the general population toward the appreciation of handcrafted goods, and thus, the support of local craftsman.
With many communities embracing the “buy local, support local” philosophy, it seems that in so doing, communities are discovering the rich variety of goods and services that are available once the decision is made to seek local vendors.
Sure, the local urban gardens, and craft breweries are good, highly visible examples of ways that communities can support locally produced goods. Once communities move beyond these traditional examples though, is when the fun really begins.
Blacksmiths, glass blowers, upholsterers, artists, welders, designers,writers, photographers, and on, and on, and on. Some of these folks have been here all along, some only recently eschewing their suit and tie career for the life of the artist/craftsman. Scratch the surface further, really dive in and explore the wealth of talent that is available, and you will quickly find that the ease and the convenience of the current, “Amazonion” model of consumption provides a much more limited and “soulless” menu of products.
While I am as big a fan of the Amazonian shopping model as the next person, I will say that it becomes far more interesting and rewarding once I look to my local colleagues for products I am interested in buying.
It is my sense that others, non-craftspeople in particular, are also actively discovering this recently. Folks who you might expect to do ALL their shopping online are becoming patrons of local producers. It’s hip. It’s new. Its happening!!! It is what those who are truly “in the know” , do.
All this attention then encourages the artisan’s work. It provides the confidence that we need to continue to expand our portfolios. It provides the income we need to refine our production tooling and to put food on our tables. It also provides the emotional and psychological reinforcement that we (well “I” at least) need to continue on the non traditional career path with the reassurance we need to be bold.
So, while I want to encourage the “Buy Local-Support Local” model, I also feel that the artisan community should look at the very real responsibility we have in the continuum.
First, as I mentioned in my preface, a particular mindset lends itself very well to the person who chooses to be a craftsperson as a means of providing income.
The mindset of “less is more” or, a focus on “editing” our life and our views on our own consumption is, in my view, crucial to the success of the artisan.
As a professional Woodwright, I doubt very much that I will ever be a millionaire. I doubt very much that I will drive brand new cars, or live in a home that has three rooms for every person living in it. I doubt very much that the things that so many people view as outward indicators of success, will ever again appear on my radar. Frankly, I am just fine with that.
Here is why.
Once I discovered that the collection of “stuff” (large homes, flashy cars, big T.V.s, New, New, New. More, More, More) was actually an appalling trap, I found that my life changed drastically for the better. It became much more simple. Once I realized the value of simplicity and the freedom that editing down my life/lifestyle provided me, I discovered that it also provided me with the time and the peace of mind I needed to focus on my craft. This freedom makes it possible to be a Madcap Woodwright professionally, rather than as someone who simply putters in their own tiny shop.
This freedom that I discovered and am exploring, has also provided me with insight into notions like contentment, satisfaction, gratitude, fulfilment, and peace of mind. Further, these notions translate themselves into my work. My outlook and approach to the manipulation and crafting of wood, seems to me at least, to be far more satisfying and rewarding since I know that whatever renumeration I collect for the work, will be enough to satisfy my needs.
This is perhaps, one of the most important discoveries I have made in my adult life. I feel that the genuine satisfaction of a job well done, the fair compensation for that product, and the peace of mind that comes from knowing that the mortgage will be paid, the lights will be on, and that there will be food on the table, are all a cycle of true happiness. It is a cycle that can, with care, and the responsible development of the business itself, repeat itself over and over. This true happiness expands into other areas as well. There is no longer a drive to consume things that are not needed. This makes me happy. There is now a much clearer view of what is needed, rather than what I am TOLD is needed.
As I mentioned in the preface earlier, I think that there is a large and varied population of people who share this view. Don’t get me wrong, We all enjoy some luxury in our lives. No one is espousing a monastic existence as the key to happiness and fulfillment. What I am espousing though, is for people in general, and artisans/potential artisans in particular, to evaluate just exactly what is important in life. What is it exactly that makes us happy.
If an artisan or aspiring artisan can own the satisfaction of this cycle, there are rewards available. Being willing to trade credit ratings, accumulation of wealth, and the pursuit of more and more, for the peace that comes from doing a thing that satisfies the soul as a means of making a living, provides, for me at least, a deep, deep satisfaction and feeling of “rightness” that simply can not duplicated if I were still chasing what has become known as the “American Dream”.
It is my hope that, if we who have elected to pursue artistic expression and the continuation of archaic trades as a means of making a living can succeed in setting an example of a population who can find a real and lasting satisfaction working honestly and simply, that our patrons will not only enjoy our wares, but will also see in us what real peace and fulfillment are supposed to look like.
Not to belabor this bunny trail too much further, I feel that it is absolutely key that the modern artisan strive to find their own personal “ground zero” . That being a recognition of those things that are needs to be met, and those things that satisfy the soul. Once these two areas are identified, embraced, and folded into everyday life as a new norm, we are then free to express ourselves boldly and fearlessly. These expressions can’t help but find an audience. They are too honest and too visceral to be ignored outright. Everything else, keeping up with the Jonses, the demands from those who drive excessive consumption, all the noise and the “managing” of all our “stuff”, suddenly begin to loose their attractiveness, as well as their place of importance in our lives. Even more freedom follows. More creativity and more time to enjoy the ride suddenly become available. Frankly, enjoying the ride, rather than worrying about where the ride was taking me, sounds much more satisfying.
More rambling is in the offing. Stay tuned.
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