When we talk about craftsmen, in the best of cases, we imagine the “little hands” of an embroiderer bent on a loom or the “fairy fingers” of a feather worker with a Parisian accent, perched behind a wooden workbench with green and white squared invoice books. In the worst case scenario, one imagines a provincial market, with colourful pottery and “handmade” jewellery.
I see a huge iridescent disc dancing in the hands of a glassblower, gently deforming under gravity. I see a plate of oak bent by heat in a perfect curve that speaks only of lightness. I see a bronze petal on which gold leaf plays mats and shines in a ping pong with the light.
I see men and women who have decided – rarely after the age of 15 – that they would spend their lives making new objects appear on the planet. And that they would devote their bodies, souls and minds to this task.
I know they are craftsmen. Because they have learned (from school and/or from their masters) an ancestral technique that they reinvent every day. And because this technique is subject to the mastery and transformation of a material.
I know that they are creators (one could say designer). When they look for and find their own forms, lines, compositions, balances, colours. Even if sometimes they put this creativity at the service of a designer or a decorator.
And I can see that sometimes they are artists. When their gesture frees itself from matter, technique and usage to produce works that are the fruit of their pure imagination. When their need to create is non-negotiable.
These men and women fascinate me because they connect head and hands a little more each day. Without intermediaries. The technique allows this. No digital filter between thought and brush. Between the idea and the chisel. Between the intention and the needle. This does not prevent technological innovation from optimizing manufacturing time at many stages.
They also fascinate me because their desire to work is stronger than anything else. Obsessive at times. And that it is unimaginable to do anything else. Leaving to work in a bar at night so that I can prototype in the workshop of an understanding friend during the day. Even if it means coming back to the workshop on Sundays to create in peace when the week has been dedicated to the production of orders for the whole team.
These men and women worry me. Because their economic reality is difficult. The purchase of tools, materials, research, creation and transmission are not valued in the working time they charge. Their names are rarely mentioned by the brands, designers and decorators who call on them to bring their ideas to light. And because on these scales of turnover, even when the year has been exceptional and international recognition is high, the cancellation of an order jeopardizes the entire workshop.
The rare crafts podcast, The Craft Project, wants to shed light on craftspeople outside of the creative folklore and heritage dust. To make passion heard, of course, but also human intelligence, wisdom, poetry, business acumen, political vision and entrepreneurial spirit.
Métiers Rares, in its missions for the brands, works for a better valorisation (in money and recognition) of the know-how and the people that are the craftsmen.
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