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Artisans. An Industry of One.
Letting the work come to us.
I think that, in many ways, the artisan in us is “an industry of one”. We are all unique, with an original perspective to offer.
We’re not looking to “fit in”, to fill a gap in the market, or even to please people. We do the work that satisfies us, expresses a part of who we are, and that we are committed to for its own sake. Whilst we need customers, the artisan in us does not compromise in searching for them but rather trusts that they will find us. It reminds me of the idea of Polynesian Islanders, Millennia ago, “letting the island come to them”. (There’s also a lovely piece from the BBC here)
On the same thought track, if we are all vessels afloat in an infinite sea, what is the nature of our own craft we are afloat in?
In his book. “On Craftsmanship”, Christopher Frayling identifies different levels of craft relationship, which I’ve put into a simple hierarchy here:
The most populated is a craft skill - from pottery to accountancy. A facility and expertise that enables us to produce work to a recognised standard, that carries our signature, but by definition, has the most competition.
A level above that, the “designer craft” - all the skills of the craft, but deliberately shaped for a specific purpose or audience. Something designed to attract a specific profile.
Above that, “artist craft” - more esoteric, with something beyond function that appeals to other parts of our audience. Something carrying a larger and more dominant signature signifying who we are beyond our skills, for which people will pay a premium.
And then, “fine art” - something that may be functionally useless but which carries a message for us and touches the spirit of what is important.
For most of us, our work environment inhibits the span from functional to aesthetic. People making dresses on a production line may have the spirit of Givenchy but not the freedom to create that iconic “little black dress”.
I have no “get out of jail card” for this, although in the conversations I am having, I sense an increasing need in people for that freedom of expression, and I wonder what we might do to give it room to breathe.
So, for the next couple of weeks, an experiment, using myself as the proverbial “lab rat”.
On my “go to” bookshelf, I have a copy of Alan Moore’s wonderful book “Do Build”, subtitled “How to make and lead a business the world needs”.
In it, he lists thirteen questions, shown below (with his permission).
For the next fourteen posts, I’m going to ask myself these questions in relation to New Artisans, and post my thoughts in around five hundred words. The fourteenth post will be a summary (not superstitious, but hey…)
I’ll post in the same way that I journal, without a plan or a template for a convincing PowerPoint deck, just something where I can think out loud in public.
You might want to consider doing the same and have a conversation with your own artisan. They’re great questions. You’ll have a good chat.
If you’re so minded, it would be great to get comments in notes, which I can incorporate into my fourteenth post.
You can see Alan’s work and access his inspirational newsletter here.
Until Monday, have a great weekend.