Jonathan had an interesting conversation at Rowden this week with two of our students – one from South Korea and one from Scandinavia – about how different cultures view craftsmanship.
It ended up being a very philosophical discussion, one that has been covered in hundreds of books across thousands of pages but, at its core, it seems to explain a great deal about how we are viewed, with a small risk of outrageous generalisation.
Here in the UK, many cabinetmakers look on with a little envy at how many countries in the East hold their craftsmen in the highest esteem. For example, since the early 1950s, the Japanese government has honoured individuals whose specialist crafts keep old techniques alive in the 21st century with the charming title of Living National Treasure. In the UK, even the very finest cabinetmakers remain largely anonymous, and certainly find it difficult to gain any recognition beyond those folk who already express a particular interest in what we (or rather, they) do.
Here in the West, we are all, typically, a rather self absorbed lot. We like to orientate our lives around ourselves. The East still educates its children to think about and work for the community, and to respect their elders.
It is ironic that the more selfless attitude of Asian culture, is the one that ultimately gives more recognition, fame even, to the truly great craftsmen of their generation.
Something to think about, certainly.
Until next time,