February 18th, 2005 by Bob Bly
We live in a society that, for the most part, seems to value speed, efficiency, service, economy, and technology over quality and craftsmanship.
Therefore, those who are true craftsmen or masters of a particular trade are rapidly becoming obsolete or unable to compete in business ? because consumers are not willing to pay a premium for the level of craftsmanship they bring to their product or service.
Example: a local resident in my county has spent his professional life becoming a master at tuning pianos by ear and hand.
But new technology allows far less skilled technicians to tune pianos adequately, using electronic monitors, faster and more efficiently ? and these untrained tuners charge much less.
Photography is another great example of ?the death of craft,? according to BD.
?I am a professional photographer,? says BD. ?I got my skills to a world-class level and realized that ? for the most part ? people no longer cared enough to support my business.?
He blames it, in part, on the frenzied pace of modern society: ?As you know, it follows that the fast pace erodes appreciation for craft in our young.
?If I could produce quality at the speed, price, and efficiency, I?m not sure the young buyers would recognize the quality of craft.?
Another example is graphic design ? and it?s a sad story.
In the early 1980s, when I was an advertising manager for a manufacturing company in New York City, I used SB, a freelance graphic artist, to design our sales brochures.
He was such a meticulous craftsman that, when he got galleys from the typesetter, he would literally cut the text apart word by word ? even letter by letter, at times ? to make it just right.
?Will anyone know the difference?? I asked him.
?I?ll know the difference,? SB replied.
But with the advent of desktop publishing, doing layouts manually faded away, and no one was willing to pay SB?s rates for his level of skill and caring. Clients wanted jobs delivered electronically as Mac files; no one wanted the old-fashioned boards that SB did by hand. And today SB is a doorman in New York City.
How about you? Are you a craftsperson? And do you ever worry about your craft dying out or being rendered obsolete by either technology or changing times?
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