Tuesday, November 29, 2011

They just don't make them like they used to




Hope it has been a fabulous holiday (or just plain 'ole week outside the US) for all, my family and I had a lovely time visiting the ancestral abode.  Nothing quite says home like that valley, tucked in the mountains of central Utah. 

On the colorado plateau, breathing some of the most
pure air on earth, it is easy to pretend you are the only
person on earth
In the clarity of mind that only comes to me when I'm away from the catacophy of strip malls, LED lit billboards and the constant hum of I-15 I was able to look around and gain an increased awareness of what handmade means to me.  The house that I call our "ancestral abode" was built by my Great Granddad.  He spent a few hundred dollars on the stuff that he couldn't make, nails, windows, wiring... but everything that could be handcrafted, was.  The basement was dug out with just a shovel and his sweat, the arched doorways, built in bookcases and cabinets, beautiful wood floors, and the well in the basements was not only done by hand, it was done with love and pride.


Today, even though backhoes, cement mixers and other large equipment is heavily involved in new home contruction, a great deal of the work is still done by hand.  So why is it that so many homes built today lack the quality and charm that homes built 70 years ago posses?  I'm convinced that it is that love and pride that makes the difference.  Many craftsmen working on homes are paid by the project, not the hour so they can't afford to take their time.  They can't afford to care, they need to make a profit and prices for the homebuyer need to be kept low and competitive.  Maybe there is also an issue of some mentors who have a less than stellar work ethic, so their students are not learning to take pride and enjoyment out of their work. (framers, contractors, finish work carpeters, general construction workers etc... please don't think I'm blasting you folks, so many of you are amazing and I envy your talent)


Love this shot of the store... it was obviously not taken this
past week - look at that gorgeous grass!

When my husband and I bought our current home (a condo) my husband noticed several points of shoddy construction work.  When he pointed it out to the foreman the response we got was "well, if it was a custom home we would have done it right."  Another instance of you get what you pay for?  I don't know, but we sure paid a lot of money to have things done wrong.  What I do know is that if I could do it all over I would back out of the sale right then. 3.5 years later, those same things that my husband pointed out to the foreman still scream in his face every day when he walks throught the door.  We've contemplated doing some pretty hefty changes, like making built in features.  But, we just don't know if it would be worth it, it can't totally cover the flaws and it wouldn't really increase our resell value.  We will probably just leave them as is, save our pennies and put our time and sweat into our next (and hopefully last) home.


So, as I sat in our home watching my daughters, the fifth generation of our family to be in the house, I gained a deeper understanding of what hand-crafted means to me.  Handmade does not just mean assembled with two hands.  There must be a heart behind those hands that loves their work and really wants others to love and enjoy it as well.  It means taking such pride in your work that it would be painful, unthinkable, to take shortcuts resulting in anything but the optimal results, and never putting flawed work out there with your name on it.  Except for "ooops" sales.  Love those. 

I think this is another reason that I love handmade.  When you buy handmade items you are supporting someone who is likely to poses good work eithics and is possibly raising (or influencing) children who can in turn learn that valuable concept.  I think our world could use a few more folks with those qualities.

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