What is Craft?

The question of Craft has been in contention for quite some time now. Seems like as soon as the debate has settled down some one stirs up the dust and makes a new claim to the scene (maybe that is me right now).

Henry ford and the rise of Craft

flickr creative commons via Cea (Applied Nomadology)

A little while ago, I was having a conversation at the bar after work.  The conversation was revolving around how the beers from a certain brewery had changed as they had gotten bigger.  The point I was trying to make was that this growth was taking away from the quality of the product.  The point my counterpart was stating was that isn’t this where all businesses want to go?  This isn’t an isolated question, though it is not thought of in this manner often enough.

For better or worse, the world is changing (it seems to always be doing that).  Mega Brands and Mega Corporations are on the way out.  This is well illustrated in the beeroverse right now.  Mass produced beers are losing ground while every day craft beer gains a stronger foothold.  But are we facing a repeating cycle?  With larger craft breweries expanding into new territories with additional breweries as well as enlarging their existing breweries, are they pushing themselves into the same realm as the mega brands?  It can be a double edged sword.  The stake holders want growth and profits but what is the cost of pushing your business in this direction?  At what point does profit take precedence over product?

History repeats itself.  When you look at the events of the last century and compare what was going on to the events of this century, you will find quite a bit of touching points.  Just as what transpired in the beginning of the last century we are at a point where financial hardship is changing a bit of the landscape.  But this is also a point where we also start to see some interesting differences.

In the 20th Century, Henry Ford used the assembly line to bring us mass production and reliable transportation.  The assembly line made production faster, cheaper, more uniform, but at the expense of craftsmanship.  Companies had to increase their product offering to fit more demographics (no one was safe from their marketing ploys).  Craftsmen (and women but hey it was the early 20th century … chicks didn’t work outside the home) began to disappear.  Specialty skills were not required for automation.  Could it be that we were homogenized, dehumanized?  Did Orwell’s 1984 come to pass and we were so engrossed in buying the next best thing that we missed it entirely?

The revolution is a grass roots movement.  It is so grass roots that for the most part no one realizes that they are already part of it.  The slow food movement, do it yourselfers, the craft beer movement and others are interconnected.  Without realizing what each individual movement means to the whole we have started a trend to return back to craftsmanship.  Access to information has done nothing but strengthen the power of it all.

Somewhere along the line we had taken the word profits to mean quality of life.  The information age has done wonders to show us how foolish we have been.  It is entirely possible that as we reembrace our roots as craftspeople we may bring back a true quality of life where the finer things are just that, the finer things that enhance our lives, instead of ruling over them…

Time for a pint…


Have you noticed the changes going on around us? How are you taking part in the rise of craft culture?

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