Sunday, June 24, 2007

Hand-crafted vs. factory-made

Over at LibraryThing I've been involved in a long-running discussion of Why That Stuff You Read Sucks. I'm recycling a point I made over there:

By this point in the thread, I think we all understand that people read for different reasons. What I'm still not getting is why this is a problem.

Because it's also true that people write for different reasons:

1) Because they need to express themselves.
2) In hope of entertaining others.
3) In hope of making a living.

These are not necessarily mutually exclusive reasons.

But I can only speak for myself. I read, I write. I long ago decided not to ever try to make a living from my pen.

I also do a bit of carpentry. I do it entirely for my own purposes, I derive satisfaction from the activity, and the end products are useful. People who come by admire my bookshelves. People often see my bookcases, and then ask if they can commission me to build some for them.

But I work wood for myself, for my own purposes. A few extra bucks might be nice, but I have no need to make custom bookshelves for others. I especially don't want to try to make a living as a cabinet-maker. For one thing, taking such a step would place me too much at the mercy of the taste of others. The craftsmen who DO meet this market - and I've talked to a couple - I rather tend to admire. Are they prostituting their art? I doubt they see it that way.

I also have no need to resent Ikea for selling the ignorant masses cheap, wobbly, factory-built bookcases. I especially have no need to yell at the customers of Ikea for not appreciating fine custom carpentry. People buy what suits their own needs. MY need is for several hundred feet of built-in custom bookshelves; other people can be perfectly happy with a DIY Ikea "BILLY" unit.

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