Saturday, August 16, 2014

They Don’t Make Things Like They Use To…Thank Goodness They Don’t - Part One

“They don’t make things like they use to” is frequently used as a putdown of modern workmanship. We have around us of homes, buildings, clocks, furniture, jewelry, etc. that are superior when compared to most modern examples  of similar items. When we gravitate to using the phrase in question, I argue that we are uncritically buying into hagiography, the over glorification of the past events/things/people.

Yes, we have examples of fine high quality design and workmanship from a hundred or more years ago that survive today as examples of the quality of their craft. But “fine high quality design and workmanship” is the operative phrase.  The fruits of this high quality workman ship survive because they were crafted with care using high quality materials, and of sufficient skill and quality to endure beyond the common products produced by their peers that haven't lasted. Today, we too have high quality design and workmanship which will continue to stand as signposts to their craftsman's skills for many generations to come.

Today’s fine craftsmanship is not common. We must remember that such high quality craftsmanship was also not common in the every past generation. Many arts of work, music, crafted furniture of past generations have not survived because they were not of superior quality to be cherished, maintained well and passed down. For each item that has survived, hundreds more, whether they be furniture, machines, art, public or private buildings or homes homes have perished because they lacked quality design and workmanship. I’ve seen many old homes that go back a to the early 1900s or earlier that are dilapidated, and which by today’s workmanship and standard are substandard.

Let’s not be premature in dismissing the quality work and labor around us today. We do have poor quality workmanship today, that cannot be denied but the same existed in the past generations since the beginning of time. Just as the common and poor quality work of the past has more or less perished, so too will most of the common and poor quality of our generation’s workmanship.  We can take comfort that our best too will join the collection of the best from the past generations we have inherited.

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