Today’s video is not the main meat of the article, but just an appetizer:
Joe van der Steeg is a blacksmith from Netherlands. I came across his videos a few years ago and I found them very informative, even though admittedly not very entertaining. I did not subscribe, because I do not intend to seriously go into forging at the moment, but I kept him at the back of my mind for future reference should I need plain and to-the-point info about forging techniques. What was clear from the few videos that I have watched was that he is very committed to the craft and that it is his life.
Previous year he announced that he is quitting the craft as a professional and will only continue with it as a hobbyist. When I have noticed that video, I was saddened, because I hate that old crafts are disappearing.
A few days ago I found out that Alec Steele, the youth YouTube blacksmithing star has afterwards invited him for a few days of collaborative work at his workshop, they had a lot of fun together and Alec’s enthusiasm and infectious personality have motivated Joe to continue to make videos. I shed a sentimental tear over that outcome, and I subscribed to Joe, although his videos are still on a back-burner for me, because day has only so many hours.
I know that to make knives for a living is for me just a pipe dream. There is a lot of people in that market, the competition is fierce and getting notorious enough to make a living would be difficult, even more so for a shy and introverted personality (I can pretend self-confident and strong, but not for long).
But overall I think that at a societal level a step back from automation would be desirable. With current state of technology, it is entirely conceivable having 5 hours working days somewhere at a factory/farm and the rest of the day having off to be a weaver, cobbler or whatevermaker to your heart’s desire. The factories with their automation are perfect for delivering necessities for survival, but to my mind nothing beats handicraft for delivering the beautiful, unique and shiny. Further jobs at factories are soul-crushing and many people afterward have no energy for anything else than to sit in front of TV. Also most people whom I know who do have a creative hobby are mentally much better off than those who do not. There are reasons for arts therapy.
I am not entirely convinced that decline of handicraft is purely due to automation – there are a lot of people who would love to own handmade goods, but cannot afford them.
So why do we as a society insist on having most people do jobs they hate most of the time if that is not, strictly speaking, necessary for the survival of the species?
In my opinion the thing that is killing handicrafts is the same thing that drives the world inexorably towards global warming – insatiable greed of the upper 1% who are sucking money out of the economy only to put it on their bank accounts so they can engage in pointless dick-measuring contests with their fellow parasites. More and more people have to spend 8 or more hours a day in a factory to produce cheap goods, because fewer and fewer people have the means to purchase the more expensive handmade goods. It is a self-reinforcing cycle.