Every so often one will come across a question to which the answer is self-evident, but someone’s going to ask it anyway. Here’s an example:
1. “When you find a rusted-out old kitchen knife, why not just toss it out and buy a shiny new one from Williams-Sonoma?”
— because nothing looks as fine as a well-restored blade, not just in appearance, but in its intrinsic history. Need proof? See here, where some guy with mad skillz goes after an old cleaver.
Here’s another one:
2. “Why would someone spend $170,000 on a replica of an old car?”
— because as long as the replica has been manufactured by engineers with all respect for quality as well as heritage, it’s worth it, and not the least because the originals require not just stupid money, but insanely-stupid money available only to Russian oligarchs, software company founders and parvenus like Jeff Bezos (also criminals, some overlap with the aforementioned).
(watch the second video at the link…)
Here’s another question of this ilk (but by no means the final one):
3. “Why is The Repair Shop such a popular TV show? All they do is restore old junk.”
…it’s not “junk”, it’s heritage, history, treasured artifacts and sentimental objects. To watch Steve Fletcher fixing an old clock, Will Kirk restoring an old piece of furniture or even those two old pink-haired biddies bringing wrecked toy dolls and teddy bears back to life is to see and feel the joy of a miniature triumph of life over death. If you are not moved by that, you are a foul, crass and cynical human being.
The overall answer to all the above questions can be summed up in one word:
It’s a rare talent (and becoming rarer still when so many people are seduced by cheap, fragile and nasty knock-offs from China or Eastern Europe), and if we hold on to no other custom, craftsmanship is worth everything. To quote Oscar Wilde’s words from Lady Windermere’s Fan :
Cecil Graham: What is a cynic?
Lord Darlington: A man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.
Cecil Graham: And a sentimentalist, my dear Darlington, is a man who sees an absurd value in everything and doesn’t know the market price of any single thing.
I know I’m always teetering dangerously close to the latter, but all I can say is: guilty as charged. Especially where beauty and craftsmanship are involved.