16 June 2009

The hand-made thing

Almost all the time, the objects we use in daily life - the door handles we turn, the glasses we drink from, the pens we write with - were made by machines. At most, someone somewhere has simply screwed a few pieces together never touched by human hands.

Further down the scale of economic fortune, down to the bottom, where life is a daily struggle of subsistence as it was for our ancestors, the fewer machine-made objects you will find in their original state.

Down there among the people whose lives resemble the rag-pickers and mudlarks of Dickensian times more than they do yours or mine, the machine-made objects have already been used and discarded by others.

Lately I spent some time in our quirky local shop 'Just Planet' in Sunbury, created by my friends Lee and Norman. They sell all sorts of objects with an implicitly internationalist agenda: things like Fair Trade coffee and chocolate, toys for children, organic this-and-that, all in a happily cluttered space. But apart from the excellent coffee, I like to go there to see the large range of hand-made things.

Recently, my wife bought me a little tin guitar, only a few centimetres high, to go on my keyring. The strings are made of wire, the face of the guitar is from an aluminium drink can, while the clips holding it together and the sides and back of the guitar are made from an old sardine tin. I'm amazed how hardy it is. It will certainly last for years.

It is also ingeniously designed.

I'm sure no pencil ever touched paper, but it is design nevertheless. Done in the mind and the hand.

I've since bought a tin car, made from an insect repellant can, with working tin wheels, a steering wheel, seats, and even a transparent windscreen.

Appropriately it looks like a Volkswagon. I say appropriately because the VW spent the longest time in continuous production of any car. It will run on just about anything including banana skins (I saw it in a documentary), and it was for decades the car most likely to be owned by the working poor around the world.

Here's to hand-made things.

1 comment:

Mary Alice Mac said...

Hi Sean Payne. I love your blog.

I too am a fan of 'Awkward Family Photos' and those who are attacking you are small minded and boring. Obviously they don't know what funny is and are not very worldly.

I'm also a fan of good coffee and hand made objects.

I think you're an intresting man Sean Payne with a lot to say worth listening to.

Good luck with the blog. You have my full support.