Moonshot _ 16

original flavor

Also thanks to standardized production and industrialized processing, almost every foodstuff is available to us today in good to very good quality and at affordable prices. But in the midst of this food luxury we miss something: we long for traditional, authentic taste, which has been lost over time. In museum villages you can rediscover some of these original culinary experiences: when old craftsmen make barrel butter from milk cream and then spread it on a still warm slice of farmhouse bread from the blazing wood-fired oven. Deep in our hearts we long for this feeling of happiness that the original taste of the good old days evokes in us.

“The flavour of bread is the scent of all scents. It is the primeval odour of our earthly life, the odour of harmony, peace and home.”

Jaroslav Seifert (1901-86), Czech Nobel Prize winner for literature

Dimensions of the craft

In Germany there are more than 130 skilled trades, but not all of them develop in the same way. While some are dying out, others are growing into modern markets and reinventing themselves. In addition to its economic importance, the craft sector has both a spiritual dimension, which touches people in their innermost being, and a cultural level, which has to do with the importance of the craft sector for our culture and our society.

Spiritually: Work as self-education

The Austrian wood turner Sepp Viehauser spoke in an interview in the early 1990s about the essence of his experience, the essence of his life and the essence of craftsmanship:[1]

“For me, craft is an attitude, a way of life. (…) For my personal development, the image of the pyramid stands before my eyes. The top of the pyramid is the ‘summit’, the quality I have personally striven for throughout my life. The boundaries of the pyramid represent the experiences I have had in dealing with reality. These confrontations are arduous, but only they make my development possible. The confrontation with the material (…) is for every craftsman always a test with the chance of failure. He is thereby referred back to the limits of his possibilities and thus to himself. In this sense, craft (…) is education in the true sense.

The spiritual aspect is already resonating through. Viehauser found his personal path to perfection in his craftsmanship. For him, work is a process that forms his own self. The idea that the act of working is at the same time already the reward of work is shared by Aristotle, Saint Benedict and numerous philosophers as well as by many economists.

Cultural: Endangered heritage

Handicraft is also a collective good and an important part of our culture. Craft knowledge and skills have been passed on and developed from generation to generation over centuries. Craftsmen were the engineers of the past. Until the 19th century, technical progress had its origins in the workshops of craftsmen. To ensure that this cultural asset is not lost, it must be reliably passed on and carefully preserved. Nevertheless, we are in the process of gambling away this part of our cultural heritage – as a result of structural change and as a consequence of standardisation, division of labour and overvaluation of technology.

Typology of craftsmen

One can live craftsmanship in three alternative forms: as a craftsman, an artist or an entrepreneur. No matter which of these paths you take: all three can make people happy, provided you follow your heart.[2]

Type 1: the craftsman(s)

He does a thing well for its own sake and finds happiness, satisfaction and meaning in it. Management consultants fear this type as an entrepreneur, because they do not primarily pursue economic goals. A high work ethic characterizes the craftsman (craftsman). He puts all his skills, his mental and physical energies uncompromisingly into the matter itself and is absorbed in his work. He does not look at the clock, because the clock is the enemy of good work. Nothing is more painful for him than customers who neither understand nor appreciate the quality of his work.

Type 2: the artist (craftsman)

He is a master of his craft, hates routine and needs variety. As an employee he is difficult. Because the aesthetic and creative aspects of his work are always in the foreground. The result of his work must always be surprising – preferably a work of art. The artist(-craftsman) is the inventor among the craftsmen and always on the way to the next stage of his art and the new work. He is indispensable as a motor for innovation.

Type 3: the entrepreneur (craftsman)

In addition to a great understanding of economics, he may also have characteristics of the artist or craftsman. The combination of artist and entrepreneur will certainly be able to celebrate great economic success. Provided that the quality of the craftsmanship is not pushed into the background by the pursuit of profit and that love and respect are shown to the craft. Because nothing harms the craft more than companies with a traditional craft facade, which in fact only sell mediocre, industrially manufactured products. Not only are customers deceived by “craftsmen” of this kind, but more and more valuable handicraft culture is being lost.

The new craftsmen

At the moment it seems that time is again working for the principle of craftsmanship. Because more and more men and women are once again seeing themselves as thoroughbred craftsmen and women who carry out their profession with a passion for craftsmanship and art, who reinvent it every day and who are constantly setting new standards. These new craftsmen exclusively process raw materials of known origin and are interested not only in the calculation of their products but also in their significance for life. They are well aware of the fact that they transform nature into culture with their handicraft work. With this attitude, they very successfully serve a clientele that yearns for real craftsmanship.

Craftsmanship as an opportunity

Of course it is good if the new craftsmen in training also learn the tools of the trade. However, if necessary, cost calculations could also be carried out by external experts. First and foremost, we need people who love their craft – so that this extremely valuable aspect of our culture is not lost. The different areas of crafts offer a lot of freedom and allow everyone to go their own way, find themselves and earn good money with it. Craft offers many people the chance to discover and develop their individual abilities in the best possible way. In the food sector, for example, millers and bakers have been entering into a fruitful symbiosis for thousands of years. What innovative raw materials can we offer modern bakers so that they can fully meet consumer expectations?

 

[1] “Wenn einer einen inneren Plan hat”, Interview mit Sepp Viehauser, in: Christine Ax (Hrsg.), Werkstatt für Nachhaltigkeit, Politische Ökologie, Sonderheft Nr. 9, München 1997

[2] Christine Ax, Referat, BÄKO-Workshop, Hamburg 2009

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