Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Manifesto of the Custom-made


How does material acquire value? This question has informed many of the explorations on this website. It is a difficult question because value can have so many meanings. Leaving the definition of value aside for a moment, we can say that material can have value in its substance and/or in its craft. Gold has value in its substance; even a pile of raw dust will be worth something. Many materials, however, have little or no value in their substance, and must be transformed and worked in some fashion. This transformation allows the material to become useful, beautiful, or ideally, both.
Due to efficiency and disinterest we often make generic products fit specific needs. Not many people stop to ask if their home, their furniture, or their clothes are actually what they want, or if they were simply the easiest to access or the best of the limited options. Think about it. Is your desk actually the right height for you? Is your chair the perfect fit for your body? Is the window where you would have put it? Our senses have been deadened by years of environments that are never quite right. So start noticing. Start realizing what you value.
And then realize that there are people around you who have the skills to make it happen. (If you haven't noticed that this is a not-so-subtle affirmation of the value of architects, here I will state it outright). Architects thrive on the particular (despite the efforts of some to become generic). They will take material and transform it into something that is useful and beautiful because it is specific to its place and its occupants.

This post was actually supposed to be about a sweater that a friend of mine knit for me. I am using it as an example of material that has acquired value through the way it has been worked and the way it has been specifically made for me. I value it more than other clothing because I have an intimate knowledge of the time and care that went into its execution.

Besides this knowledge, it is simply a better quality garment than most. It is thick and warm and beautifully detailed. It is the exact shade of green that I wanted. I wanted the fasteners to be carved out of wood, so I made my own toggle buttons. They are the shape, size, and colour that is right for me.
If we realize that the material that surrounds us every day- the surfaces, the objects, the textures- has a great effect on our well-being, we will value and seek out well-crafted environments that are tailored for us.