Wednesday, February 24, 2010

People at work

I like watching documentaries that show people "making stuff" - whether it's furniture, or building houses, or making food.

It always seems to me that craftspeople are so calm and so happy in their work. It's one of the things I admit I fantasize about, when I'm lying in bed trying to fall asleep: chucking it all and apprenticing to a cabinetmaker, or learning to weave and working at a loom all day.

Of course, the important element of any fantasy is that you gloss over the bad parts - the place where, because it's an economic downturn, no one's willing to pay for your handcrafted chairs. Or where it's hard to get health insurance because you're a sole proprietor, and (if you do dying or pottery work), you're working with potentially hazardous substances.

But sometimes, when I've dealt with one too many challenging people in a day, I begin to think about how nice it would be just me and the wood. Or me and the clay. Or me and the flour. And how I could close myself up in a workshop and just make stuff, and earn my living that way.

Don't get me wrong; I like my job. I probably am happier than most people. But there is an element of "the grass is always greener" in seeing craftspeople at work.

Growing up, I lived not too far from one of those "living history" places. They had weavers and glassblowers and blacksmiths and carpenters and I always enjoyed taking trips to the part, because I liked (even as a kid) to see the craftspeople at their work. (Oh, yeah, I know now, they were really out-of-work actors or history teachers making a little bread over the summer break, but I thought of them as full-time craftspeople).

I admit it; it's one of those little fantasies that keeps me going during difficult days at work: "I could always quit this, and...I don't know, make quilts for a living or something." It's a funny little safety valve.

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