“Teach Your Children” is a song written by Graham Nash, of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the inspiration for which was a photograph of a child playing with a toy weapon. The photograph caused him to reflect on the societal implications of messages given to children. That was a time when war and arms control were top-of-mind. Today we still think about those issues but we are also focused on the suffering economy, loss of good jobs and just trying to maintain our standard of living.
We give pause and think about what is really important to us; how much money do we really need; how important it is to work at something that brings us fulfillment at the end of the day. There was a time when a family-run business could provide a fair living and still provide a reasonably satisfying and happy lifestyle. And it wasn’t that long ago, maybe one or two generations ago. Today most small businesses compete with large multinational companies and struggle to survive.
There are signs that public awareness is growing, witness the broad “buy-local” movement and the “slow movement”. This is an excerpt from Wikipedia’s definition of “slow movement”.
The Slow Movement advocates a cultural shift toward slowing down life’s pace. It began with Carlo Petrini’s protest against the opening of a McDonald’s restaurant in Piazza di Spagna, Rome in 1986 that sparked the creation of the Slow Food organization. Over time, this developed into a subculture in other areas, such as Cittaslow (Slow Cities), Slow living, Slow Travel, and Slow Design.
Carl Honoré’s 2004 book, In Praise of Slowness, first explored how the Slow philosophy might be applied in every field of human endeavour and coined the phrase “Slow Movement”. The Financial Times said the book is “to the Slow Movement what Das Kapital is to communism”. Honoré describes the Slow Movement thus:
“It is a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better. The Slow philosophy is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace. It’s about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savoring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. It’s about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting.”
The recent growth in artisanal businesses is clearly related to the realization that it might actually be better to work for yourself, at something you enjoy on some level, even if it means you won’t likely get rich (not quickly anyway). What’s more, you can teach your children the skills they need to achieve the same objective. And if you do it well, then the next generation may have a distinct leg-up, they may actually do quite well financially because they will have started at a younger age, they may become better at it then you and they might inherit your tools, your workspace and your customers.
It can be difficult to convince the next generation of this because they are bombarded with messages about inventing the next big thing like facebook or twitter, “going public” and making an instant fortune. A small business that relies on doing the work yourself may not sound very sexy in comparison. Maybe they are joining the millions of students enrolled in colleges and universities, acquiring record-breaking levels of debt only to graduate and find that they can’t find a job in their field. Sorry to sound so negative but I believe these thoughts are very much on people’s minds.
So to bolster us up a little here is a video form one of our Notable Artisans posts. It belongs to Ken Robertson who clearly loves his work as an artisan. Although the video is included in the post about him I thought I would also add it here because it captures so much of what I think is important about small, family businesses and the satisfaction of working as an artisan.
Again, quoting Wikipedia:
“….Slow Design is a branch of the Slow Movement, which began with the concept of Slow Food, a term coined in contrast to fast food. As with every branch of the Slow Movement, the overarching goal of Slow Design is to promote well being for individuals, society, and the natural environment. Slow Design seeks a holistic approach to designing that takes into consideration a wide range of material and social factors as well as the short and long term impacts of the design”
“……Slow Design refers to the goals and approach of the designer, rather than the object of the design. In this way a Slow Design approach can be used within any design field. The term was probably first coined by Alistair Fuad-Luke in his 2002 paper “‘Slow Design’ – a paradigm for living sustainably?”, in which Slow Design is seen as the next step in the development of sustainable design, balancing individual, socio-cultural, and environmental needs.”