The kindness of craftsmen

I am currently sat in an amazing treasure trove of tools! Thanks to my neighbour I found my man to make the brass frames for my watch and brass shoes. He let me come and watch him make the frames which is actually really good as I have learned so much more about the process and how metal lathes work, the time and precision involved and the skill to operate the machinery. It is also a methodical process having to think of which bit to do first as some are reverse sided and some need inner bevelled edges so it’s very interesting to work out the process.

One of the most interesting things about today is being able to input into how the pieces will be done so a bit of co production and I feel part of the journey still. We talked about bevelling the outer edge a bit so that’s been done and it changed how I thought the item would look but it has actually enhanced the design of it and feels right.

We have talked a lot about the work and what he did before he retired and what I do and make. He’s shown me photographs of his life and things he’s made and we’ve talked about stories of craft and meeting people. The rhythm of work really does get stories flowing!

Friend of a friend of a friend……

Today I made another friend. Someone I met through someone else. Through talking to people and telling stories and learning about them, then telling them my PhD making story and then saying “oh, I know someone who would be interested in doing that, pop back on Tuesday” and that’s just what I did!

For the last few months one of the things that has worried me about making is the bits that I can’t physically do myself.

I popped in to see blacksmith across the road last week and his mate. We were weirdly discussing making and I had bought him a copy of Richard Sennetts ‘the craftsman’ as he was interested in what I was reading. I told him my predicament in getting some frames made and that my only contact so far had been with a man from a company that I had no idea where it was and asked me too many questions!

He mentioned his friend was coming the following week who might be interested. He’s a retired engineer and currently was helping fix a steam engine in the blacksmiths shop.

So it spurred me on that afternoon to get my plans drawn up ready to take round! It was nice to think I may have found someone who not only could make it but fitted the kind of person I wanted to help me.

I met him this morning and I knew he was the one to make the frames. A retired metal worker who didn’t want payment because he only took on jobs that interested him and were a challenge. This to me instantly reminded me of a true craftsman. Someone who wants to keep learning and trying and actually that to me fits with what I want to do. Where as we all seek perfection in our own work, it is the love, effort and labour that is put into others that we see rather than mistakes. He talked to me about his tool bag and told me where it was from and how it was made, then taught me how to read inches….(I also need to change my plans to inches now!). Also In our discussions of the plans he told me about his making capabilities. Where a machine has previously made pieces like this for me in the past, he, by hand cannot match the fineness of this (eg 1mm thick walls) however on the way home it suddenly hit me that if the outer rims were thicker I could drill though the brass shoe one to hang it and also the watch one at both ends to attach a strap so my designs have developed already! I just need to get the metal and then he is going to let me go and watch him make the pieces. I’m so excited to be co-producing rather than commissioning the pieces. It feels right.