Black Friday

How can a maker rebel against the worst excesses of consumerism yet still make a living from making and selling stuff?

This is a dilemma I struggle with. The Western world is too full of stuff, most of it produced in far off lands with working conditions and environmental practices we outlawed years ago. Most of it is designed to become obsolete or out of fashion and will head soon to landfill to encourage more buying and production. So what am I doing in a world already too full of stuff making more stuff? Am I part of the problem or part of the solution?

IMG_1308 I know that many of my customers already have enough tableware in their homes but just aspire to own something more wholesome, something with meaning, a connection to the maker and the woodland perhaps. One of the things I enjoy most about my job is the regular messages from customers who have used my work for many years. Just this week Kate Malone judge of the Pottery Throw Down TV program told me how much she enjoyed using my porringer. That means a lot to me. There is a real connection when someone tells me they have eaten their breakfast from one of my bowls for 15 years and gained pleasure from it every day.

USA 2015-480So I guess this is how I justify to myself making stuff. If folk turn their back on having masses of stuff destined for landfill and instead choose to save for fewer things that last and have meaning perhaps it would be a better world. Whatever, I feel deep distaste when I see folk fighting over wide screen TVs that I know cost the earth and will be in landfill in 10 years. Instead of watching any media today I spent the day in my workshop making porringers. It feels like therapy.

USA 2015-481


12 Responses to Black Friday

  1. Steve Kubien November 27, 2015 at 5:56 pm #

    Makers like us are NOT part of the problem. In fact, I would go so far as to say that we are a BIG part of the solution. People easily become attached to the work we do. It has meaning. Try to find that with the mass production, big box, disposable stuff being swarmed over today.

  2. Brent November 27, 2015 at 8:18 pm #

    I appreciate the thought and sentiment behind this post. I have given much thought lately to getting rid of, and avoiding buying more “crap”. I have more crap than I need and find myself, more often than not, stumbling over, rearranging and moving stuff just to get it out of the way and struggling to find storage space. I am coming to embrace William Morris’ statement:

    “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

    The porringer pictured in this post perfectly fits that philosophy. I love that you left the carving marks around the rim on this one. The tone of the wood along with the carving marks reminds me of hand hammered copper vessels and this piece speaks to me on a deep level.

    Thanks for sharing

  3. Charlotte Engstad November 28, 2015 at 8:34 am #

    When I go to a shopping center, I always come out feeling a bit nauseous and depressed, and making more things feels meaningless. All those things in the shops! Who will buy them, who will use them, what about the stuff that nobody buys? Will it last or just fall apart after a few times of use? I totally agree that we makers are part of the solution, by producing high quality items and by contributing to preserve knowledge about our crafts and intangible cultural heritage. Thanks for a great blog post!

  4. Lorna November 28, 2015 at 4:06 pm #

    Thank you for this lovely post, Robin. I agree with you entirely. I bought one of your porringers 5 years ago as the very first Christmas present for the man who is now my husband. I wanted something meaningful and enduring and that’s what I got. We now own 2 of your wooden plates and love them. We are hoping to buy a couple more so we can share the experience when friends come to dinner. Will you have more available soon?
    Thanks again

    • Robin Wood January 19, 2016 at 2:15 pm #

      sorry for slow reply I will have porringers and plates available in the next few weeks

  5. Penelope November 29, 2015 at 4:36 pm #

    Agreed Steve, makers are definitely part of the solution – as long as they are good makers, creating beautiful timeless things, made to last and of quality materials – fixable if possible, or at least re-employable once damaged. It’s only when you get makers (coughEtsycough) that craft up loads of novelty stuff with big box cheap supplies that makers become part of the problem.

    Humans will always want stuff, we always have. But practical, beautiful, quality things are not easily thrown away, and that’s the part of the product cycle we have to put our focus on. Make stuff no one would ever throw out. Big box stuff is designed to be thrown away because they want to sell you a new one next year!

  6. ET December 3, 2015 at 1:24 pm #

    I would consider buying a bowl, but everything on your website is sold.

  7. Cat Brown December 10, 2015 at 3:06 pm #

    It is so refreshing to read your post, I to have a struggle with the whole ‘Black Friday’ super consumerism and fear that my work too could well be part of the problem. But you and Steve Kubien are totally right. We are NOT part of the problem we are most definitely part of the solution and this confirmation allows me to sleep soundly tonight. Thank you x

  8. Jen December 26, 2015 at 8:14 pm #

    I abandoned having a TV 2 years ago and have never looked back. I have found more peace in not being bombarded by the negatives so prevalent in the media today and have taken time to focus more on what speaks to me and soothes my soul. I very, very recently started to experiment with spoon carving and feel such a calm and peace when working on things. Feeling that connection to what I am doing is so much better than mindlessly watching what society today has deemed “reality”. I a so much happier expressing my own sense of reality instead of having it defined for me.

    Thank you for your continued insights and inspiration, Robin. I would much rather watch your “reality show” any time.

  9. Molly December 30, 2015 at 5:00 pm #

    Great blog I loved reading it.

  10. alan thomas January 25, 2016 at 4:29 pm #

    Good to read your comments on consumerism. As a fellow woodturner I am happy to report that a minor revolution is on the way. I make lots of different things as a jobbing turner including domestic products, plates bowls and a version of the handled bowl you make ( saw my first one in a Swedish museum about 30 years ago) and I have had many more sales in the past year than in previous years. People are going back to traditional locally made goods and feel much more of a connection to them. Long may it continue!
    Best wishes and happy turning

  11. Brian Noel February 27, 2016 at 2:43 am #

    Your work begs a a closer look, I love the carved facets. Too bad I am a ways away. I hope it is more than a minor revolution that makers have been showing up all over the world with beautiful crafts and your work is definitely among those. Thanks for the post, glad I found your blog.