Thursday, January 20, 2011

Skill, Craft, Pride, Cost, and the decline of the minds of youth and America

So we don't have the time to preach much here and it's not really our thing, but i saw a comment elsewhere that prometed me to get riled up a bit about people's (mostly American's) lack of valuing hardwork and skilled labor. I know everyone is not a millionaire and can't afford to buy the best of the best all the time or even hardly ever, but does that mean you have to poo-poo a nice well made product?
As a small biz owner (FMA) that does our best to make and sell the best American Made product we can, my ears perk when someone verbally shuns/or discredits a nice product in favor of a cheap, massed produced alternative. It's one thing to just not buy it but to make a stink about the more expensive item made with pride in small quantites that will far outlast the cheap alternative is beyond me. For the record this wasn't born from anything to do with FMA.
I know it is big biz to make a ton of stuff for cheap in a third world country and fill the shelves at walmart and sell it at a low price, but do you want to be forced to buy everything only at walmart or an equivelant? sure it serves it's purpose, but come on!  While in Japan this last time i became more aware of their goods and the general public's style and put-togetherness, not to mention those that were/are "into" something.
There is an abundance of quality handmade goods in Japan from leather, to jewelry, to cloths, that are all killer! Sure it all costs a decent price, but people (even the general public) over there see the value in that item and spend the money for it. It was weird to see people on the train with like a really nice cast key hook hanging from there handtooled belt next to another handtooled wallet. I knew each item probably cost $300 each too! But these things are "for life" items and will be around far longer than some Hanna Montana wallet from the aforementioned discount store.
Let me be clear that i don't have money to blow on crazy expensive stuff, but something like a wallet i would send some coin on because i will use it for the next 15+ years.
This sort of idea comes into play a lot in America in fab/bike/hot rod shops. I worked in many and we would get tire kickers that would want killer one-off, tig welded, fab work done for assembly line mig welded prices. They couldn't comprehend the combination of the amount of work, tools, and skill and then put a price on it. Would they want to do their job for a much discounted rate? no, so why should someone that has a skill making something with their hands not be able to charge what it should be worth without someone (who has probably made nothing of value with their hands) complaining about the price when they wouldn't be a customer anyway? Don't like it, don't buy it no matter if it is metalwork, a pair of pants, custom boots, an oil painting, etc...
i just heard today on NPR that the government is possibly cutting funding to the National Endowment for the Arts and PBS. Great, hopefully america will eventually die from diabeties and obesity, as they sit in front of American Idol and learn nothing. We don't need to teach people about art, music, and culture because thats boring, huh? Football and TMZ is more important. I know i am getting off track here, but i come from a family of musicians, artists, and craftsmen and think all of these things are important to building people's minds. I also noticed in Japan a lack of sweat pants, flip flops, and anything related to being "white trash" or anything that shares that same mentality, what a concept. (insert your smart allec remark about why i should move there if i don't like it here).

I think we should do more to help and protect small buisness, skilled crafts, music, the arts. I learned to weld because i couldn't afford to pay someone to do it for me. Poverty is not much of an excuse in my book because i have made a lot out of little to work with and feel as if there isn't enough time in life to to, make, see, and experiance all the things i want (that i know of at this time!). I studied photograghy because i couldn't draw, my brother got all that skill and one of my sisters is getting her masters in photography! Amazing, i love it! even though i have shot dozens of covers and had stuff in books and magazines world wide, she is blowing me out of the water!
Create, build, organize, just do something besides complain or gossip.
Be passionate about something, no matter what is cool or not cool for that matter. Do it because you love it, they way you want it.   Not satified with something, do it better or at least try!
Who cares what we do in SoCal, who cares what the midwest is doing, east coast, etc, surround yourself with people you can learn from. Learning is one of the coolest things EVER and you can do it everyday! And for those that know it all, it's what you learn after you know it all that really counts.

I know i am way off on a tangent on top of a soapbox, but i guess i needed to get it out. I am not even going to edit or spell check this thing, hope it makes some sense...Talk is cheap, do something.

what are you doing? what would you like to do? 
as mentioned, i like welding and working with metal, here are some examples:



  1. "Talk is cheap" has always bein a thing I hold dear to my heart in this time of "blog" bike builder talkers..I am sick... thanks Grant..don't forget this when you are confronted with "people" who think its ok to mass produce crap in China (Biltwell) and sell it to bike guys.. don't hold back...

  2. Nash! I really did think i was doing a Nash-esque post when i pulled the trigger!

    Mark, i know we or anyone else won't stop the making of stuff overseas and companies thrive because of it, look at V-Twin and we've all ordered stuff from them. I don't hold a grudge against Bill and Magoo from Biltwell, there is a pot for every lid and they fill the need that all their customers have. Plus after getting to know those dudes i have respect for all they have done and tried to do in this market. Plus, if they weren't doing it someone else would. That and they are a barrel of laughs!

    There are other companies i am more worried about and don't "get" in this industry...

    There is also a reason i don't try and sell stuff i make that requires fabrication-because i would have to charge more than most are willing to pay, so i do it for myself and friends.

    All of this probably means we won't ever make any money at it and haven't to date, but we literally love this stuff so much and look forward to creating more stuff so much that it is worth the money it takes from our day job pay checks to do it. Born-Free for example, we haven't made any $ on that thing because we are more concerned about putting on the best show for all of you! We have poured more time and money into that thing than you can imagine! Not for some big pay off though, just to make it work and stoke out someone that rode from BFE solo on an old shovelhead to come to SoCal for the first time and have the time of their life and see all the bikes they have looked up to for so long! Not to get caught up in the soap opera and chopper snob gossip...we are spoiled here and talk is more than cheap, it is worthless to me.
    I like do'ers. not idle hands, passionate people

  3. Nice Photoshop can't do those things! JCL

  4. Oh yeah don't get the Nash going please...

  5. Very nice! I feel the same and have for years. The hard part is that it's so easy (not EZ) to forget sometimes, or buy cheap when you don't have the time or money to learn or pay for those nice, well built, hand made things (the same could be said about food, and eating good).... Those fuckers are smart with their cheap shit, it's everywhere, right in your face. Unfortunately it seems, even when your not looking or listening you still somehow absorb it into your life. kinda creepy!.......... anyway, it helps when good, smart people stand up and say something & remind those that forget, or take these things for granted when they really do care. thank you Mr. Peterson. Practice better habits, learn something new, & keep art, skill, trade, craft alive! and if they won't teach the kids at school, then we gotta teach em at home

  6. I could agree more. it is the same deal north of the border.
    I would way rather save my money for a nice hand made piece even if it takes twice as long to save up enough to get it.

    Keep doin what you are doing, some people are paying attention

  7. If you haven't already, pick up a copy of "Shopclass as soulcraft". This isn't a spam post, I read it last year and the entire book is written around this idea exactly.

    An excerpt from the book:

    "The satisfactions of manifesting oneself concretely in the world through manual competence have been known to make a man quiet and easy. They seem to relieve him of the felt need to offer chattering interpretations of himself to vindicate his worth. He can simply point: the building stands, the car now runs, the lights are on. Boasting is what a boy does, who has no real effect in the world. But craftsmanship must reckon with the infallible judgment of reality, where one’s failures or shortcomings cannot be interpreted away."

    I personally am on both sides of the fence with this one. As an owner of a small shoe company, we have to get things produced in China, otherwise we couldn't afford to be in business. It doesn't stop us from trying to make the best product possible though. Your bit on Japan, I visited there this last summer for the first time and my friends there were mentioning how they still look up to the U.S. which blows my mind because they're so far ahead of us in so many ways, why they would want to be like America baffles my mind.

    Nice post, well said and your skills are enviable.

  8. This country USED to take PRIDE in our products and craftsmanship, that's what made us great. I know Ca is a fairly new state, you don't have lots of old architecture. I am from the Boston area, the churches and colleges are works of art, all handmade by people who took pride in what they did. We made some of the best vehicles on earth back then too. The attitude was to give people the best product you could for the best price you could. Now it's about money and only money. It's about selling someone the biggest piece of shit for the most money you can. Those airjordans that cost you 150$ were made in Indonesia for the cheapest labor and with the poorest material money can buy. It's all about fucking people as hard as you possibly can. It makes me sick when I think about it.....I am NOT a rich man, by any means. I shop at locally owned grocery stores and I drive American cars. I try to spend local instead of meeting the machine, Walmart, Market basket, Target. These places are the enemy. The goverment is in bed with all of them, that's why they pay very little taxes and the small business man and middle class workers get it in the ass. Socialism is on the way, or is it already here?

  9. I saw a quote in one of the Garage Mags with an article by Tim Conder about a guy in St Louis that built a "period" 60's FED. The last sentence of the article read "Creation is the true BADMOTHERFUCKER so put up or shut up sucker" that has stuck in my head ever since I read it. P.S. I daydream about that whole trip to from the shithole town I live in(BFE) to LBC like every fucking day haha, especially now freezing my ass of in Iowa..Doin it all again next year....

  10. good deal.
    talk is cheap.
    hard work is not.
    painting a gas tank... the idea, the prep,
    tape time, supplies, the gun, the compressor, electricity, clean-up and they want to cost $200.
    I can really relate to what you said about the handmade parts...mass produce itfor cheap and it becomes shit. it losses -hand made- and is generic crap.

  11. One of the biggest losses in this country was the slow denegration of the apprentice system in both the arts, and industry. Men spent YEARS proving their mettle and dedication to the crafts by assisting, iistening, and ABSORBING their chosen vocations before they were allowed to actually perform the simplest of tasks.

    And when I say absorbing, I mean absorbing both the mechanical aspects of their chosen field, and more importantly the PHILOSOPHY of that field from working alongside men who had dedicated themselves to being the very best person they could at that chosen field, who had invested a lifetime doing what they did because they had PRIDE in what they did, and stood two generations later and said "You see that? I did that, with my sweat, and my heart, and I'm proud of what I've done in my life".

    None of that matters anymore, today it's instant everything. Instant buying, instant entertainment, instant gratification. Nothing means anything to most people anymore, because if the car they buy falls apart, or the TV they have blows up, or the new house they bought falls apart - be it two days, or two years, they just go buy another one instantly. To hell with paying for something that lasts, or might be passed on to another generation.

    We live in the "Yay me, fuck you!" times, and it permiates everything from the products we buy, to the people who run the industries, to the people we elect to office. Everybody wants everything today, and fuck tomorrow, and who comes after us.

  12. Grant, Good post. A few thoughts:

    In relation to cutting PBS and the National Endowments for Arts. I recently heard something about how art isn't a necessity. The reply was something like, "when art dies so does the society".

    Education seems to no longer be an American value.

    Say you need a product or service. Instead of going to the small independent craftsman, you go to the big cheap place. One day you need only what the small guy can provide, only to find he's closed shop.

    I don't think we need to worry too much about Socialism, more so Corporatism.

  13. Very well said, I've been struggling to put similar thoughts into words for a while. The Japanese will buy a few nice but expensive things that last forever, they appreciate quality and aesthetic and will pay extra for what they perceive as unquantifiable value. That's why all the knuckles, pans and shovels end up over here eventually (they get a bit carried away).

    Americans on the other hand have to quantify everything, I saw this a while back when Tom Fugle was selling belts on CoC and people were complaining about the price. Ok they were expensive but the man tooled them himself, they aren't $20 cheap shit walmart belts they're individual numbered pieces made by an artisan. People had this attitude like Fuck who needs a belt when you can get five feet of ROPE at Walmart for two dollars? Look at it this way -- why eat grass fed steak when you can get cheap shit frozen Chinese mad cow beef in a tube at Costco? Most people would understand the difference in quality when it comes to food so why is it so different for other goods?

    The denim thing at 4q that you commented on, these guys make jeans the way they were intended using "outdated" machinery that was cast off by American manufacturers as being inefficient: with the result that American jeans are garbage (made in Pakistan anyway). Yeah selvage jeans are pricey but a pair of Iron Heart 634s will last for fucking forever, extreme quality, super comfortable, and they pick up character as they age instead of falling to pieces. They're worth every penny because that much quality is built into them, the damn things stand up on their own...

    I'm an American living overseas and I hate when expats run down Americans but every time I go back the country is more and more People of Walmart. The US is becoming a third world country right in front of everyone's faces and all they can do is bitch about the price of well made things. I don't get it.

  14. Grant you are fucking right on the money. This is not a political point of view it's just the truth. Craftsmanship has become lost in our ever quest to be price whores. I try hard to buy the BEST product not the cheapest or most expensive but the best. That is why in Europe they do exactly that and that is why WalMart failed in some places over there. They want and demand quality for a lifetime and are willing to pay for it.
    I know I try hard to make things right and well. I have nowhere the skills you do but I keep trying and working at it and working at it hard even though it is for no one but me.
    We need more of you young-ish guys to talk and think this way....hard work and persistence and education can give you tremendous rewards other than cash......
    Power to the thinking people!

  15. I have posted many comments on this very topic on a lot of different boards over the years.
    Many fine points and observations on this thread.
    Just a couple of quick points. With regards to Japan take a momment to read about an American who was largely dismissed here, but was embraced by the Japanesse. W. Edwards Deming. "A prophet is never welcome in his hometown."
    The masses in the America have been deceived by the evil to worship the god of consumption.
    Continue to strive to make your best better, as well as supporting like minded folk. And finally remember that anything produced with passion and striving will forever we desired.

  16. Couldn't agree with this more, and I think striving to buy quality items and reward craftsman that take pride in their work extends not only from the garage but to clothing and even choosing furniture for your home. We have all these same problems here in Australia, it was once a country that took pride in its manufacturing that now manufactures very little.

  17. Maybe it's because we were cut from the same cloth but,I completely agree. There's a priceless satisfaction that comes from crafting something yourself by hand.

  18. Grant, I'm way late to this party.
    But this is gold.
    I was about to write a mega lengthy response, but you said what needed to be said...

    (as a quick aside, here's my least favorite trend in the moto world right now... "Dude, I built my chopper for less than four grand..." Oh, yeah? You know what that says to me? That tells me, without even seeing it, that you got into this shit yesterday, you'd rather spend your money on video games because you're just not that committed yet, that your chopper is a pile of shit with wires hangin' out everywhere, covered in shitty parts and it's most definitely slow as fuck... and slow as fuck just ain't cool, no matter what era)

  19. That narrowed light is tits... You figure out a way keep the guide stamp on top?