Saturday, November 29, 2014
And then we entered the Wal-Mart era. Oh, it's not only their fault. All stores seemed to embrace the throw-away philosophy. Folks no longer re-read books, mining them for new insights. Now the cry is, "I have nothing to read!" Every season we have to have a new coat or new boots or new furniture or pots and pans or towels or something--even if we don't need it, whatever it is.
Because we are completely aware of the ephemeral aspect of all our worldly goods, they really have no value for us. And therefore, nothing has value. When we look at a house or car, we're not calculating how many years we will have them. We're not thinking about passing that beloved book or table or vase on to our children. We're not planning to use Grandma's turkey platter for our dinners...because we can buy our own new improved turkey platter--every year if necessary. Our landfills and dumps are overflowing with our discards.
I made the pocket rocks in the photo above as free giveaways for a writer's conference. FREE. I couldn't give them away. At the end of the conference, a reviewer offered to take the leftovers to add to prize packages. I let her have them. I probably spent two or three hundred hours making them. But all the folks at the conference saw were cheap rocks.
I may spend six months writing a book. Readers complain when I ask them to pay three dollars for the privilege of reading it. They only look at the external aspects of production--cover art, editing, marketing--which require special skills that are all expensive on their own, and decide the actual act of writing is worthless. Books have been so devalued in our time, many authors are moving on to some other job so they and their families can eat.
I once spent considerable time and effort producing calligraphy art. For one piece (8"X12"), the average time required for design and lettering was seventy hours. That did not take into account supplies (ink, pens, brushes, special paper, matting and framing). I charged fifty dollars for heirloom quality art. I sold two pieces. Both buyers took pains to point out they could have printed something out from the computer for a lot less money.
Craftsmanship is fading in a slow, painful death. Everything we cherish is mass produced in a factory by underpaid workers. Quality is a thing of the past. In the next twenty-four days, people in this country will race from one store to the next, snatching cheap, mass-produced goods, spending billions of dollars for crap that will be discarded by July.