06 December 2006

A story of craft

I read a wisdom story, called product line.
1. There used to be an American trader arrived at a small town in Mexico. He met a craftsman there, who was making and selling delicate baskets, which only cost 2 cents. The trader bought one back to America. His friend saw the basket and was willing to buy it on the price of 1.75 dollars. Friend also wanted to buy as many as the trader could offer. The trader went back to Mexico immediately. He wanted to buy a great deal of baskets from the craftsman. But he got a rejection. The trader asked the craftsman why he refused such a big business. 2. The craftsman said: “look, I made the basket along my own thinking. Every morning, when the sun comes out, the birds start to sing, butterfly stop on my work. I knit the song and my soul into it. That is the reason why the butterfly can stop and I can make. If I made a lot of them, there won’t be a song, neither my soul, then every basket is the same. It will erode my heart.”

So what is your thinking about this story? Do you think the meaning come from the part 2? Such as the unique value in each craft process which distinct the hand making from machine producing?

As you may see, the thing annoyed me is why a delicate basket only sell 2 cents, especially when the craftsman knit his soul into it? Should he be angry with the price? What is the value of craft in market/economy?...

It is a story or not just a story…


  1. k.a.harriman@abdn.ac.uk10:26 am

    On the risk of being a total cynic... do check out this great ethnography on Mexican weavers:

    "Miniature Crafts and Their Makers:Palm Weaving in a Mexican Town" by Katrin S. Flechsig

    I think this is an interesting parable that you've posted, however it seems to reflect OUR particular idea of craft and it's role (being good for our soul) in our society than a universal.

    I'd dearly love to be proved wrong, though!

  2. Liz Donald2:26 pm

    This little parable reminds us that a master craftsman will 'knit' his heart and soul into the object he/she has made. As soon as objects are mass produced - no matter how polished and sophiscated the process - something is lost. Craft (and I am not talking about hoby craft, or stuff one finds, often badly made in craft sales,)is the product of the maker's personal vision,and is a reflection of him/herself. The craft is not 'good for our soul' neither is it simply theraputic. The parable shows that it is an outward demonstration of an inner process, be it a congnitive, emotional, spiritual, maturation, or a combination of all aspects of what is going on inside the person of the maker. That outward demonstration - the crafted object - is then unique, valuable, and irreplacable. Often, like the simple parable, the 'truth' of the object is hidden in it's simplicity,

  3. You might be interested Eva to read "The Cave" by Jose Saramago(2003). Published by Vintage Random House. It is a story of a mexican craftsman who produces ceramics that he sells to a local shopping mall.

  4. This is one good story I read, thanks for sharing Dr. Valentine. Maybe he only sells it for 2 cents because he's happy and contented with the income and he didn't bother about the price.
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