***Written by Justin and Rachel Lonas***
In a small city in Western North Carolina, there is a law firm downtown named Eggers, Eggers, Eggers, and—you guessed it—Eggers. According to their website, the Eggers family has been a fixture in their county since the 1700’s, and the law firm started there in 1950. This family has passed on the lawyer trade for 3 generations now! There’s a certain authenticity to any trade when the wisdom and skills of the elders get passed down like this.
The same types of generational workmanship are happening here in India, too. Over here, our friend Hanif may not have a prominent sign with the family name repeated four times, but people in the area know his family and his trade as a tailor. They know he’s very skilled because he learned the work from his father and relatives. They know Hanif's wife, who works in their home sewing as an additional means of income. They know his children, some of whom can attend school and some cannot—it all depends on the number and type of jobs he is able to get.
So why is it that we can see the true value in some things more readily than others? We can look at a Pieter Bruegel painting and instantly recognize the years of practice it must have taken to master his craft. You could even say that his artistry “ran in the family” as his father was an artist, too. But art takes many forms, and sometimes the better a craftsman gets at his chosen work, the less noticeable his “hand” is in the finished product.
Do we think this way about the things we buy? Can we look at a piece of jewelry and know the generations of knowledge that was passed down in order to make it? Do we look at its components, and wonder how the artist knew animal bone could be so sturdy and beautiful if polished or how a seamstress figured out a particular stitch would hold the best in a particular cloth?
Recently, we saw the sign above and couldn’t help but think about our artisan families. What is a person’s work worth?
We work to live. True, but there is more to the transaction than this simple math. Should our work be sold to the highest bidder, a straight swap of services for compensation? Or does the act of employment itself create something greater than either party can produce alone?
Any craftsmanship or skilled labor is art in the sense described here, and in whatever capacity we are employed, we are selling a piece of ourselves. It is the value created by our knowledge, experience, strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures that makes buying our labor worthwhile.
Work runs deeper than paying the bills. Difficult and stressful though it may be at times, it is a good gift. Perhaps if we remembered that the work of our hands is an extension of our person, we could serve others and be served with greater honor and love.
We see the art of Dekko products from the artisan’s perspective and the generations it took to make it. We hope you can too.
Photo credits: Rennie Abraham, Justin Lonas