16 Aug

The dying art of craftsmanship

We take inspiration from the BBC's 'The Art of Japanese Life' and examine the way in which today's society value mass production over craftsmanship.

At Westbury we pride ourselves on balancing the art of skilled craftsmanship with the precision and accuracy afforded by the latest technology, in order to create windows and doors of the highest quality and that deliver on both beauty and longevity. And so we were delighted to see that the BBC recently aired a documentary, The Art of Japanese Life, which depicted the quiet care and elegance of Japanese traditions, with the first episode detailing the ‘Craft of Carpentry’, in which Dr James Fox guided viewers through the traditional Japanese building methods for constructing houses without the use of nails.

What was truly striking however was the skill, knowledge and even reverence for the tools of the trade that was evident in this craft, with the precision and understanding of every aspect of the process throwing light on what is a dying tradition and lost art in most other parts of the industrialised world.

The documentary unintentionally highlighted the stark contrast in the production ethos of this art form to what has now become mainstream manufacturing where the pursuit of low-cost high-speed mass-market production techniques has resulted in the worldwide loss of skill and craftsmanship, with the outcome that the retail landscape is largely homogeneous and mediocre at best.

Japanese carpenter

Our unending need to buy everything that comes into fashion and to discard it just as quickly has given rise to cheap production and fast fashion in retail consumption. We want everything, we want lots of it, and when we’re bored of it – we want it gone so we can keep shipping in the next round of consumables.

Making things cheaply that resemble something good, even if they don’t perform terribly well, seems to be the new opium of the people.

Indeed, the quiet reverence of Japanese craftsmanship seems almost alien in our hyper industrialised and globalised society, which prioritises profit and production over quality and skill.
The BBC programme ultimately reflected that there is value to be gained through care, time knowledge and artistry. These are the components that equate to quality and something beautiful that can last and therefore be cherished for a lifetime.

This is an ethos that we embrace at Westbury because our products wouldn’t reach the quality they do without the hand finishing and craftsmanship that is essential in our production processes.

We also wholeheartedly believe that if you’re going to make something, then it should be something amazing, something that lasts and something that is truly beautiful. And in the face of dwindling planetary resources, the time has come to reassess our way of living and to once again prioritise the pursuit of excellence, quality, durability and precision, so that the products that we do buy into will stay with us not just for the duration of our own lifetime, but for those who come after us.