Craftwork and the Globality of Crafts

Interview from the book “You Are Responsible”

How do you define craftwork?

The word craft has historically been perceived as hand labour. Each task that a human undertakes, a task wherein he develops his talents, always initiating from the irrepressible will, I say is a craft. It is based on an individual talent: banking in the purest and most honest form can be called a craft, driven and caring personal in an elderly home is craftwork, just as a teacher who inspires his students is working his craft. And indeed, men who perform manual labour with pride are craftspeople.

Besides, it is not a static matter. By working and sharing your craft you derive nutrition from impressions in your daily life, you receive inspiration from other people. These insights strengthen the individual to ground his or her craft even more thoughtfully - with more joy for the work - in the world. Métier is built through vécu. A craft is not solely ‘going to work’, a craft you experience. Summarized: craft is honorable, it is a word that describes how someone creates a form that carries his or her talents. It encloses all professions there are, as long as they grow from the irrepressible will of the individual.  

Does each individual have a craft to fulfil?

Those who don’t, estrange themselves from themselves. The irrepressible will you can avoid but not get away from. It a matter of detecting as early as possible the irrepressible will. The earlier one sees it, the more emotional comfort the individual experiences within himself. Life is an enterprise, and practicing entrepreneurship is fulfilling your craft.

How do you envision this as a system?

I envision a global craftsmanship wherein local talent develops and connects itself with other talents near and far. It is a question of offering solutions for the long term. This does not happen with big corporations that need to stay around for a long, just because of the fact that they need to stay around. I remember a story of a consultant that was fired because his advices were too solution-oriented which led to the client not needing the company anymore because his solutions were too sustainable. The task of the consultant was to keep on creating questions with the client, not to offer final solutions. Such reflexes dominate in large corporations, but they are not the future.

When you order a new table with your carpenter, it would not serve you when the legs aren’t strong enough to hold the top. In the current way of thinking we see this as self-evident. You enter a computer store, buy a tablet and already know that the battery of the thing will only last you two years. You buy a solution, a tablet, and with this purchase you have immediately created the demand for your next purchase. Long-term thinking is striving for serviceable and sustainable solutions with people who practice a craft from their identity, and where needed, support each other. It is the bringing together of national and international expertise to continuously come up with improved solutions. It concerns to the need for local entities that are self-sustaining, but that links themselves to collaborators in a context of a concrete, durable and temporary project that helps all participants.

What with the people who just work, solely to earn money and to live, no more than that?

If you say this or ask, it feels as if we are talking about the man who does the ‘daily work’, who just hustles to survive. This attitude we observe in all layers of society. What it is all about, is leadership. Leadership is not given to everyone, and at the same time it is up to the leaders to inspire others. Inspiring you only do by detecting talents, making people conscious of their talents, by building in them the confidence to implement those talents, with as a support stable leadership. There is no shame in a need for structure and leadership, and especially not if this is a context wherein individual talent can unfold itself.

What are the crafts of our region in an international context?

History has demanded us to constantly adapt, to survive. That is our strength. The strength of our region at the same time is our weakness because it certainly has not led to a pride of identity. An identity that is necessary to claim a spot. To state it simply: the New-Zealander is proud of his kiwi, the Scot of his single malt. Beautiful products, but are they more exceptional than the apple or our jenever? Conclusion for Flanders: there is a lack of pride of identity. Flanders over-compensates its flexibility by a sour underdog attitude. Let us leave this mindset behind us. What is needed, is that Flemish people inject their identity, their pride, in their crafts. Because craftwork is in our roots. We are no country of multinationals. We are a region of crafts and for centuries we have been praised for it. The task in our region therefore is to respect the creation of these crafts through our roots and talents.

The opportunities are endless. Take music. From Brel to Rocco Granata, Adama to Arno, Maurane to Axelle Red, Milow to Stromae: proud of their craft they became international stars. They wrote a song, they had an authentic sound, but it was and is more than the symbiosis of music, text and voice. They also followed up all other elements of their craft. From marketing to distribution, creative strategy for the future, the people they wanted or did not want to collaborate with. Nothing is being imposed on them because they will not allow it. Those who are proud of their craft do not allow that he becomes a toy of large international structures. The individual decides, in line with his or her identity and irrepressible will.

Olivier Goetgeluck