Tag Archives: craftsmanship

Bespoke Design

Bespoke: bih-spohk, adj.
“made to individual order”

The origin of the word comes from the verb bespeak, such as giving an order for something to be made.

This has been a common word in British English and is only getting some acceptance in the United States. Although historically used for articles of clothing, it has gained wider usage to include many one-of-a-kind designed items, such as computer software and furniture. The word not only suggests that a higher level of quality is expected, it also implies that the customer’s individual needs are taken into consideration. This is in contrast to mass-produced goods intended toward a standardized taste.

The word “artisan” has been adopted by small-run cheese makers, distillers, bakers and other industries and might possibly mean that  a human being actually touches (and inspects) the goods before they are ready to be sold (whether or not they truly excel in their field). Other terms, such as “custom made” (or custommade) lack the same glamor that “bespoke” has. For instance, one can get an equally shoddy product made in a different size or color and consider it to be custom-made. That is not always the case, of course, but for want of a word that conveys when a craftsman really listens to a client and delivers the very best of their work, bespoke remains the best word choice.



The Elusive Nature of Quality

Demilune table

"Millenium" demilune table

I make things. Although I do make sculptural and jewelry items, I also make a variety of things that fall into the category of “functional art”. While in the process of making something, there are numerous decisions that get made along the way that can affect the outcome of the finished project. Many of these decisions pertain to the quality of the product. It is important to me that I make things well.

The term “quality” has two aspects. The first aspect is measurable. For example, in the case of a table, the flatness of the top and evenness of legs can be measured. So can its load-bearing abilities, its height and other practical concerns related to its function.

The second aspect of quality is more elusive and much more subjective. Much like beauty, our measurement of this aspect is measured internally by our responses to it. We perceive something and interpret it. Our interpretations are swayed by our previous experiences. How many tables have we seen? How does this compare to previous tables? Does the form evoke any feelings? When presented with an object, we approach it with certain expectations. When the perception of an object exceeds our expectations, the object is deemed to have “high quality”.

When artists get together and talk freely, there is often a discussion about how our best work is yet to come, or how we feel that we are always on a course for improvement in our work. Every day is a new day, fresh because it is enhanced by experiences from all the days before it. Any kind of undertaking, when accomplished, brings a unique set of lessons from the experience. Artists get better by making more.

One pair of gates, full view

A pair of old gates

This is a full view of one of the gates I mentioned previously. There is nothing extravagant or outlandish about it. The artisan who crafted it remains annonymous. It is the subtle details that I admire most.

I’m new at this. . .

You may check out the rest of my blog for more delicious metalsmithing topics by clicking the link.

Soapstone is a predominant feature of any blacksmith’s design process. A naturally occuring mineral, it is highly effective at creating white lines that will withstand the heat of the forge. Likewise, it is very handy at making notations on the floor during the design process.