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No machine comes between the artisan and the object of her ardor.
Any company that can mail out thousands of catalogs
across the country and confidently claim "We have a store near you" is not really in the business of selling hand-made, one-of-a-kind items. Indeed, the Pottery
Barn now has over 60 stores throughout America, with ambitious plans for many more. It is a big company, owned
by an even bigger company--Williams-Sonoma.
It purchases and/or produces items with production
runs in the thousands, and then it sells these items to consumers via a sophisticated distribution network
that utilizes all the tools of modern corporate industry.
In addition, any company that markets its wares on a
microseasonal basis (I expect the Late Fall edition
of the catalog to hit my mailbox any day now, and the Early Winter one to follow in a few weeks) is not in the
business of selling tradition.
Instead, the Pottery Barn--like so many companies in this product-saturated, post-necessity, hyper-consumerist era, is in the business of selling notions. There's nothing wrong with this, of course, but it does tend to make the copy in its catalog appear increasingly suspicious. For example, who exactly are the "Italian artisans" and "Indian textile artists" that receive such frequent mention within the catalog's pages? Is this the language they use to describe themselves? Or do they merely consider themselves factory workers cheaply turning out chairs for overseas markets? Or maybe even dirt-poor exploited laborers?
And what is this fetish for the hand-made? Throughout the catalog, items are variously described as being "hand-carved, hand-turned, hand-stitched, hand-hooked, hand-knit, hand-waxed, hand-hammered, hand-forged, hand-spun, hand-woven, hand-rubbed, hand-blown, hand-embroidered, hand-tufted, hand-finished, hand-quilted, hand-loomed, hand-trimmed, hand-painted, and hand-cut." O.K., O.K., we get the point: no sterile, prophylactic machines have come between the artisan and the object of his or her ardor...