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Antiques made to order...
But beyond the kneejerk nostalgia this idea of the
hand-made induces, are there any actual benefits to such piecemeal production? After all, didn't we invent machines because they could produce things better and less expensively than humans can? Certainly there are artisans whose handiwork is exceptional, with subtleties of character that machines cannot faithfully reproduce, but generally such artisans command much higher prices for their work than a company selling to the mass market is willing to pay.
After reading page after page of the catalog's allusive prose, it begins to seem faintly ludicrous. A bed has the "character of a family heirloom." A treasure chest has "all the charm of an antique." Ummm, except for the fact that part of a heirloom's character or an antique's charm derives from how old it is, from the way it has passed from generation to generation, becoming a part of each age and each age becoming a part of it, until it is no longer simply a piece of furniture but also a record of the past and the people who populated it...
It's enough to make a nostalgia-ridden consumer think dark, reactionary thoughts. I often see such people on my own trips to the Pottery Barn, where I like to covet colorful vases and admire lamps I don't really need. These would-be revolutionaries skulk into the bright store with bad intentions, they drift to remote corners, planning to add to the "one-of-a-kind" cachet of a big blue casserole dish by carefully hand-scratching it.
But they never go through with it. Before they act, some pretty object catches their eye, something they've seen in the catalog--a carriage house lantern perhaps--and they find that when they pick it up, its "lightly distressed weathered look" is indeed "reminiscent of English countryside lamps," even if the lantern itself was actually made a week ago in some drab industrial-town factory a thousand miles away from England.