This painstakingly hand made mixture of walnut, brass and steel, stamped with the initials of its maker and the number of its making represents something essential and something of a narrative that is more and more necessary in my mind.
I mean essential on several levels here too; first and most importantly, this is made to do something well- it’s a hand tool that has been conceived of, prototyped, refined and produced by one man who has been making what I think are some of the best examples of the Windsor chair style made in our lifetime.
Secondly, it has been born not from some frenzied free market obsessed recognition of fiscal opportunity from someone who needs PR and branding to tell them what to make and how to talk about it in order to generate sales from retail zombies (I’m definitely not talking about Apple here…)
This ‘thing’ is the result of hours and hours of work over the years making chairs, refining the form, listening to the feedback through fingertips, teaching the craft and openly giving away the secrets and discoveries that describe the behaviour of the true craftsman. Like all true masters, they never refer to themselves in such terms.
Widening the focus a step, you can see that this is something that has sprung from need – Pete Galbert needed a tool that would do something very specific for him, so he made it. Having made it, the people he taught to make chairs asked him for it, so he had no choice in the matter really. He makes them, with some help from other craftspeople, and sells them for an extremely fair price to those who are inspired by the desire to make things well and by the desire to give of their earnings to someone who gives at least as much as they take.
Now I don’t want to embarrass Pete here, and if he reads this I bet he’ll blush a little – who wants to be trumpeted about horribly in this way – my sincere apologies. However he has given me a perfect example of how an unstinting commitment to any task generates ideas and inventions that spring directly from the necessary ; this is totally in contradiction to the way in which the majority of our global manufacturers now operate – the fascism of growth dictates the pursuit of the unnecessary – pharmaceuticals pathologising the normal, holidays, purchases, renovations, car fleet renewals, designed obsolescence- shit, there’s really no end to this madness when you start a list.
So it’s time to start re-diversifying our understanding of currency; I think there was a time when there were many currencies available to us that were ends in themselves and that made life good- food, beauty, learning, the communication of the sacred, the ridiculous, livestock, help and on and on. Nowadays we are taught to think, ‘ how can I turn all of these that are available to me into money’, and I think it is this reduction of everything to banknotes that leads to the deep disillusionment of the young. It’s no wonder they want to get lost in Facebook.
So in my ideal world, business folk would start off by identifying something that is truly necessary – preferably something they are personally interested in, examine the communities they are looking to operate within and design their business plan to stay rooted in the Real.
Is that too much to ask?