The essence of being artisanal can be best described as something specially made by hand or through traditional methods without the use of machinery. But why is this significant and why should anyone care?
Artisanal objects, perhaps edible like loaves of bread or wearables like leather loafers, are made (by artisans) with time-honored skills that take years or even decades to hone. Being highly specialized in the crafting of one thing by hand is an unusual ability in the modern world. It is in this way that artisans stand in contrast to today’s overwhelming dependence on technology, short attention spans, and the need to obtain things quickly.
Take for instance the aforementioned example of bread. An ordinary loaf of bread that is industrially made and available on the shelf of any supermarket is produced quickly, easily, and most likely without or with little human touch. Conversely, an artisanal loaf of bread is made in small quantities of hand-kneaded dough. When the dough is then left to rise, its success in rising is dependent on how it was kneaded by the artisanal bread maker and conditions like the temperature and humidity of the room where it is left to rise. A bread maker must learn how to temper this process, and then bake the dough in a properly heated oven to render the perfect loaf. The bread maker is wholly reliant on his own senses and skills that took time to develop.
So, why is this significant?
Although the artisanal bread maker may make many loaves of the same kind of bread, each loaf is unique unto itself because of its handmade essence. The specialized skills and care taken to make the bread gives it an intangible value. This intangible value is a quality that is absent from any industrially made or mass-produced bread and this is what makes it special. These same principles apply to anything that is artisanal whether it’s loaves or leather loafers.
It is important to support artisans and their respective crafts since they are becoming fewer and fewer. Their talents are what breathe life into cherished objects. What they make is meant to last a long time or to please the palate. Supporting artisans means sustaining traditions and talents for years to come.