Shopping! A girl’s favorite pastime. Losing time while you’re wandering through the aisles. Then locking eyes with a Metalkraft BTS 51 stationary belt-sander and thinking: “Oof baby, wanna come home with me?

Modern tools have made my job so much easier. Much of the carving, drilling and milling is now done with mechanized tools. This not only speeds up the process, but our bodies greatly appreciate it. Even sanding can be done with a machine. Although you have to be careful! Before you know it, you’ve sanded away your entire sculpture. Bit of an overkill, if you ask me.

Despite all of the developments we’ve made throughout history, at the core my job is still the same. This also means that much of that job involves obstacles no tool can fix. They don’t require electricity. They require simple brain power. But currently I’m dealing with a technical problem I don’t know how to solve. Yet. There are some ideas running through my head, but I’m too nervous to try them out right now, afraid as I am that I’ll ruin the work I’ve already done. I need to build up some courage first. How does one find the nerve? The boldness. Dare I say heroism, or daring tenacity of the lion’s heart that can be found within each of us! … Well.. By avoiding the- uhm – problem and work on something else entirely.

Hero’s Journey My Butt

Yup, I’ve been procrastinating this past week. It’s not as bad as it sounds (I say, to immediately justify my behavior). There was another project I worked on instead. But in order to silence the creepy voice personifying the pointedly ignored issue that kept whispering: “I’m still heeeeeere”, I did listen to an unnatural amount of history documentaries about artisans and crafts.

With machines and computers taking over most of manual labor, today’s society has placed great emphasis on mental intelligence. The higher the education degree, the greater the respect that follows. Generally. We look down on our ancestors for not knowing as much as we do. Thinking that those who came before were stupid and superstitious, because they ‘simply didn’t know any better’.

While listening to a documentary, I heard Richard Sennet (professor of sociology) say this: “Personally, I don’t think we live in a skilled society anymore. If you look at the computer: How many of us know actually how to program it. Objects being ‘user-friendly’ means we don’t really understand what we’re using.”
Another documentary kept commenting on how craftsmen needed both skillful, intelligent hands, but also a high IQ. Every new project, required problem solving skills and all crafts came with an abundance of theoretical knowledge.

Who Doesn’t Love Pictures, Eh?

Just looking at artworks from long ago, is proof enough. Take this one for example:

These thin, embossed gold ornaments were found in the burial chamber of a Celtic chieftain near Hochdorf an der Enz in Germany. The man had lived during the Hallstatt culture period and probably died somewhere in the 530’s BC.
The thinness of the gold plaques, and the crisp details are absolutely spectacular. Keep in mind that these were created during the Iron Age. The artisan was not in possession of any of the mechanical tools that we now have. The first – water powered – rolling mills weren’t invented until the late 17th centuries, so metal sheets had to be hand-hammered. Looking at how ridiculously thin and even the gold plating of these ornaments are, the artisan who created these, was one of the finest to ever walk our earth.

Another marvel that I wanted to share, was created much later, but no less spectacular:

This is the Kailasa temple, at the Ellora caves in India. The entire structure was carved in one piece out of a basalt rock cliff face. It is 32 meters high and together with the Ellora caves, ranges over 2 kilometers. Most of the excavation of this temple is attributed to King Krishna I and it is thought to be completed in the 8th century.

Wax On Wax Off, Mr. Miyagi

These numbers are  just that: Numbers. I have no idea how they even began working on this project. All they had were hammers and chisels. How do you stand in front of a cliff face and think: “Right, this is going to be Nan’s room, walls heavily decorated both inside AND out of course. And facing her door, I want an obelisk with my name on it. Times New Roman, font size 30. No spelling errors.” The level of ingenuity is insane.

People throughout the ages have been masters at problem solving. They may not have known about bacteria or molecules, but they were able to perform feats we now say are impossible. In some ways, they were a lot smarter than we are. After a week of being absolutely pummeled with examples of people doing a lot more with a lot less – pep talk! – I think it’s time for me to put on my big girl panties. Let’s get those brains into gear!

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