I really enjoyed this story, Tales of Things, on the radio on my way home this evening. It’s about a resale shop in the UK where a digital artist recorded the histories of the things that people were bringing in to be donated. Hearing the personal experiences with the random objects being donated (a stuffed bear, a striped sweater, a handbag) gives them an added dimension, one invoked by another person’s memory, and lends an intimacy to an otherwise cast-off thing.
It made me think about the pasta makers in Italy, the olive oil producers in Spain and the Basque fishermen that we talk about to our customers in the Deli. We like to know who are producers are so that we can tell people about where the food comes from. Through the telling of a personal experience of being in the fields where the wheat was grown and then in the warehouse where the resulting pasta was slowly drying, or being on the port where the fish are brought back from being caught, or knowing the history of the family growing the olives, it lends an assumed familiarity to an innate object. To me, its value is increased by tying it to a living person whose mission it is to make that one thing the best that they can. Sometimes I feel like we’re selling art, and we are- the humble art of craftsmanship. The humble, unsigned work of sometimes generations of people who have refined their skills and become experts at what they do. There is a trust to that.