Sunday, 12 December 2010

On Value

I wrote recently about the perception of value. 
We live in a world that  thrives on disposable artifacts that we value very little. We see blemishes as reason enough to discard all manner of items. Things, all manner of things, are cheap and easy to acquire.  Yes, we moan about how much everything costs, but in reality we are rich beyond the dreams of our forebears.
Nobody forces us down the mines as tiny children. We don't grow up malnourished, our bones bent from rickets, humble peasants like myself can travel to foreign lands, I even have my own horseless carriage. 
In an earlier time, goods were made to last, furniture was handed down for generations. I wonder how many of today's "designer" artifacts will survive into the next century. Will your grandchildren squabble over possession of your antique ikea bedstead?

The picture below is not a good one, I took it in low light, with reflections, I'm sure a google search would find a better example, but for my purposes, I prefer it as it is. 
Here we have a Chinese bowl. I can't be a hundred percent sure, I'd say Sung dynasty, and at some point it was dropped and broken. Someone valued it so highly, that the shards were gathered up, and a repairer was summoned to reassemble it, drilling and joining the pieces with wire staples, maybe gold, maybe bronze, from below, and filling the crack-lines with urushi lacquer, (made from tree-sap), mixed with powdered gold. This was a slow, painstaking repair, an art of itself. 

Where, to us, cracks imply worthlessness, the gold-filled cracks in this pot tell us a story of how someone loved it, how it was nursed back to health, treated with gold, and restored to its position as a treasured possession.

The gold,  apart from being in itself a decoration and a statement of wealth,  serves another very real purpose. It shields the lacquer from the destructive effects of ultraviolet light in sunlight, and also strengthens it. Perhaps it protects somewhat against heat too. 
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