Reflections on Craft

Reflecting on craftsmanship, brings to me an emergence of a cloud of calm and humility, of tradition, perseverance and patience. Along with that, the image of the old man with skillful hands, a warm look and the old workshop. But this view quickly leaves me by remembering those lines from the Notes on the Bulgarian Uprising by Zahari Stoyanov or from the observations of Nikolai Genchev and Ivan Hadjiiski. A nervous and deeply troubled old man appears in the place of the blessed, with an army of juvenile apprentices and a heavy hand that slaps behind his neck. Everyone rushes to work out the merchandise and then resents having sold it cheaply. Nobody has time to bargain because every penny and minute are valuable. The masters blaspheme those down the stairs that they are not working fast enough, breaking their fingers and wondering if those from the other store have already done a hundred times more work.

This is how I imagine the 50 shops in the Abadji chashya In Samokov at that time. Somewhere nearby 35 more leather workshops and how many more ovens, blacksmiths, papukchi and so on. I remember the Gabrovo joke that the apprentice gets his lunch by tapping bread on the outside of the olive oil bottle, the journeyman on her throat, and the master down on the stopper.

But is the goldsmith the same in that picture or the master who creates the painted carts? There is a type of work and, accordingly, products that go beyond their use. I do not imagine that the jeweler wants to be remembered for making unearthly quantities of the same necklace in no time. Value comes from working for grace. It is not even questionable that the product must be flawless in its role. What is the point of a written cart if it does not go, or of a golden vessel, if wine runs out? The other is just art.

The fine craftsmanship seems to me to be somehow inextricably linked to the rite. Simple materiality is bound to materiality again, while complex materiality goes beyond. The wood and iron plough serves to dig into the ground, but the gold engraved plough, equipped with a carved boxwood handle? What purpose would this mysterious object serve?Will you dig the yard with it, or will you decorate this act the way you decorated this tool? The simple act of digging in will become a tale of fertility and human insignificance in the face of this phenomenon; Why? Why are we looking for it?

The inexplicable within us weighs on mercilessly and we find ourselves, sooner or later, in the crying need to create or experience something over-decorated, over-rare and over-worked. Something with many intertwined sacrifices from man, animal and nature to see the complexity of being reflected in something material. It is as if you are being able to fit yourself into something for the first time visible, to arrange and look with your eyes. Finally you have the tool to handle the big field. Not just digging through the field with the old plough, but digging through fertility as an force of nature, making the big dig into a comprehensive arrangement.

But it’s all a brief moment, until you again see the field really under your feet, with your hand on the cracked handle, the end of which is the black head of the iron plough. Wondering again whether in fact this evenly tidy field is not the true mirror of what you want to see as yourself.


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