Being honest brings people together

Recently I came across 2 videos of an American pastor delivering a message to his church – one when he was younger and one now. The way he delivers has an obvious difference. He is a lot more professional now and it seemed like he is giving a stage performance more than he is delivering a message. I prefer the younger him. Seemed more honest. 

I started off in retail as a noob and I hope to remain like this forever. There are always things to learn and people to learn from. I don’t wanna get so professional in doing what I’m doing that I lose the soul of doing it – even though outwardly I may be getting better in my trade. 

The distance between 2 people can only be moved closer when both are honest. In a stage performance (be it in my shop, or in a networking session) – it is a performance. 

What happened to the retail scene?

Being someone who is ultra conservative, I am probably the worse type of person to be in retail.

I thought running a shop is simple- present a good product, customer who likes it buys. There we create trade and make a living for ourselves, or at least that is how I envisioned the retail scene to be. I thought it is as simple as buying coffee from the coffeeshop uncle. No gimmicks, no marketing, not trying to save the world… just plain coffee. But I was wrong –

  1. My coffee needs to be packed nicely, the coffee doesn’t matter, the packaging does.
  2. My coffee needs to be the best tea that anyone can have.
  3. I need influencers taking photos with my coffee.
  4. I need to go digital.
  5. My coffee needs to save the entire coffee industry.
  6. My coffee needs to be made through some collaboration scheme.
  7. I am selling another poor coffee maker’s coffee and earning his cut.
  8. I need to create a coffee exhibition/festival watever.

omg! I just wanna sell coffee.

The thing about craft

2 years ago I wrote an article on my idea of craft (or traditional crafts) and now that I’m starting a craft shop, I think it is good to revisit it. I thought my perspectives towards craftsmanship would have changed or “evolved” over the last 2 years but am surprised that I still believe and stand by what I wrote. Here’s the article –

These days I cringed when I hear the word ‘craft’ spoken or written in a way like a fashionable term. Crafted leather wallets, crafted coffee, crafted this and that… I prefer it old school. The image of an elderly man behind a potter’s wheel is still the most authentic and I’ll never allow some punks to erode this. Let me tell you why.

I had a pretty profound experience some time ago in my trip to Takaoka, Toyama when I paid a visit to the atelier of a 71 years old metal polisher. He has been in this trade for more than 50 years. Many thoughts (about craft) triggered after a pretty heavy conversation with him –

1. Craft is not human automation. Simply doing something again and again ‘without thinking’ does not make you a master craftsman but a mindless machine. He accounted how one of his counterpart with 20 over years of experience in a certain method of metal polishing was kicked out of the industry when a machine took over. Brutal. If your works can be replaced by a machine that easily, it tells a lot about the work you are doing.

2. Craft involves your entire being. Your body, mind and soul. Can you sense what is wrong with a piece of artefact even before you pick it up? Can you tell the value of a porcelain vase without looking at the price tag? It is more than an intellectual study of a selected topic, it involves all of you.

3. Craft evolves. Machines can never adapt, it can only be replaced by newer models.

4. Craft is being. He asked me, ‘I can do this my entire life and am enjoying every moment of it. How about you?’ Being a city boy, I went quiet. I need the distraction of an iPhone…

5. Craft redefines your role in the society. While many of his peers travel to the city to pursue a career, he travelled out of the city in search for solitude where he can master his trade – something that he did mindfully, almost against logic.

6. Craft commands respect. It took me a full 20 minutes of observing him at work before he decided that I am a “worthy” person to talk to. It was only then he invited me into his back room, and shared with me unreservedly, over a drip brew and lit cigarette.