Anybody remember Jeffrey Bernard? Alas, no, I really was unwell and it was nothing to do with a surfeit of gin. I took it quite badly, too, and wasn’t the easiest or best behaved of patients…
I’ve been very down in the dumps about being laid up and – as anyone who knows me will testify – extremely bad at “doing nothing in order to heal properly”. But last week, in the midst of what I can only call “a right bollocking” by an old friend, came a ray of light.
“If you are looking for something to watch while resting, I suggest Handmade: By Royal Appointment on BBC iPlayer. I have loved the two I watched, and I think you will appreciate them too.”
Well, I’d spotted one about Steinway pianos on BBC4, but missed it and had wondered idly about watching it on iPlayer. After another lengthy snooze (for which read, “sulk”) in bed, I sneaked downstairs when Spouse went out and I switched on the tellybox. What joys were revealed! Four wonderful programmes about beautiful, handcrafted, “heritage” products. It feels almost wrong to call them “products”, as that seems to cheapen the beauty and workmanship that goes into their creation. Yes, creation. “Manufacture” also doesn’t seem to be the right word.
Best of all was the programme about John Lobb, shoemaker. Such skill and attention to detail. It was wonderful to watch and I will admit to having slightly leaky eyes. Both company and artisans are utterly devoted to their trade, which is practically a vocation; they are determined to provide the customer with the best possible product and value. And the customers respond with equal devotion. Yes, the price tag makes your eyes water when you first read it, but when you see the quality of the materials, the hours and hours of skill in making the shoes – not to mention the years spent learning the craft – and the attention to design detail to ensure that the customer gets exactly the shoes they want make the figure seem like a very good deal. Tellingly, the customers aren’t all royalty and the mega-rich. They do all, however, have one thing in common, and that’s a keen appreciation for quality in design and manufacture and a certain joy in knowing that they are helping keep skills and traditions alive and artisans in work. To me, that’s priceless.
That programme alone helped revive my passion for what I do, designing and tailoring garments that will fit them properly, last a long time and make the customer feel wonderful. Happily, my customers seem to understand and appreciate this.
My garments are not manufactured in a factory, not even a UK factory. They are made for you, by me in my studio in Cornwall. I put a lot of thought into my designs and processes in order to make the best pieces of clothing for each customer that I possibly can. All my customers are different and I really enjoy making something special for each one. I think I succeed, because so many of my first time customers are introduced by other, longstanding customers and usually go on to develop the two-way working relationship that makes my job so rewarding.
I love what I do and I can’t wait to get back to it, hopefully for a couple of hours tomorrow!