As the freezing temperatures have subsided and the sight of leaves breaking forth from their bud-shaped crypts is common, it’s officially time to resume the outdoor projects the freezing weather shut down a few months ago. As my ambition for such tasks has risen with the temperature, today was the day to begin the largest and least fun of my summer projects—shingling my garage. This wasn’t a new or unfamiliar project for me, as I distinctly remember helping my Grandpa shingle his fourplex when I was about 12 years old. That project included just a hammer and a brown paper bag so full of nails it more accurately resembled a colander than anything else. I’m not sure if he ever paid me anything for my help. I’m not sure I cared. It was fun, both to be able to hammer something with no negative repercussions from an adult as well as to spend the time working shoulder to shoulder with my Grandpa.
Unfortunately I can’t say I carried that same carefree spirit with me as I undertook today’s project. This was work work, and physically demanding work at that. I had considered employing a professional carpenter for the project, but my particular constitution has a hard time allowing (more properly, paying) someone to do something I’m capable of. In the end, or more precisely, during the project, I came to the conclusion that the greatest value I’m deriving from this project isn’t satiating my financial stubbornness, but the gain to both body and mind found in such work. Working with my hands allows my mind the freedom it needs to be introspective, creative, or simply alone with its thoughts. It’s in this time that I can ruminate on an idea or thought, which is where my best ideas tend to occur and where the most helpful changes of mind come over me.
Even more specific to the project at hand, I get to see the results of my labors. In Shop Class as Soulcraft, Matthew Crawford relates that when Henry Ford changed industry with the moving assembly line he did great damage to the coachbuilding industry as it operated at the time. These were the folks who were skilled craftsman in their field of building horse drawn coaches, but due to the changing world they had to ply their trade in the manufacture of automobiles. Their traditional method was to build an automobile from the ground up, from wheel to windshield, overseeing the job from start to finish and enjoying the satisfaction that goes along with such an endeavor, just as they would have with coaches. The assembly line removed any one person from seeing an automobile built from the ground up by assigning each person with a specialized task removed from the whole. This increased production efficiency but effectively killed the sense of accomplishment and pride in work only gained from seeing a task through from beginning to end. Sometimes it’s worth undertaking an unsavory project if for no other reason than to see it through, as in these projects in particular the benefits are often most clearly seen and appreciated in hindsight.
At Good Made Better, our values lead us at times to look beyond the utmost efficiency towards the utmost good for the business at present and into the future. Concerning manufacturing, we do what we can in house, sometimes because it’s the most efficient course, but at other times because it’s the course that brings the most satisfaction to us and invigorates and energizes what we do. For most of us, the more we can keep our eyes and hands on a project from conception to completion, the greater pride we take in the end result. We believe this makes for the best products and the happiest folks employed in their work. Happy workers have a sense of pride in what they do that ultimately paves the way for a cordial and kind interaction with the customer. This is what we aspire to.
It’s with such thoughts in mind that we’re pleased to be able to offer our second batch of “Old Man and the Sea Green” ceramic Penwells. These are limited quantity runs for one primary reason—inconsistency in kiln dried ceramics. Each piece is slightly different from the next, which is great for the sake of character, but not for efficiency. Standardized parts, like microsuction base pads, metal insert clips, and foam sleeves are no longer standard, but slightly modified to fit each individual ceramic body. If streamlined efficiency were our foremost priority we wouldn’t even consider offering these, but we do because we believe the end result is worth the additional effort, and the response we continue to receive reinforces that notion.
When we say each piece is unique, that extends beyond the glaze and may be said of each part individually. For this round we decided to use the large pen foam insert exclusively because this batch on the whole has a bit tighter dimensions than the last, and the thinner foam conforms to smaller interior dimensions better than the standard piece. The fitment will vary from piece to piece as compared to the Standard line Penwells and may not fit pens on the large side. Be sure to send us a note if you’re concerned the pen you’d like to use won’t fit and we’ll do our best to answer such inquiries.
Another, lesser appreciated value in working with one’s hands is the fatigue it blesses one with. Few things in life compare with the satisfaction of lying down for sleep after the body and mind have been fully exercised. I’ve had my share of days of mental fatigue and those of physical, and it’s in the marriage of the two that I find myself most gratified. The challenge is to find and remember that which is most fulfilling while not confusing it for that which is the easiest.