Your Artisanal Life

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
Artisan photo

I was gunning across town the other day on the way to my next meeting, when I noticed a big new sign in front of a local business establishment. “Stove and Artisan Shop” it said, in casual, pompous-looking brown letters.

I groaned out loud and rolled my eyes.

Please. I’m sorry, but isn’t this the same store, selling the same stinking wood burners and fireplace paraphernalia as before? And now, suddenly, it’s become – an artisan shop?

I found out later that the proprietor had added a section to the store dedicated to selling “American Crafts,” which, in this case, was really just homemade jewelry that somebody’s Aunt made at her suburban kitchen table.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m afraid the artisan bandwagon has arrived in town.

I immediately pulled over to the side of the road, cleared my throat and impulsively posted a snark-ridden Twitter/Facebook status that said,

“Word of the year: ‘Artisan.’ Put it before or after whatever it is you do, and you will become immediately relevant.”

Ha! There. That will show those cross-eyed trendmongers.

Surely, I can not possibly be the only person with the BS detector tuned to “haughty over-used trend.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with artisans, or the products produced by these artisanal craftsmen - and craftsladies. Sure, I get it. Small batches, hand-crafted, locally produced, it’s all good. But I seem to recall this term mostly limited to those homespun farmers and bakers selling funky cheeses and exotic breads. You know, the real deal.

But, alas, like fedora hats and big-framed hipster glasses and the little tattoo that now appears above so many ankles, they are everywhere. I wonder exactly when these things tip from genuine authenticity to copycat mimicry.

Later that day, a few replies showed up in response to my brazen Facebook status post.

Marcus Goodyear commented, “I am a Facebook artisan. I am a red pen artisan. You are a strategy artisan.”

Huh. That’s cool. He’s so good with words. He really is a red pen artisan.

Then Eric Swalberg chimed in by tweeting, “I am a poet artisan.”

Debbie Simler-Goff added, “I want to be a word artisan!”

Hey, these guys are actually running with it!

I tried to picture what it would be like to be a strategy artisan. That is my primary role, after all, in my company. I'm the Chief Strategy Guy. But could I really approach my job like that?

I straightened up and decided to give that word a little more respect. I looked up the definition:

Artisan: A worker who practices a trade or handicraft : craftsperson. A worker in a skilled trade. One that produces something (as cheese or wine) in limited quantities often using traditional methods.”

Maybe my Facebook friends are right – that there is a more profound relevance of this artisan word to our work, to our lives.

God would be the original Artisan, I suppose, handcrafting each of us with great skill and loving care - not to mention those extremely small batches. As such, each of us have been endowed with unique skills so that we might go forth and lovingly create our own handiwork in His image.

What if we viewed our jobs – all of them – as divinely artisanal?

In that case, we would put great love and care into our work. We would hone our skills to the utmost, and then carefully meld the raw materials of each day - the spreadsheets, the customer interactions, the meetings we lead - to produce the highest grade result possible.

We would leave trails of small works of art.

Perhaps life lived artisanally would be more meaningful, too. If we focused more on the quality of our output rather than the quantity, or simply as a means to an end, would we extract more joy?

Well, anyway, it’s something to think about. And now if you will please excuse me, I’m off to produce a small batch of strategy work.

Image by Graeme Maclean, used with permission via Flickr.