Walking around my local DIY store I was amazed at the range of prefabricated building materials on sale. From extruded plastic facia boards to moulded lion heads, it seems that if you want it, it can be prefabricated for you. There are even specialist companies where you can have your bespoke desires moulded and stuck together with the material of your choice. I couldn’t help but wonder what has happened to the craftsmen that used to work on our houses, people who had the skills to create what you wanted on site. Have these skills been lost over time, and is this why craftsmen are now called tradesmen? Here are some of the craftsmen that I feel have lost their craft.
I can’t help but feel that this is a complete misnomer, as most of the “decorators” I encounter these days are in fact painters. I realised how low the skill set of one firm had fallen when I asked them to hang some printed wallpaper, only to be told they would need to bring in their “wallpaper man”. I’m sorry but hanging wallpaper was something that any decorator used to be able to do. I have no idea if they would even have known what rag rolling or marbling is, and would not trust them with it if they did.
Carpentry is something that I enjoy myself, so I find it disturbing that most carpenters would have no idea how to construct something without banging nails through wood. I understand that hammering and screwing save a lot of time and actually make the work less expensive and faster, it is the fact that without a workshop and all the machinery they couldn’t even make a good mortise and tenon joint. I can still remember a carpenter coming to my childhood home and building a staircase , to finish it he carved horse’s heads on the top and bottom newel posts. He was a true craftsman, and understood what a chisel could really do.
Stonemasons and Carvers
Even though I love carpentry, it is the stone masons and carvers that I admire most. The material they work with seems unforgiving, and yet they use their craft to shape stones and rocks to build and sculpt beautiful structures. Cementing a moulded dragon’s head to you wall may look fine, but unless painted will look like the inferior product it is, and will give you no pleasure to look at. If I see a figure that is carved and has the natural finish of the stone it was shaped from, I cannot help but to be impressed by the mixture of art and craft. Stone masons do not just build things, they create them with their minds and tools.
I am not saying that there are no craftsmen left, because there are actually quite a lot of them. What I am saying is that there are far too many tradesmen, and not enough craftsmen. If you want your home to ooze class, employing one of these artisans will be the best decision you ever make.