by Paula on August 4, 2011

Having organised several clusters of childcare over the holidays I found this week that every one of the 5 clients I was working with wanted to meet with me at a time I had no childcare. I then of course found myself with additional time on my hands when my son was at his summer school – sigh, doesn’t life just work that way?!

I therefore decided to indulge myself with a trip to Spike Design to take advantage of their monthly open days and attended a lunch-time talk by a Bristol designer, Nick Hand. A friend asked why the talk about a designer cycling his way around Britain would have any use or relevance to what I do. A good question indeed but my answer was:

My business is about people, so a person talking to people about his experiences with people couldn’t be a better place to listen and learn!”

I have long since learnt through life, business and being a parent that the things you think people hear and take away from what you say are very often different from the things you think they will hear. I started by making notes on things that stimulated my thoughts for future blogs, and then decided to incorporate all the points into a “What I learned from Nick Hand” blog just to show the diversity of information that you can learn from, if you are listening in an open way.

Quote from Richard Sennett

The first thing that Nick shared with us that struck a chord with me was a quote from a man called Richard Sennett from his book, The Craftsman.

“Most of us have to work but is work just a means to an end? In trying to make a living, have we lost touch with the idea of making things well?”

Richard Sennett refers to the maker of Stradivarius violins. A master craftsman who takes pride in the quality of his work. While Social Media is not a craft it is something that takes us time, and requires thought. Do you treat it like something of great quality and ensure that it is the best it can be and achieving the right results, or is it something that you do in a slapdash fashion, just to tick a box….? Each thing that you choose to put your valuable time to should be something you are proud of and pleased to be associated with. Half-hearted will never win fans or make you feel good.

Howie’s Catalogue

The next thing that struck a chord was Nick’s sharing of his experience working for Howie’s organic clothing company, way back when they were a small business starting out, and long before they were bought by Timberland. Nick told us about his work producing their first catalogue. They told him: “We want it to be 70% non-product, and 30% product”. The catalogue Nick produced had tales of travels, stories of people that had been met, and anecdotes on life and business, with a smattering of products in amongst it. How forward-thinking! At a time when most people would want 100% sales and offer nothing further to the reader, how refreshing that they recognised that people want to be sold a lifestyle, an experience, a bond, before they spend money on a product. Exactly what businesses are attempting to do now through Social Media.

Handing down of skills

Nick talked to us about the crafts people he’d met and how their skills were learnt from their elders and then handed down from generation to generation. Blacksmith, carvers, glass blowers, crocheters, all learning their trade, perfecting it and handing it down. He touched on these lost skills as fewer and fewer people take the time to learn them. Today, we are far too busy speeding through life and wanting things urgently and cheaply rather than well made. It struck me that this is the case with a lot of professional skills too. Photographers, web developers, designers who have learnt their craft are being under-utilised as people DIY and have a go themselves. Not really understanding the quality and time and effort that goes into these things, but taking advantage of free software to become experts. And yes, often they can knock something up that will do, but the real skills and the expertise that brings these craftspeople to their jobs is often overlooked. This is a shame. What do we then hand down, what do we have to show others and be proud of, will their come a time when people don’t know how to do things well anymore because there’s no value in their skill…?

Bill Bontoft, Stick Maker

The last thing I want to share is the tale of Bill Bontoft the Stick Maker who Nick met and interviewed on his journey. What made me smile and reached out to me was that he has never advertised, never had a website, never made a cold call. All he has is a little handwritten postcard on his front door saying “I am a stick maker” and he has sold his sticks all over the world. I struggle to think of a more fabulous example of the power of word of mouth than that. :-)


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{ 1 comment }

Nick Hand August 5, 2011 at 8:58 am

Thanks Paula, what a lovely blog, and I feel honoured that you took some precious free time to come and listen and hear about my adventures. I’ve talked about the trip a few times now and I always love talking about the people that I met, because they are so inspirational. Someone asked me a question that threw me a bit ‘did I consider myself an artisan?’ And I’ve thought about that a little more since. I think now that I consider myself more of a storyteller. Because I think that so many of the makers have powerful stories to tell. Even little nuggets like the pen knive maker (Trevor) in Sheffield at 70, talking about how he learnt everything from one master craftsman. And so I think it’s my job to tell those stories. And I hope that we can learn from them and look towards a slower, more considered way of doing things.
Thanks again. Nick

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