From Haymakers to Woodworkers
The barns that give us our lumber once were pillars of the rural economy in upstate New York; they were temples to the Jeffersonian ideal of the scholar-farmer, of simple communities where people help one another. Many have written a good deal about “the death of the small farm”; In Jefferson’s time, nine in every ten American workers were farmers; today, only 2% of the American population is an agricultural worker.
Rural Americans have staggered into the 21st century with a very uncertain future. Many of us have wondered just what to do; some languish in poverty, and many are looking for hope. We’ve found that hope where our way of life originates: In the barn! By reclaiming lumber from our old, gorgeous barns, we’re not only giving the wood new life as shelving, tables, and countertops: We’re giving ourselves new life.
An Alternative to “Stack ’em Deep, Sell ’em Cheap”
Reclaiming lumber is not simply a way to make a living, however; it is much more. Since WWII, many American companies have not only outsourced jobs and seriously reduced the quality of our goods; they’ve created an enormous amount of waste as well. Shoddier items and modern furnishings have not only fallen apart faster, they’ve been designed to do so. All this only to wind up in a landfill. This doesn’t seem right to us. We think it’s wiser to cut down our waste and leave the trees – not the other way around. And along the way, why not produce lasting, quality items that can be passed down from generation to generation? Sounds good to us!
Artisanship as a Response to Wage Labor
Historically, most skilled laborers and artisans have taken poorly to the transition away from autonomous craftsmanship towards wage labor. The artisan awakens when he deems fit; he works how and when he decides to, and the relationship between his work and his customers goes unmediated by management or hierarchy. Many of us at Barnwood Designs find that the transition – largely forced on the laboring classes – from freeholding craftsmen to the wage-worker untenable and at odds with a balanced life. Like Rousseau in 1749 throwing away his watch as a rejection of the scientific management of daily life by clocks and measurements, we have chosen the autonomous life of free building and tinkering – complete with long lunches, time to experiment, and a sturdy and blossoming home life. And, like Rousseau – we have no clocks in our facility.
All in the Family: Cousins, Daughters, Nephews and Uncles
Barnwood Designs has become the new family business. Where once our family had asked the children to milk cows or feed the chickens – now we are asking them to fill bags of screws, staple paperwork and hanging instructions, and stack lumber. Where once a young man may have asked his cousin or uncle for a job cleaning the barn – now they ask for a job deconstructing the barn! Through the business we do at Barnwood Designs, we are better equipped to help one another obtain dignified gainful employment, where autonomy and creativity are placed at the helm. We are teaching our children and strengthening our family, and this certain good radiates outward into the community at large.
Thank you for helping us achieve our dreams; sturdier furniture, less garbage, more dignity, and a stronger family.