Craftsmanship And Commodities

Eleven years ago I bought a rain jacket from Tentsmiths. They call it a Watchcoat and it’s made out of oiled cotton. I’ve always hated nylon rain gear because of it’s noise, and this one is quiet. I wear it with a wide-brimmed rain hat, and have used it hard every year I’ve had it. I’m wearing it in the picture above from 2007, taken on a trip in northern Quebec and showing me and my friend Shel Abelson.

This past year I put a rip into one of the shoulders. Nothing bad, but the fabric is starting to wear out so I figured I should probably invest in another one since I wear it a lot during the warmer seasons.

A few weeks ago I was in North Conway to record a radio interview about our Self Reliance Workshop Series. The studio is just a few miles from Tentsmiths, so I decided to stop in to say hello. I’ve purchased several of their tents over the years, and have always been impressed with the quality and attention to detail.

I went in and spoke to Deborah Marques, one of the owners. I got a big hug and we talked for about 20 minutes catching up on family news, etc. I told her how well the coat had worked for me over the years, and that I wanted to buy another one. She took my old one and said they’d patch it, then got me fitted with a new one. As our visit wound down, I thanked her and asked her how much the new Watchcoat was. She said that she wouldn’t take any money for it, or for the repair.

There’s something special about working with craftsman. Walking into their shop felt like walking into the home of an old friend. In many ways, it was. I do shop at the big box stores for some items, but not when I can help it. There’s something that deeply agrees with me when I can go and meet the person who made my stuff. A big part of it is building that relationship with them. At the big box stores, the item is just inventory and I’m another nameless customer. Here, it was a hug, a conversation, and then a raincoat made right there in the shop.

We live in an era when craftsmanship is being replaced by commodities and globalism, fueled by huge companies looking around the world for the cheapest possible way to produce something. But there’s more to an item than just price.

  • It matters where things come from.
  • It matters who made them.
  • It matters how they were made.

If you’re ever in the market for a tent or an oilskin rain coat, get in touch with Tentsmiths.

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