I have great respect for anyone who has the drive and talent to be able to forge a career as a craftsman; I know from firsthand experience that it certainly isn’t an easy path; I trained at university in jewellery and silversmithing and then tried to make a living selling my handmade silver jewellery. I failed. Sure, I could have tried harder and for longer, worked on honing my skills and maybe I could have got somewhere, but I found the whole experience quite frankly utterly disheartening and expensive and I lost any enjoyment in the craft. Traipsing around the country with your stock and display set-up to craft fairs that charge you an extortionate amount of money just to have a stall there with no guarantee of actually selling enough (or anything at all) to cover the costs was not fun, so I quit. I still make the odd piece of jewellery, for myself or as a commission but I think that I am better off just doing it as a hobby.
Therefore I like to try and support artisans where possible, not just because I know what a difficult job they are doing, but because I get so much more satisfaction from buying a carefully hand-crafted, unique object than from something mass produced; those are the items that I cherish and want to keep forever; yes they might cost more, but a true craftsman will make things that are designed to last a lifetime, or longer; you can’t say the same about something from IKEA. Take for example my kitchen table and chairs; they were hand-crafted in Colombia and bought back to the UK by my parents, who passed them on to me recently as they are downsizing. Each chair is hand carved and painted with different animals and the table is a solid lump of wood, I love them, and with the occasional coat of oil they will last forever.
So what is the point of all this rambling you might ask? Well, The Balvenie whisky has recently partnered with Michel Roux Jr to create a series of six short films titled ‘The Craftsmen’s Dinner’ which explore the true meaning of exceptional craftsmanship and highlight the quality and individuality that only artisan-produced items can provide. The series follows Michel Roux Jr as he travels the country meeting six ‘masters of craft’ from different fields – a knife maker, salmon smoker, potter, organic food producer, sparkling wine producer and The Balvenie’s cooper; the series will culminate in a three-course ‘Craftsmen’s Dinner’, cooked by Michel using produce from each of the craftsmen.
They asked me to write a post about the first film in the series which is about a knife maker. Will Ferraby Knives is one of the last remaining knife makers in the UK and the last remaining in Sheffield and his knives are seriously beautiful, and very, very sharp. I have quite a few knives in my kitchen but I only ever really use one of them – a hand forged Japanese chef’s knife; it is perfectly balanced, stays very sharp, is adaptable to most tasks and because it is made from Damascus steel that is folded and hammered many times to make it stronger and more durable, the blade has a beautiful ‘wood grain’ pattern; it feels right in my hand and I don’t like to use any other knife. It was quite expensive (a gift from my parents, so many of the nice things that I own are from them!), but when it comes to a good knife that you use daily it is so worth splashing out a bit, it makes all the difference. But as much as I love my knife, I don’t think it would be a patch on the ones that Will Ferraby makes… they are really something else, true works of art. Not only do they look good, but they appear to be just about the sharpest thing I have ever seen… they can slice a tomato cleanly in half simply by dropping it on the blade… I really want one!
You can check out the video here, and the rest of the series will be released over the next few months. The Balvenie and Foodies100 are also giving away a fab prize in “The Balvenie Craftsmen’s Dinner Competition” which offers the winner a meal for two at Le Gavroche – Michel Roux Jr’s two Michelin starred restaurant in Mayfair; you can enter the competition via the widget below.
To be in with the chance of winning a meal for two at Le Gavroche, readers must watch the series trailer, and answer the following question:
- Q: How many dishes are plated up in the kitchen during The Balvenie Craftsmen’s Dinner trailer?
How to Enter:
Watch the series trailer and leave a comment on this post with your answer.
Complete the widget with your details. Bonus entries are available
All entrants must be aged 18 and over entries close on 13th May, 2016 at 5:00pm.