Twice he chimes the spoon upon the coffee cup. He sips with his eyes closed, listening to his head beat with his heart. A heavy night; an early morning. Across from him, up against the workshop wall, is a desk lamp-lit with white light. The cloth, the patterns and his chalk awaits.
One thing at a time, he was told, there is always a journey. A history. A tradition. And though one may feel these aspects of craft slipping away, there is always its life-line - a bright thread pathing between the trees - always within reach.
Remembering once there was not a workshop but a apartment where his Master sat late in the evening with his sewing machine. He became familiar to the heavy chunking sounds and the quiet hisses of his mentor's frustration. The drift of pipe smoke. In the mornings, his Master would show what he had produced to the apprentices and would lead them though each intricate part of the garment at a remarkable, confounding speed.
“What seems to me the highest and the most difficult achievement of Art is not to make us laugh or cry, or to rouse our lust or our anger, but to do as nature does — that is, fill us with wonderment.”
—— Gustave Flaubert
That was the tradition, the way things were passed down over and over again, one generation to the next. Beautifully woven and sewn neck-ties were soft to the touch and sturdy at the neck. Tough overcoats heavy and more handsome with each winter passed. Trousers with patterns of maze-like subtlety enhanced with his human touch: years of practice turned passion turned mastery.
His Master's coveted and celebrated craft was born from a pot of esoteric cultures. Families of industrialists and aristocracies all over the world would see to it to share with him ideas on pleasures of custom elegance. Interestingly, it was the globe-trotting clientele who brought new designs and fresh ideas, which then his Master realized into physical form. It was this relationship with customers, which helped in the discovery of new techniques and paved the way for the craft to grow.
Now, the apprentice takes his seat at the workshop, grown and with years under his belt. He remembers, with a sense of irony, his mentor would say - "The man is nothing, the work everything!"