Now here is something you may not know .....
Each year in France, prestigious prizes are awarded to men and women who excel in their trade or craft. The winners have to be officially recognised as 'craftsman or craftswoman', and the prize is the result of a strict competition that can demand years of preparation.
The winner of one of these prizes gets to call him or herself 'meilleur ouvrier de France' [best craftsman of France], and is allowed to use the official logo on their stationery. They keep their title for life, and can wear the small and distinctive MOF bronze medallion.
The Society of the 'Best Craftsmen of France' has a fine motto:
"Constantly searching for progress and perfection"
So who can take part in these competitions? This year over 150 crafts and trades are eligible: competitors have to be aged 23 or over. The trades include chocolate confectionery, metalwork, clock making, glass engraving; millinery crafts ...... I could continue for a long long time ...
The exam subjects are published for all to consult: candidates could be asked to create a remarkable flower arrangement; a work of art from mosaic tiles; an elegant pair of shoes; the most delicious baguette of fresh bread; the perfect chocolate cake or intricate stone carving.
Whatever the subject, it is the student who has to cover the cost of the materials, and find the time to prepare him or herself for the competition. Not always easy or convenient when they are running a small and young business.
So why am I telling you this? Because I think- in today's fast and furious world - that it says something about a country when some of its most prestigious prizes are given to artisan workman who can work magic with their hands.
I love the aura and respect that surrounds this tradition. I love the pride of a craftsman who displays this recognition of his skill and knowledge. Personally I have met a couple of 'Meilleur Ouvriers': one was a tailor, another a baker and even our farrier, who received the title when he started out shoeing horses many years ago, and still displays the logo on his business card.
So today, when technology increasingly dominates our daily life, and children seem to be spend less time creating with their hands, let us pause for a moment and think about the skills we see around us, and about the patience and dedication required to obtain them. If young craftsmen weren't willing to train and learn for years, then so many crafts could disappear for ever.
Be thankful for craftsmen today! :)