Making an Art of Work

Sometimes blog songs and blog posts go together very, very well…

I love documentaries.

Sit me down in front of The History Channel and I won’t bother you for hours.  Make it a documentary about the “family business,” and you get today’s blog post.

A young fellow named Richard Yeagley has produced an amazing film called “The Tradesmen, Making an Art of Work.”  It’s an 88-minute glimpse into the hopes, dreams, struggles, pride and humanity of plumbers, carpenters, stonemasons and painters.

“They love the work. They love the actual process of what they’re doing,” says Richard in the most recent Taco FloPro Podcast (listen to the full interview here).  “To a lot of people work seems like drudgery – they don’t really have love for the work they do.

“Tradesmen, as much as they might bemoan the physical aspects of the job, love the actual work and love the physical display once the complete the work they’re doing on any given day.”

The pride of creating something that’s permanent and of significant value comes through loud and clear in Richard’s film.

“There’s something physical and there’s something tangible to the results of your work on any given day.  There’s a satisfaction that comes from that.  You can display that to someone – ‘look what I did!’

“To be part of building…a better community is something most people would be deeply satisfied with.  In comparison, you see tons of jobs where the tangibility of your work is not actually apparent. You work all day and there’s nothing physical to show someone.  Then you start to question the purpose of your work.”

The film also does an excellent job of describing the special and very unique brand of intelligence required to be a tradesman.  It’s not just putting pipe together.

“Most people look at that type of work as just hands-on, practical knowledge, that you’re just applying that knowledge,” explains Richard.  “But there’s a great deal of conceptual knowledge that’s inherently there.

“When you look at plumbing, it’s a system that is quite valuable that’s often neglected.  The health of a nation, the health of a household depends on proper plumbing.”

And not just anyone can do it, either!

“There’s this misconception that a person doing the type of work that only includes manual aspects, like a carpenter or a plumber, doesn’t have any type of intelligence or any type of aptitude.”

One of the subjects interview in the film makes a very interesting point.  There’s a long-standing bias in the US against “blue-collar” work, which is ironic in a country that prides itself on being an egalitarian, democratic society.

The $64,000 question: Why?

“If you look at the evolution of our economy, from agricultural industries to low-tech manufacturing, then to high-tech manufacturing and eventually to a post-industrial society, the trades and tradesworkers have been lumped into that industrial society,’ says Richard.

“So in America we’re in this ‘knowledge-based’ economy, and we think we can sustain that forever.  Jobs that are ‘of the past,’ these so-called industrial jobs, are looked at as inferior. Why?”

“I have no idea!”

That’s a question we’re going to discuss this Wednesday night, October 5th.  Taco is hosting a screening of “The Tradesmen, Making an Art of Work” for 160 proud tradesmen.  After the film we’ll hold a panel discussion with Richard, Taco owner and CEO Johnny White, the one-and-only Dan Holohan and contractor and PHC News columnist Dan Foley.

For those who couldn’t make it, we’re planning on holding an online screening and panel discussion later this fall.  It’s going to be a must-see event!

And here’s a taste of Richard’s movie.  You can find more info by going to the film website here.

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