Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

The plowman’s signature

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There is a recent book about the village of Akenfield in England, in which the author tells of the old farmers who could look at a field where ten people had plowed and tell you the name of the man who had done each furrow. In it could be felt the character of the plowman. In a similar way I have been told of Indian markets in South America where they sell rope and can tell you, just by looking at it, who made each particular piece. There is a great difference between such innate character and what is an attempt at a “personal” statement…

Those farmers in Akenfield were asked why they took such care to make furrows so precise—the precision would not yield more beans—and they answered that it wasn’t because they were paid more, it was because it was their work and they did it as best they could. It belonged to them, it was them. “It was his signature,” writes Ronald Blythe about the farmer, “not only on the field but in life.”

Bernard Leach, The Potter’s Challenge

Written by nevalalee

July 18, 2015 at 7:30 am

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