Way back in September 2008 I posted about Haruo-Suekichi and his handmade watches. The watches are beautifully anachronistic, reminiscent of a steampunk influence and are usually only produced as single items, or in very small runs (no more than six or so, from memory). Haruo-Suekichi is a fascinating chap, sadly the interview I had linked to is no longer available but I did manage to find this one.
And these items are unique, made and designed with the materials and objects to hand, each individually crafted in a way that your Rolex, Omega or Cartier isn't. Yes they might not be wonderfully discrete and understated, and might be a bit awkward to wear, but they are and always will be one of a kind.
I have long been fascinated by this idea of the bespoke; hand-crafted and idiosyncratic. William Gibson, from whose blog I discovered Haruo-Suekichi, hints at this in his book Idoru, with custom, individual laptops, etc. In fact, in a technologically driven world, Gibson's books are very much about the individual, about the bespoke, with technology and functionality driven and twisted by the dynamics of personality and need and the constraints of resource.
This is echoed elsewhere, in there wonderfully realised computer pieces (below). The father of a friend of mine would build computers inside cabinets and jewellery boxes, and hated laptops so much he customised a small suitcase with the inners from a desktop, the 17" flatscreen popping up when it was opened.
In a world of standardisation there is a recognition towards this expression of individuality, with iPods that can be engraved, phones interfaces that can be skinned and laptops with designer 'hoods'. Customisation is becoming more prevalent, operating systems, cars and computer rigs have long been hacked to please the personality, fashion has ever been in the midst of the tension between the uniform and the individual, and home decorating programmes abound, all aimed at turning your Ikea flatpack home into something more unique. We attach ever more value to art and items that are 'unique', signed and numbered, one of a kind, rare and difficult to find.
I like the idea of a more bespoke world, of furniture made from what is available and computers created to suit you, rather than a demographic of you. I love the creativity and self-expression, and that minute but significant resistance to the march of normalisation and standardisation. I love the hard work, dedication and aspiration behind it, although customisation can be a simple, easy thing too.
It is not necessarily about standing out, but about not blending in. In an environment where the majority of us are time pressured by the relentless nature of society, self expression and creativity can be lost to all too rare moments. Thinking, feeling, expressing take a back seat to doing and being and living up to. Building a world to suit you isn't just about the mundane, it is also about the metaphysical and the spiritual.
Bespoke, customised and self-realised may not be the way forward for everyone, but it may be the way for you, in whatever form you want.