There’s undeniably a renewed interest in craft today, the catalyst of which can be credited to the events of the last year. Now, at Kirk Originals, we know all too well about this given the quality of our Handcrafted collection and have championed the art for some time now. In his latest Journal article, Ben St George extols the virtues and nuances of handmade frames and how ennobling they are in such a disposable world.
When I was 10 years old, my teacher took me aside one day and told me what must have surely been obvious for some time – I needed glasses, and badly. I naturally reacted with grace befitting my age – “it’s you who needs glasses, lady!” et cetera – but she was very, incontrovertibly right. In fact, I needed more than one pair as my sight began deteriorating so quickly that I had to change them half a dozen times a year. So, it’s fair to say that I don’t see so well and that I’ve had a chance to wear a few different frames in my time. In fact, for my entire adult life, whether they’ve been sun or optical, I’ve basically been wearing glasses.
There are few things you can wear that are more intimate than eyewear. You see the world through them, and the world sees you as well. They can frame or sculpt your face; add softness or severity. They affect how people conceive of you as a person in a way that is far more fundamental than any item of clothing. And it’s precisely because of this intimacy that investing in something Handcrafted, something that has a human, personal touch, is so valuable, because what you wear on your face becomes a part of you in a way no other accessory can.
Touch and tactility are such fundamental parts of appreciating something that’s been crafted by hand. When I put on Harvey (for daily wear) or Granger (for wartime), I can feel the frames’ unique weight and balance; their reassuring heft. I can understand the dozens of hours that master craftspeople have spent meticulously heating, curving and shaping the arms by hand. I understand the difficulty and complexity of grinding and polishing the bridge by hand because I can feel that craft and care when I put them on. And ‘by hand’ really is the key phrase here – we live in this foul year of our Lord, 2021, and sadly many of us barely even write by hand any more. When one looks at the gentle, precise curves of a pair of Reed frames, and considers that every contour has been shaped through handcraft, using naught but sight, touch and experience, it is a truly humbling experience.
There are few craftspeople in the world even capable of such construction, and Kirk Originals is fortunate to work alongside them. Each individual pair takes over seventy man hours to construct, and those hours are predicated on a lifetime of experience - experience that should rightly be celebrated and is today in desperately short supply. And indeed, seventy hours is nothing compared to the time one might spend wearing a good pair of frames. Even if you’re lucky enough to only need to wear them in the sun, if you’re anything like me that tends to be most of summer spoken for.
I consider myself lucky that my glasses no longer need changing with every two months, that I now have both opticals and sunglasses that can see me through a myriad of both weather conditions and social engagements. And I don’t want to change them, I invested in pieces that I knew would last, that said something about me, that made me feel connected to a world of artisanal craftsmanship that I’m proud to support. There’s something ennobling about wearing something so special and so authentic, in a world of myriad, nominally disposable pretenders. After all, if we consider our eyes to be windows to the soul, then surely what we wear with them should carry the same import.