12-02-2014, 12:33 AM
#1
  • Shaun
  • Senior Member
  • St Peters, NSW, Australia
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Some of you may know I come from a philosophy background, but also an art history background (I used to lecture on the history of aesthetics), but this shaving interest of mine goes a little beyond merely collecting and using old, restored objects. Something else grips me by the knurling Smile Many here share the same feeling: using an historical object, and the particular resonance it generates...the history of the object, its beauty...whose razor it once was...what were their lives like? etc. This is of particular significance to me when it comes to service-issue materials, and I think for obvious reasons. In any case, I was wondering about this quality of old, historical objects, and I recalled Walter Benjamin's take on such matters:

Walter Benjamin, German literary critic:

"The auratic authority around an object, then, is [...] not generated by something inside the object as if it were magic, but rather through an 'ornamental halo' accrued through the object’s testimony to a period of history. The fact that the object was there in a certain corner of historical time is what affords it any more authority than an identical object which did not experience that history...".

But the same, I think, would apply to new objects such as those that continue to be made in the exact, same tradition (such as the Simpson brush?). Not sure. Perhaps it's why I prefer genuine butterscotch from the Somerset period, for example.

I realise Benjamin spoke of the 'loss of aura' in the age of mechanical reproduction, however, he seems to be making something of an exception, above. Old razors were mass produced, yes, but by dint of the fact of their history, they seem to acquire this 'aura' he speaks of, over time. 'Authenticity' is generated by the fact of them being both old and having been handled by men (and women) from sometimes generations long past. They were mass-produced, but seem very singular, these razors, depending on their age and scarcity. Powerful, even.

I'd be interested in your comments, reader.

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 12-02-2014, 04:46 AM
#2
  • tave
  • Mr whiskers
  • baltimore
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i agree that there is something "magical" in using a 100 yr old Gem or a Gillette that some soldier used in both World Wars. Just to think that perhaps there is some karma related to the person who used them.
In a similar light, shaving with a modern EJ or Merkur also has its own attraction in that they demonstrate a willingness by the manufacturer and buyer to continue the tradition.IMHO this is what makes it so attractive to us.

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 12-02-2014, 08:05 AM
#3
  • Johnny
  • MODERATOR EMERITUS
  • Wausau, Wisconsin, USA
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Shaun, that was a nice read.

To me, being mass produced is also part of history, the Industrial Revolution, etc...

As for as history and meaning I can only reflect on my Father. Whether it be the Schick I2 that he gave me for my 15th birthday, the Schick G3 that he used during WWII, or the Gillette Super Speed that he bought right after buying a new car in 56. The I2 and SS I remember well because I was there.

I enjoy my shaves with my current 37G and Feather Artist Club SS but I must say, there is something special about shaving with the G3 or SS. Just knowing that a man I admired so much held them in his hand and ran them down his face makes the day start out so much better.

I just hope that someday my son's or grandson's can enjoy all of these the way I do.

It's not world earth shattering history, but it is a history I can hang on to. And for that I am ever grateful.

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 12-02-2014, 08:21 AM
#4
  • kav
  • Banned
  • east of the sun,west of the moon
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Mass production is no guarantee of commonality. How many classic VW beetles do we see on the road today? How many will we see in another generation?
In my avocation, I've excavated everything from a Pliocene bison kill site with Folsum points still sharper than a hollowground straight to a prostitute's crib under a L.A. freeway cloverleaf under the latest 'occupational layer' of homeless people.
We THINK ourselves special because we can think about multiple future possibilities and the big inevitable one.
But it was quite possibly the loyalty of Dogs that invented LOVE and birds the idea of Mozarts.
Our artifacts DO become more magical than Harry Potter's wand. It's revealing that magic to the latest generation with the eternal craze for the new and shocking that takes a unspoken spell.

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 12-02-2014, 10:11 AM
#5
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It is fascinating how we look at things/life and impart perspectives. It is much more challenging not to as if we don't, we might loose a certain connection, in a way.
Nonetheless, regardless of the thing being used/regarded, if we just acknowledge its use and determine if it serves its purpose, we can still value it for what it accomplishes, irrespective of its history. It is simply well-made/effective or not, to each one of us. Then, we can add any history/views/sentiments to it as we determine appropriate. Many times, we contemplate things more than we should and we forget how simple things can be. Nevertheless, what do I know?!

Good thing there isn't as much cerebral contemplation while shaving! Biggrin

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 12-02-2014, 11:29 AM
#6
  • SRNewb
  • Senior Member
  • No. Va, USA
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This is one of the reasons I prefer vintage razors. They are old warriors, sometimes with irreversible battle scars, but they've been "around the block" a time or two, and are testimony to the past, as well as to a pride of workmanship that was, sad to say, a much more common thing when they were new.

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 12-02-2014, 01:15 PM
#7
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(12-02-2014, 11:29 AM)SRNewb Wrote: This is one of the reasons I prefer vintage razors. They are old warriors, sometimes with irreversible battle scars, but they've been "around the block" a time or two, and are testimony to the past, as well as to a pride of workmanship that was, sad to say, a much more common thing when they were new.

Couldn't have said it any better.

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 12-02-2014, 06:00 PM
#8
  • Mel S Meles
  • On the edge, ouch
  • 44.4899° south of the North Pole
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(12-02-2014, 12:33 AM)Shaun Wrote: Walter Benjamin, German literary critic:

"The auratic authority around an object, then, is [...] not generated by something inside the object as if it were magic, but rather through an 'ornamental halo' accrued through the object’s testimony to a period of history. ..."

I'd be interested in your comments, reader.

Getting closer to the edge -- the part of a razor that gets closest to your face -- think of Kai blades, which are fabricated in the town of Seki, north of Nagoya, Gifu Prefecture, Japan.

Seki is the very (small) geographic location where the legendary swords of both Miyamoto Musashi and the Buddhist monk Takuan, who was a famous swordsman, and who also invented the ultimate Japanese pickle, were made.

Your Kai blade could have been fashioned on the identical plot of soil where the great samurai blades once were hammered out.

Ain't no greater aura than that. Bow reverently before the blade.

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 12-02-2014, 07:03 PM
#9
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patina - transformation by time:
intermingling of dirt, colorchange by sunlight. withered by wind and temperature: scratching, cracking, twisting. polished by handling. hazy appearance of its former clearcut glory: sfumato. trying to reconstruct the path of the life lived. too much rust or too bright gold destroys the illusion. a well preserved mummy. time-travel. flickering shades in slow motion.

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 12-03-2014, 03:17 AM
#10
  • Shaun
  • Senior Member
  • St Peters, NSW, Australia
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(12-02-2014, 07:03 PM)tonsorius Wrote: patina - transformation by time:
intermingling of dirt, colorchange by sunlight. withered by wind and temperature: scratching, cracking, twisting. polished by handling. hazy appearance of its former clearcut glory: sfumato. trying to reconstruct the path of the life lived. too much rust or too bright gold destroys the illusion. a well preserved mummy. time-travel. flickering shades in slow motion.

Kierkegaard could have not expressed this more poetically Smile

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 12-03-2014, 04:19 AM
#11
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made by johann friedrich braun 1737-1758:
[Image: x2SNZjR.jpg]


made by abe anjin 2008:
[Image: B4cM7Jz.jpg]

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 12-03-2014, 04:47 AM
#12
  • Shaun
  • Senior Member
  • St Peters, NSW, Australia
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Late Georgian table/shaving mirror, original glass, mahogany, c.1790

[Image: YkU5F8B.jpg]

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 12-03-2014, 08:05 AM
#13
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last supper:
[Image: 6dvJDWx.jpg]

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 12-03-2014, 08:44 AM
#14
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I think there is no contradiction between an item being "mass-produced" and "built-to-last". For me, the engineering required for the latter trumps any lack of rarity associated with the former. That an item has lasted is proof of its quality, and modern items lack this silent testimony. They may acquire it, no doubt.

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 12-03-2014, 09:10 AM
#15
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an aztec figure made of gold - being melted to make coins.

a plastic shoe left in the woods - surviving for 100 years.

did the aztec figurine lack the quality of the plastic shoe?

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 12-03-2014, 09:19 AM
#16
  • SRNewb
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  • No. Va, USA
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(12-03-2014, 08:44 AM)cu360 Wrote: I think there is no contradiction between an item being "mass-produced" and "built-to-last". For me, the engineering required for the latter trumps any lack of rarity associated with the former. That an item has lasted is proof of its quality, and modern items lack this silent testimony. They may acquire it, no doubt.

+1.

(12-03-2014, 09:10 AM)tonsorius Wrote: an aztec figure made of gold - being melted to make coins.

a plastic shoe left in the woods - surviving for 100 years.

did the aztec figurine lack the quality of the plastic shoe?
I think the caveat of use is missing with this analogy. It's in use that a product's durability and quality should be measured. In use, that plastic shoe ain't lasting 100 years intact.

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 12-03-2014, 10:42 AM
#17
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i don't understand your caveat of use. ceramics, like the small tea container shown above, is meant for everyday use - it is the major tool used in japanese tea ceremony - yet a drop on the floor will instantly destroy it, although it is of the highest quality and durability of its kind. with no dropping it will last forever. what you say only applies for very moderate use, never involving accidents. i think what you mean is quality=durability.

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 12-03-2014, 11:19 AM
#18
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While it seems that vintage implements elevate the experience to a higher level because of the history they've "seen", I think modern razors made in the same tradition as their predecessors still bind us to a tradition that connects us with our forefathers. The activity itself imparts 'aura' to us and to the objects with which we shave.

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 12-03-2014, 02:06 PM
#19
  • SRNewb
  • Senior Member
  • No. Va, USA
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(12-03-2014, 10:42 AM)tonsorius Wrote: i don't understand your caveat of use. ceramics, like the small tea container shown above, is meant for everyday use - it is the major tool used in japanese tea ceremony - yet a drop on the floor will instantly destroy it, although it is of the highest quality and durability of its kind. with no dropping it will last forever. what you say only applies for very moderate use, never involving accidents. i think what you mean is quality=durability.
I don't think you can separate proper use and care from products, especially when we talk about quality. Dropping a ceramic item on the floor is not proper use and care.
In the analogy of the plastic shoe, there are many things that are made from material that will weather the elements for decades or even centuries, if it is placed somewhere and left alone. In that case, a cheaply made shoe whose maker took no thought or pride in it's creation might very well last 100 years, but it was a useless object which did not fulfill it's purpose at all. A shoe, whatever it is made of, is meant to be worn and walked in. That cheap plastic shoe would have a hard time lasting 6 months, let alone 100 years, if it was put to proper use.
Vintage razors, on the other hand, though mass produced, were built in an era when "Made in America", in the case of Gillette, meant made with pride and yes, with an eye toward durability and functionality over the long haul. Yes, there was junk made then, too. But with the majority of mainstream companies, quality was still high up on their radar. Sadly today, that is not the case usually, at least in the main. If we want that, there are still companies and artisans who do that, but you will need to actually seek them out.
My vintage Gillettes have in many cases been around 40 or 50 years, doing their job flawlessly, and they will most likely do them until I am in the ground. That is quality, to me. Not just longevity, but functionality. Still doing what they were designed to do, after all that time.

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 12-03-2014, 11:18 PM
#20
  • Shaun
  • Senior Member
  • St Peters, NSW, Australia
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"Dropping a ceramic item on the floor is not proper use and care."

No unless you are in a Greek nightclub Smile

"In the analogy of the plastic shoe, there are many things that are made from material that will weather the elements for decades or even centuries, if it is placed somewhere and left alone. In that case, a cheaply made shoe whose maker took no thought or pride in it's creation might very well last 100 years, but it was a useless object which did not fulfill it's purpose at all."

Not all shoes were meant to walk in. Many are made to be looked at with limited durability. Women understand this better than men. And shoe fetishists Smile

Georges Bataille: "I challenge any lover of painting to love a canvas as much as a fetishist loves a shoe."

"Vintage razors, on the other hand, though mass produced, were built in an era when "Made in America", in the case of Gillette, meant made with pride and yes, with an eye toward durability and [i]functionality over the long haul."

Except, of course, that Gillettes made in England were consistently better in terms of durability and the choice of raw materials in their manufacture Smile

The British expected manufactured goods to well and truly last; it was part of that culture in those days, i.e. not acquiring an object which had its legitimate use until an (ostensibly) better product became available on the mass-market. Having said that, the English did not make/produce the Fat Boy Smile

A dropped ceramic dish may not have stood the test of durability in terms of functionality, but certainly has stood the test of time in terms of unexpected beauty and the pointing back to an historic event, ever so trivial perhaps, but no less human: a picnic shared by lovers on a remote Scandinavian beach? A meal quickly consumed by smugglers before the maritime police came running up over a sand dune? Call me an old romantic Smile Use can have more than one meaning. What was once a dinner plate is now an object of contemplation and mystery: to me, that can trump a durable, everyday object that has not undergone such (unintended) transformation, though not always, agreed. In this instance, however, the image is compelling and the object has indeed been transformed, not just materially, but through the photographic documentation process itself, and in having undergone this has become a small but touching work of art. Remaining functionality ? Perhaps, yes, but let's call it 'latent functionality'. Art has a function that can transcend the merely 'instrumental'. Beauty has relevance to life, but perhaps not to practicality as such.

I like old razors because they cross all these categories. Vintage brushes perhaps even more so.

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