What makes something valuable?


I’m reading a sci fi novel where there are matter compilers than can 3D print things at the atomic level, essentially eliminating “poverty” as everyone can eat the printed food and be clothed in printed clothing. The people who invented the machines are very wealthy, but do not eat or use anything created by the matter compliers. The want the real, the grown, the hand-made.

What makes something valuable?

We bought our crockery from a chain store. It was cheap and we bought two sets to replace the ones I break. Not valuable I guess. If we had gone to a fancy homewares store and bought an expensive set, that would definitely be more valuable. Depending on the brand name, you could probably even resell them.

What if my two daughters made some out of clay. Amazingly precious, but essentially worthless. What about that same cheap crockery set, in 40 years time when my wife and I are dead, and my daughters open a box and it reminds them of their childhood. Irreplaceable.

The last one I promise. How about a set of crockery from the early industrial revolution, mass produced and at the time considered to be the death of craftsmanship. Now extremely valuable, a sought after item for collectors, but completely unusable for it’s original purpose.

What does this have to do with me?

A lot of my ideas about art/illustration were formed in the pre-Photoshop era, when there were a small number of people using difficult and time consuming mediums like oil paint to create. After some struggle with the concept of using fake textures to make digital artwork look more “real”, I’ve recently been getting a lot of satisfaction from using markers were the rendering is all done by hand, is actually “real”. Does it make it more valuable?

There are some concept artists who are incredibly talented. Does the fact that Photoshop is “easier” to use than oil paint make it less valuable? Or does it free them from the tyranny of drying time and risk aversion and make them way more productive? There are as many bad charcoal drawings of life models as there are bad Photoshop montages. Once I scan my drawings, they’re the same rectangle of pixels as any other.

Is the only measure that matters, that which makes something valuable to me?

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