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Face value

The general disregard of craftsmen in the superyacht industry doesn’t benefit anyone…

I recently visited an art studio in an industrial estate in London to see some of the work that goes behind the various art installations on superyachts. The studio employed around 40 artisanal craftsmen from all over the world and every single one of their projects was being built by hand, without the use of machinery. One particular artist had been working on the same mural for over two years, delicately placing hand-painted tiles on an enormous piece, supposedly for a 100m-plus new build.

I think it's sad enough that this artist can’t even take a picture of his own work or showcase it for a brief period in a studio, instead, it will be hidden on a giant superyacht and probably only momentarily appreciated by a billionaire and his guests. But what’s even more unfortunate is the fact that this side of the industry doesn’t get told, only the finished product gets any recognition from the media and general public. And if the interiors aren't revealed, then it gets left to the imagination of red top journalists who prefer to speculate on tasteless interiors full of art worth more than a university education.

It’s not like stakeholders of the superyacht industry are any better either. Too many people take superyachts at face value without considering the work behind the scenes. The various intricacies created by artisanal workers help to build the story of a vessel, which in turn makes it more valuable. One thing I noted from my visit to the studio was a sense of frustration towards the brokers selling the vessels, and they had a point - Do stakeholders in advisory roles really understand the work that goes into the aesthetics of a superyacht or is the focus just brand, specs, age and so on?

I feel like there is scope to provide better platforms for the people whose blood sweat and tears go into the creation of a superyacht. The superyacht community speaks often and loudly about how it is one of the last bastions of artisanal craftsmanship, and yet at most levels, owners and businesses do all that they can to ensure no one gets to see the fruits of their labour.  

The overall image of the market might improve if we were able to showcase the breadth and depth of this market’s talent pool. An industrial estate in south London might not be what immediately springs to mind when one says ‘superyacht’, nevertheless there exists a rich superyachting heritage in these areas.

 There are 5,929 superyachts over 30 metres in length in the world, and they all have their own individual story to tell. There are countless family-owned businesses with second and third generation craftsmen who dedicate a good chunk of their careers to just one tiny facet of what ultimately becomes a marvel of naval architecture. Whether it’s an artist in a studio, a blacksmith in a shipyard or a carpenter in a factory, they deserve more credit and recognition than they currently get.

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Should artisanal workers get more credit than they currently do?

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