As I See It

The China Olympics: Behind The Glitz And Glamour

Behind the glitz and glamour of the China Olympics are the many hands of people who labored diligently, for very little monetary gain, and many, under adverse conditions… to make it possible for the world to be entertained for a couple of weeks. In another few weeks the world will focused on other entertainment… other pastimes and China will be put in the back of our minds. “Easy come…easy go.”

I kind of fall into that category of “easy come, easy go” on a personal level. I’m a part of the “disposable generation” that uses a product for a while, then tosses it in a box for the Thrift Store. Many of the products I toss are “made in China.” I’ve had little regard for how they were made, or how many hands were involved in making an item for my convenience or pleasure. It’s a little like seeing the milk in the store… nicely packaged for my convenience… with no regard for the cow, or the process it takes to provide it for me.

One day… while in China… I was faced with a bit of reality …and I’ve never viewed products “made in China” the same again.

As artists, we had designed several products for the Christmas season… one being candle luminaries. The products were being produced in China. They were made of porcelain and my particular design was a snowman with small birdhouses at the base. While in China, we went to the factory to check on the process and review the shipping schedule.

Little did I know… when we walked in the door, my design… my snowman… would be in the middle of production. Hundreds of snowmen were in different stages of creation… from the mold pours, to the cleaning, and on to the kilns. I was taken back the shear number of people involved in the process and the conditions they were working in.

Being very over-whelmed by what I saw… I return to the van and wept. My heart was full of appreciate and gratitude for diligent, hard working, under paid workers. The consumer would not only benefit from their labors… but I would benefit from their work by receiving royalty on each item that was produced and sold.

I’ve never looked at products “made in China” the same since. I always wonder… who do the hands belong to that help bring commodities to my home… for my convenience or pleasure?

Till Later,

Kathy Griffiths
Insightful Nana

P.S. Hats off to the factory workers who have so diligently worked at very low wages to bring the China Olympics to the world. You’ve made your government look good… whether they deserve it or not.

As I See It

Behind the China Olympics – China Factories

Behind the China Olympics, life goes on as usual for millions of people who work in the factories… producing goods for the world to buy. Most of China will not see the Olympic games because their villages don’t have television access. Besides… work does not slow down in the factories… except at Chinese New Year… when workers go home for a month.

Most company buyers of China’s goods don’t go into the interior of the country, where small rural factories produce much of the markets goods. Well lighted and clean shows rooms in cities such as Hong Kong and Shenzhen, represent most of the China factories. In other words… the buyers for Wal-Mart aren’t going to be bouncing around in an old van…hitting pot holes and… dodging folks who are on foot or riding bikes, in order to get out to where the goods are actually made.

My boss had been doing business in China for many years before the big market rush. He had developed relationships with many factory owners who invited him to come to their factories. For me to see the actual everyday workings of a factory was not only exciting but also quite disturbing. I mistakenly assumed the factories would be updated and automated. After all this country produces vasts amount of product for the world.

Boy was I wrong. Automation is the work of many human hands…. not machines. And, while some of the factories we visited were clean and organized… most were not.

The basket factory we went to was one of the most depressing sites I saw. Men and women were working in poorly lighted, dirty and cramped conditions. Each nail was hammered into the rim of the basket by hand…one nail at a time. No nail guns here!

Kiln dried basket slats? No way… how about sun dried…. thousands of slats drying out in the court yard.

The living conditions were deplorable… dirty open water next to the sleeping areas. No wonder they had mosquito netting around their make shift beds. Oh my gosh… and the flies.

When Chairman Mao, the leader of the Communist Party, initiated the Cultural Revolution… many of the teachers and intellectuals were taken from their classrooms and sent out to the country to be reeducated or in other words… “Agree with us or die.” Professor Tao was a Physics Professor at a university. He was whisk away into the countryside, locked in a closet for many weeks and suffered much persecution. When the Revolution was over… he did not return to the city but stayed in the country and built a factory. His factory produces small wooden trinkets that are exported to the United States.

Many of the factories are not equipped with good lighting. Notice, this woman is using the light to dry the goods rather than use the light to see by.

If the items needs to be painted… the worker methodically paints each individual item. Every detail is hand painted… one detail at a time.

Rusted metal was the rage. We designed small rusted shapes… stars, hearts, apples etc… that crafters could use to decorate with… (Some of the shapes were as small as 3/4 inch.) Problem… the rust would shed a little bit and leave a rust residue in the bottom of the package. Couldn’t have that…now could we?

So the factory was told that a sealer needed to be applied to the items so the rust would not come off in the packages. “O.K… no problem,”… came the reply from the factory.

When we came upon this scene… it broke my heart. These men were sitting in a small, poorly lighted room… applying clear shoe polish to each rusty star… both sides… one at a time. Thousands and thousands of 3/4″ stars were sitting in baskets waiting for the shoe polish to be applied. I couldn’t believe how cheerful and friendly the men were… pricked fingers and all. Go figure.

So… when I watched the Opening Ceremonies of the China Olympics… I thought of the thousands of hands it took to produce the show for our pleasure. Thanks… factory workers of China… You did a beautiful job… one bead… one stitch… one light… one firework at a time.

Till Later,
Kathy Griffiths
Insightful Nana

P.S. I would love to go back to China. A little of my heart is still there.