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Out of Fashion

Fashionability is a force that can (and often does) steal our joy. The latest iPhone, next year's car model or the "new arrivals" rack at our favorite clothing store can make us feel inadequate about our once-fashionable possessions. So we covet the new, we rationalize this next purchase convincing ourselves we "need" it or "deserve" it or that it will bring us happiness. At last, we give in, we splurge and we're happy... until a new version comes out.

Historically, handpans have always been so rare that you were considered lucky to even own one, let alone multiple of these instruments. It was common to wait several years on waitlists for a handpan. This scarcity created a culture of patience and gratefulness, and brought us a healthy perspective on "materialism". The handpan was a possession worth saving for, worth waiting for and worth keeping a lifetime.

As the handpan art form grows and this instrument becomes more readily available, I wonder if the handpan will ever become an object of fashionability. In such a future, would we become dissatisfied with this object that we once thought of inestimable value, like we do with our other possessions, simply because there's a newer or better version out there?

And yet, is obsolescence so bad, and, if the new version is better, should you not upgrade after all? Is it wrong for a maker to want their customers to experience their best possible products? And who doesn't like better things...

Kyle Cox of Pantheon Steel offers a thoughtful and balanced answer to this question:

"I suppose there has to be a balance of holding onto the past and embracing the future all while enjoying the present [...] the best approach for pan makers is to keep their eye on ever better quality of their instrument and process of making them over purposefully trying to make their prior versions obsolete [...] Obsolescence hopefully will only be an indirect result rather than an intended one."

I will close with this thought: what if we did not measure the quality of a handpan solely by the technology and craftsmanship that went into it, but by the joy it brings us.

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