This was the question posed by Mark Tully in Sunday's Something Understood on Radio 4. (It's on - live - either very early or very late, but you can of course listen online till Sunday next.) Something Understood is my "go to" programme each week, when I reach for the button of my bedside play again radio. Five eclectically-chosen pieces of music, four prose or verse snippets (Ronald Pickup is one of the readers this week), and a shortish informal interview: that's the pattern. Tully concentrates more upon the questions than the answers, often drawing on his long experience in India.
Gandhian economist, Devaki Jain, this week's interviewee, considered the value of craft work as a contribution to a nation's health and wealth. This question was in my mind also yesterday, as I inspected the modern designer furniture etc. at this year's Celebration of Craftsmanship & Design, held just down the road from us. Caroline and I biked along together, meeting up with friends. They, unlike us, were prospective buyers, so I tried to divide the prices by the number of hours I imagined the piece had taken to make. Ikea, it's not.
The exhibition is held in one of Cheltenham's finest buildings (in recent years, part of Cheltenham College). The catalogue attempts - not entirely accurately - to narrate the history of the building and its owners: I took a particular interest in that aspect, as the first major name on the list, the 3rd Baron Northwick has a walk-on part in my ancestor, Peter Davis' The diary of a Shropshire Farmer. They were near contemporaries, born in the same parish.
Photography wasn't allowed in the exhibition building: this impression is therefore the best I could manage - taken through one of the windows, where a trio of Judith Nicoll's driftwood wading birds were displayed. Godwits (though "Goodwits" for some reason in the catalogue).
We came away, stimulated, but in need of a cup of tea.