The dictionary definition of handmade is – made by hand, not by machine, especially with care or craftsmanship.
As it is almost impossible to remove all machinery from the process of creating a useful and/or decorative object, a better definition might be a product that has been crafted by one individual from start to finish, or designer/maker, when a product is designed and made by the same individual.
Handcrafting had its start in rural crafts, the creating of necessary items for daily use and the decoration of these items by the craftsman. Many advancements and a lot of history led to the crafting of more sophisticated items such as the first watches or intricate silverware. With the advent of machinery, the process of producing larger quantities and cheaper products changed dramatically to the mass production and assembly line techniques, where partially complete products are passed from worker to worker, or machine to machine, each repeating one or two related tasks. With this system the “skill is built into the tool” rather than the worker and all products produced are identical. Even traditional brands with a luxury label are now, in many cases being mass produced in factories far from the source, and the air of history, class and durability is often just a mirage. Individuality and quality has been sacrificed for quantity, but prices are maintained at the luxury level.
There has been a negative connotation surrounding handcrafted products for far too long, perhaps brought about by an overdose of tourist inspired local crafts, as well as the cute and pretty overworked trend of the 80’s for all things “Laura Ashley”. This has impacted on all handmade items despite the exquisite workmanship and designs of numerous small local brands in every country. There is a perception that handmade means inferior quality rather than the opposite. Of course handmade does not guarantee quality, there is the same variation as there is between couture and chain store, you get what you pay for. However, what is guaranteed is that one pair of hands made the object to the best of their ability. If you GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR, you should PAY FOR WHAT YOU GET. The “compulsory” bargaining in certain areas, has become almost a game of one-upmanship for shoppers, but a crafts person whose livelihood and that of their families depends on a sale, could in desperation slash their prices for items that took hours of painstaking work. This is unethical. Their skill deserves recognition and respect at every level.
Thankfully, my research tells me there is a re-emergence of artisanal goods, a movement back to handcrafted products helped in a large part by the very technology that disrupted the legacy industry in the first place – the internet.
Enlightened customers want to purchase a product that is authentic, customised, has longevity, and has been created with pride and care. They want to connect with its background story, it’s creator.
As well as aesthetic appeal, they want to enjoy owning it. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Now that makes sense.