Why I think buying handmade is so special…
By Tash Goswami
I love handmade, I buy handmade, I make handmade and I sell handmade. Yet often when I’m asked why handmade is so special, why each piece costs more than a similar item in the high street shops or why I bother making in the first place, in the face of such hostility I am often stumped as to what to answer. So I decided to do my research, get myself prepared for the next negative comment and be ready to stand up for what I believe in.
So what really is so special about handmade?
Well, firstly it’s a mistake to compare handmade with the large corporations – there really there is no comparison. We don’t sell it in the same way. We don’t buy it in the same way or even receive it in the same way. How do you compare a jar of mass-produced jam with a homemade preserve using locally grown fruit presented in a beautiful recycled jar with a cheerful label? It’s impossible.
Buying handmade is more sustainable
Mass production means bulk buying and this forces the lowering of prices down the line, mainly in the production of raw materials.
I would argue that handmade is more sustainable than mass production. Mass production means bulk buying and this forces the lowering of prices down the line, mainly in the production of raw materials. Lower production costs ensure that the large-scale companies can make more profit while selling, at what first appears to be, a low price – a bargain price.
Dig a bit deeper and what this really means, is that many people worldwide are forced into jobs with little pay and this has a knock-on effect for those countries, in so far as they cannot develop, cannot sustain their environments and any adverse condition, such as a drought, has a far more adverse impact upon them than if they were wealthier.
The wealthier nations, such as our own, then have to subsidise these poorer countries with loans, rescue aid, charitable giving etc. That money comes from you. It’s a false economy; it’s a profit on a page but not profit in reality because if you had paid the real price in the first place there would be no need to pay up in another way.
So when you look at that £1 mug from your local supermarket, it’s not a bargain. It will cost you more in hidden charges than what you initially paid for it.
Handmade is forever not for just now
Each handmade piece of work is as unique as each person in the world… and there’s no need for an upgrade if it’s already perfect.
Mass-produced items are perceived as or actually are, ‘throw away’. A horrible culture of ‘if it’s broken, don’t fix it – just chuck it out’ is now so prevalent that we throw away things that are perfectly fine. We want an upgrade, the latest version, the next best thing… we want to be noticed. However, what we are failing to notice is our rubbish piles are growing higher and higher!
Here is where handmade excels – there’s no need for an upgrade as it is perfect already. There is no need to keep up with the Jones’s as a handmade object is unique. Even if it’s one of a series, each one will be slightly different from the next. It’s the minute imperfections that make it so desirable. Why, I hear you ask? Well, if you own a handmade, unique piece of work then only you in the whole world own it. That’s over 7 billion people who will never get to have it because you have it and if you keep it until 2050, then it will be nearer 10 million people who don’t have it. How’s that for having the edge on everyone else? Each handmade piece of work is as unique as each person in the world.
Buying handmade is the real thing
High Street shops want their product to replicate the handmade feel, but it’s a fake.
Mass production is now turning to small crafters for help. High Street shops want their product to replicate the handmade feel, but it’s a fake. It’s not the real McCoy! However, they also recognise that people don’t want to live in bland, off-the-shelf environments. But rather than give you the real handmade object, they want to sell you a machine-produced copy. The difference can be likened to that between a diamond and a cubic zirconium. Both are good, but I know which one I would cherish a whole lot more.
Buying handmade supports local people
Buy handmade from local people and the revenue stays within the country, taxes are paid, money is generated and the overall impact on our economy is huge.
Buying handmade supports local craft industries and people, wherever you buy it. The price you pay for it is exactly what you see – there are no hidden costs. The revenue stays within the country and people are not out of work but working in their business either as individuals or groups. Taxes are paid, money is generated and the overall impact on our economy is huge.
In the UK, the creative industries account for about 7% of the GDP and each artwork (and I include the handmade mug in this) contributes to this. Furthermore, government investment in the arts sees an amazing return of £2 for every £1 invested. Does it make sense to cut this investment? I think not.
Buying handmade keeps craft skills alive
We are facing lost skills, the demise of handcrafts and a real loss of our cultural identity. Buying handmade ensures traditional craft skills are kept alive and creates a demand for education in these skills.
When we buy handmade we are helping to ensure traditional making skills are kept alive and creating a demand for education in these skills. At the moment the powers that be are busy replacing skills-based training in the crafts with less labour-intensive or material-rich courses – more often than not, offering courses conducted on a computer and easily stored on a pen drive. The outcome of this is potentially lost skills, the demise of handcrafts and a real loss of our cultural identity. Students can be herded through the system quickly, without a huge investment and now can be charged a small fortune for it.
But what happens if the machines can no longer be run – for example, when our petrol supplies run out? How will we as a nation reinstate these lost skills? The economy is so fragile because we’ve already lost so many of our skilled industries and we’re now playing catch up again. Would it not be better to maintain and increase a skilled artisan base, rather than scramble around at some future date to rediscover it?
Buying handmade celebrates who we are
Each handmade item is about people, not machines. It’s about the skill of each maker and the magic of their imagination.
Handmade is a celebration of our contemporary lives and our living culture – not a mass-imposed, one-size-fits-all consumer culture where everything looks the same and is easily boxed up. Each handmade item is about people and not machines. It’s about the time and effort that goes into each piece of work. It’s about the skill of each maker, the technical ingenuity of the maker, the magic of an individual’s imagination, and it’s a treasure on a beach of throwaway machine-made tat!
Call me biased. Say I am a ranting maker on my handmade soap box! But don’t deny the facts – buying handmade is far better than some people have ever given it credit for!
This post was kindly written for Folksy by Tash Goswami of Blethering Crafts. Blethering Crafts has regular interviews with interesting artists and makers from all over the world.
Do you agree with all of Tash’s points – we’d love to hear about why buying handmade is important from you, so please add a comment! Thank you :)
Image credits: Hand-printed Bird Spotting Tea Towel by Sarah Papworth from Beetroot Press, Blue Glazed Stoneware Pottery Beaker by Little Wren Pottery, Handmade Double Bed Quilt by Lisa Watson, Handmade Artisan Apron by A Dog Like Sparky, printmaker Fiona Carver at her printing press, Sailor Cat Portrait Painted on Wood by Emma from Menagerie