Traditionally, before the industrial revolution, everything was handmade. Nowadays, especially with the introduction of mass production, it is rare to come across solely hand crafted products. I think this is such a loss as objects made by hand have an individuality that could never be reproduced by machinery. Every handmade product is different and has its own story which is represented in the maker’s marks. Mass production has resulted in generic, identical products being churned out with very little care or consideration.
I strongly believe that every object should be treated with respect and be well cared for to ensure it lasts as long as possible. In order to encourage this respect, it’s important that the user has an emotional connection to the product. A product that has been carefully crafted by hand naturally offers this emotional connection as it is linked to the maker and their manufacture process. It is a natural instinct for someone to take care of something that they know has been made by an actual person. A good example is that handmade Christmas decoration you made as a child that still appears on the tree every year. It’s probably outlived many characterless, factory made decorations that have been bought over the years. Humans are emotionally lead and this really reflects on how we interact with different products.
From an environmental point of view, I think handmade products are a much better than their mass produced equivalent. Firstly, handmade products are usually built to last and will often come with a lifetime guarantee. This is the approach we need to be taking to move away from our current throwaway culture. Handmade workshops are small-scale in comparison to huge machinery factories. Therefore they don’t require as much energy since they are powering a human rather than a machine, resulting in a smaller carbon footprint. They also only produce the quantity of goods that are in demand rather than over-producing and then using methods such as planned obsolescence and manipulative marketing to convince people that they need to buy into their products.
A big selling point for hand crafted goods is the social aspect. When making a custom, handmade product, the maker will often build a relationship with the customer in order to make the product fit their specific needs. This relationship between the maker and customer is unique to the handmade industry, you don’t see people making friends with machines. Interacting with the person behind the product adds a social element to what is normally considered to be a materialistic based experience. I think that is something that has been lost in the expansive shopping centres and online stores we often find ourselves in where there is little to no human interaction.
There is not only benefits for the customer when it comes handmade products. The actual process of making the goods can have an amazing impact on the mental health of the maker. The skills involved in hand crafts are often considered to have therapeutic qualities. There’s something about making an object with your own hands that brings pride and satisfaction.
Unsurprisingly, the main reason for the demise of handmade products in todays market is down to money. The cost of a hand crafted product, especially a custom made one, is extortionate in comparison to one that is machine made. Handmade products are often unaffordable. This is tricky because the price is due to factors such as the quality of material, the skill of the maker and the time required for manufacture. Time is the biggest influence here, for example it takes much longer to hand stitch leather than machine stitch it. I think it is so important to pay a maker fairly for their work which is why I find myself in such a dilemma about the fact that handmade products are often unaffordable. We need to find a balance that makes handmade products more available to the general population while still ensuring the maker is able to make a living.