What do we mean by handmade?
What is handmade?
We’re quick to blurt out the answer, but the truth is that defining the concept is getting a lot harder. It’s a bit like saying blue. There are a heck of a lot of shades of it!
When Etsy changed its definition of handmade last year, there was a lot of confusion. And backlash. The new policies meant that shops could hire others to help with high demand. (It’s not easy to churn out handmade goods all alone.) Before the change, Etsy sellers had to make their ‘handmade’ goodies themselves.
And since Etsy got so popular before they changed their policy, maybe that’s why so many of us think handmade means something made by one person, from start to finish.
Yet we can’t forget the community so many crafts thrive upon. I’m thrown back to childhood memories of quilting events at country fairs, where a dozen women stitched together on the same jumbo quilt. Those quilts are handmade, too.
A New Definition
Abby of While She Naps shared this video in her own post about defining handmade:
Should the handiwork of these people be devalued because of the factory setting? They’re screen-printing, stuffing, and stitching the same way anyone would do at home.
And the complications to defining handmade don’t end there, either. On Etsy photography, prints, laser cut items, and other goods have been defined as ‘handmade’. With the biggest handmade goods marketplace saying so, it’s easy to get used to the thought.
Is a sketch done on a tablet any less handmade than one on a canvas? Where does photography actually fit in? What about web design and typography? Does a craft kit make the handmade item less meaningful?
The truth is, handmade is what we make it.
To me, handmade gets its value from being a labour of love and design. I love buying handmade items from indie designers who make their own goods. That love continues when a brand grows and has to hire some help. If you ask me, that’s even better. It means more people are working to create something fun and wonderful.
To me, cameras and even mouse cursors are just tools, just like knitting needles and pottery knives. The tool doesn’t do the work for you. Someone uses that tool to create something. It still takes skill and time.
The capabilities of our tools are growing. Our definition of handmade has to grow, too.
How do you define handmade?
Whether you agree or disagree, I’d love to hear your thoughts!
*Pottery photo credit to ime