Why buy handmade?
I’ve always loved handmade things. I enjoy buying handcrafted items. I make handcrafted and sell handcrafted. You can feel the artist’s skill and love in every inch of it. Sometimes people ask what the big deal is with handmade, why it costs more than something they can get at a chain store – especially when they can get it so much cheaper. Sometimes, I just don’t know how to respond, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to really think about it and share with you why I think handmade is worth all the fuss.
What’s so great about handcrafted?
Let’s start with ending the comparison of handmade to what the big corporations make – because it really is apples and oranges. I don’t make soap the same way a big company does. I don’t buy my ingredients the same way, and I don’t use the same types of ingredients. There’s no comparison between a mass produced preservative filled Twinkie and a locally baked cupcake by a pastry chef. The two are completely different, right down to the packaging.
Handmade is sustainable.
When I look at the soap I make or the perfect little apron made by a local artist, I can easily argue that handcrafted is more sustainable than the same things that are mass produced. Production on the scale of a company like Proctor & Gamble means buying raw materials in such quantities that it forces suppliers to lower their prices, which in turn means the people who grow and harvest the ingredients are paid even less. Add to that low production costs and that keeps those companies making more profit at the expense of everyone else down the line. So that low priced bar of soap may seem like a good deal, but keep in mind that the person growing and harvesting those ingredients may not be making a living wage – or even come close.
Many people worldwide are trapped in jobs with little pay which holds them down, and their local economies with them. I’ll give you an example: I don’t use palm oil in my soaps because the overharvesting of this resource has decimated natural habitat and once the palm forests have been cut down, there is no more work for the local people.
So, when you’re in the dollar store and you’re tempted to buy that $1 candle, keep in mind the practices you’re allowing to continue. Cheap materials and labor means someone’s getting a raw deal. Isn’t a hand poured candle using recycled glass from a local artist worth a few bucks? And the artist’s candle likely isn’t going to be toxic.
Handmade is lasting
OK, soap’s not going to last forever, but buying quality handmade goods could save the world. Really! Mass produced things these days are made to be tossed after a short useful life. In fact, big business calls this planned obsolescence – they purposely create a product that will break down so that you have to purchase a new one. That means more crap in the landfills, more crap in our homes, and more crap we have to spend more money on. This is a horrible way to live!
This is where handmade shines bright! There’s no need to upgrade or replace a thing since it was created to last and to have value over time. Each object is a unique, one of a kind treasure, and you’re the only one who has it! (I know, soap is a consumable product and you’ll have to buy more. That’s OK. I’ll make more)
Handmade also lets you control waste. Goods manufactured overseas have a ton of plastic and cardboard packaging to protect it on it’s way to the consumer. Have you ever noticed how much you have to throw away or try to recycle?
Handcrafted is real.
It’s funny, really. The big businesses are trying to give their products the look and feel of handmade, but it’s fake. I’ll give you an example. I love quilts. I mean obsessively. I’ll layer them five deep on the bed and the sofa I love them so much. Now, I’ll either make my own (I’m not sharing pictures, they are…um… rustic) or buy from an actual human. Now there are tons of quilts available at big box stores for less than I could pay for fabric alone. I’ll admit I’ve purchased one or two – and regretted it almost immediately. They just don’t hold up, they’re not as warm, and they just don’t “feel real” to me. Machines just can’t create a real quilt in my world!
Buying handmade supports local people
Buying handmade supports local crafts people and industries, wherever you buy it. The money you spend stays in the local area (instead of overseas) where it is reinvested in the community. Your purchases keep people in business, taxes are paid, money is made, and the impact of thousands of these micro business artisans is HUGE for the economy.
Buying handmade keeps artisan skills alive.
It wasn’t too long ago that I didn’t even know you could make soap – it just came from the store, from a factory, from machines. But I learned the ancient traditional methods of turning plants into soap and I’ve never looked back. When we invest in handmade products, we’re helping to ensure that those skills are kept alive and creating a demand for education in those skills. They are vitally important skills to carry forward for the next generation and the one after that. I know too many people who don’t even know how to sew on a button or hem a pair of pants, much less grow their own food. Buying handmade helps keep the traditions alive!
Buying handmade is about coming together as people
Handmade is a celebration of artists’ imagination and skills coming together with people in our communities to make all our lives better. We are all individuals and using handmade items lets us live that way. No handcrafted item has a one-size-fits-all mentality. Go to an art fair or market and the artists are overjoyed to help you find just the right thing for you. Everything a craftsperson makes is all about the people and the story behind the creative process. It’s about the thought, time, imagination, and effort we put into every little piece.
I may be a little biased, but I’m overjoyed that I can make a living selling something I’ve created to people who care enough to buy it. Maybe next time you’re thinking about making a purchase, you’ll think about visiting a local craftsperson before settling for something made by a cold machine halfway around the world.