I was rather inspired to see an article from a few months ago that a friend recently re-posted on her social media, and with that in mind, I thought I’d try and recreate it, but giving it slightly more relevance to the UK, and what is going on in our own economy right now (the original article is American). There is a lot to be said for choosing something handmade over buying something mass produced.
Of course, anyone in the Handmade business know that the notion of ‘Handmade’ does not equal cheap, its a long held yet now inaccurate idea, that derives from the need to ration and reuse whatever people could during and post war where old worn out adult clothes repurposed into ‘new’ smaller childrens clothes, old jumpers would be pulled back and reused to make a new one, new vegetables from seeds that would otherwise be thrown away – but now, not so, we will buy new fabric for new clothes, new wool for jumpers, we will buy new seeds – and all the other things that come with it.
Most women would be working in the home post war, making these new items for their families, and had these valuable skills taught to them when they were children. Not so now, often we are given no choice to stay at home, whether that is both, or a sole adult household working, and somehow, gradually the basic skills of sewing, knitting, mending and so on have become lost too… As the UK roared ahead with its digital revolution, it left the industrial revolution dying in its wake. Weaving sheds and mills shut down one after the other when it became apparent that importing their fabric from India was much cheaper and weaving jobs became redundant, we had thousands of sewing factories dotted all over the country – indeed my first job on leaving school was in a sewing factory in Blackburn (one of the ‘Cotton Towns‘ of the era.) until they too began shutting their doors when the high street transformed from that of small individual shops buying small scale locally produced clothing etc, to multinational corporations buying in HUGE bulk from India and China because not only was it cheaper to now ave fabric woven overseas, it was much cheaper to have the clothing made over there too.
Suddenly, the skills of sewing, joinery, metalwork, art… all seemed to be seen as “things you’ll never earn a living from” at school and slowly, the subjects became irrelevant, Health & safety and fears of litigation kicked in, and children no longer went near the fiery pottery kiln, or learned what knives to use for what in the kitchen, they stood there watching the teacher sew (just incase a pupil sewed through their nail – formerly this was a source of pride:
“You havent learned how to sew unless you’ve sewn into your hand!!”
Valuable skills have now been lost over the course of a generation, many of us in our 40’s will still have some of those skills, but its often a losing battle to teach a child to sew when there’s Pokemon Go! when skills are devalued to such a point in schools that they’re now hardly taught at all, the reliance on technology and imports is such that those of us who retain those skills are in huge demand – BUT – (and there’s always a but eh?) people still expect a handmade skirt to be cheaper than that one they saw in Primark for £4.99, not only that, they ‘expect’ all that time we put into making that garment for free… “Because its just a hobby… You enjoy it… its only a simple/quick job…” not realising that yes, for many of us, although we may be ‘at home’ that work we do, that we can never escape from it because we never actually ‘leave work’ its how we pay the bills, its how we buy Jack’s new football boots, its what pays for our supermarket shop.
A fellow corset making friend of mine recently shared an image (not the one I have randomly picked here) of a generic ‘corset’ (I use that term loosely!!) that can be picked up from any number of Goth/Alt/Fetish stores on the internet – they were selling them wholesale for just £8.99 each – now, as a guide, as an independent maker, I would be able to buy the front busk closure of a corset for that IF i went to collect it myself from the supplier to save on postage costs – Nothing else – JUST A BUSK.
So, now I’ve had a little whine, WHY SHOULD YOU BUY HANDMADE?
It’s Valuing Creativity
When we make something, we leave a part of ourselves in it. We sit, we nurture an idea, we work and we finally create it, we take immense pride in our work partly because we see ourselves in it. The finished piece is reflective of the creator.
When you buy something that someone else made, you yourself are reflected in that purchase, your tastes, your thoughts – what or who you were thinking about when you bought that piece, you were thinking of their likes, dislikes, memories, friendship… all of which are individual to you and/or the person you are buying it for.
Whether it’s the colour, the texture, the shape, or just the mood you happen to be in, an item that has been crafted is an expression of the creative spirit person who made it, the feelings and emotions of the person who bought it, right through to the person who receives it. It is treasured and valued far beyond an item that was made for worldly mass consumption that was picked off the shelf of hundreds of identical, emotionless pieces found in hundreds of homes throughout the land – that Handmade item is as unique as each one of us.
A Handmade Item Cannot be Duplicated
No two handmade items are exactly alike. Variations in colour, shading, texture, shape and grain are inherent in a handmade item. If you are asking someone to commission an item for you, then you can have endless possibilities to make it yours, So if you love those pants, but hate the hemline, you can have it, love that jacket but hate the fabric? well, change it! want a lasting memory of a departed loved one? Have a Memory Pillow made from a loved one’s favourite shirt. No two items are alike when its handmade, even if they looks the same, there are often subtle differences. This means that every handmade item you purchase is also one-of-a-kind. What’s not to like about that?
Everything is more beautiful when it’s made from the heart
Picture the scene, you’re having friends over for a meal… now, you can serve your guests a generic iced cake from Tesco that cost you £4.99 or you can treat them to the one you made yourself. The Tesco one will do, its a cake, but the sponge doesnt really taste of much does it? its been made with overly sweet buttercream, and the fondant icing is a bit thick (and sweet) , its a cake, it does the job and no one is going to rave about how delicious it was are they?
Or, you could be inspired by something you saw on The Great British Bake Off (whether that is Paul Hollywood’s sparkly blue eyes or that perfectly risen Madeira sponge is totally between me and you!) You spend the afternoon making it, decorating it, you make it yours, stick fresh fruit and fresh cream on it and then listen to the praise from your friends whilst they are mid-scoff.
A cursory look on Facebook and their thousands of assorted craft groups and you will see that there is a consumer shift happening. A movement if you will. More and more, people are willing to be educated about the value of a item that is made by hand – whether that is learning how to make a cake, or a skirt or a book case, or its people searching out those groups and pages to post a request for such an item for a loved one. People are starting to dream about things that don’t exist yet, but should, they ask themselves “If only it did X… How can I MAKE IT do X?” and then they make it come to life for others to enjoy as well.
This is why handmade matters. Surely everyone can understand that.
The original article in which I may have pinched a few quotes from is here: http://smallbiztrends.com/2016/05/why-handmade-matters.html