While selling and buying on Etsy this year I’ve noticed that a lot of the shops send Thank You notes with Handmade Matters written on it. This got me to thinking about why handmade should matter so much in our world of mass produced items. There is the easy answer that things made individually by hand carry the intention and energy of the maker in them. They are often made with greater care than things made by machine in a foreign land. We like the idea that something is made by someone we know or have met or at least read about online.
I think there is another good reason why handmade matters and that is that making things by hand empowers individuals, both the buyer and the seller. It also empowers those who just watch. Every Saturday I spin yarn at the local Farmer’s Market. I sit in my booth surrounded by hand spun and mill spun yarn and cloth and talk to people (as many adults as children) about how I make yarn and why. Before I began to take my wheel to the market I had trouble convincing people that I made the yarn. They were skeptical and I understand why – it is not something you see done on every corner. Those days when every household had a loom and spinning wheel are so far in the past that now we just read about them (or watch Youtube about them). People sometimes ask me why I would make something that is easier to just buy at the big box store. One reason I started spinning at the market was so I would not feel like my time there was wasted, I usually go home with at least one new skein. Another reason is that I think it is important for people to see how a thing is made. Once you see the process you are more likely to try it for yourself. I also think handmade things are inherently more interesting than mass produced.
This is the important part about Handmade Matters – If you can do it yourself it Empowers you to do things in your world. If you have skills you are not at the mercy of other people. You don’t have to buy what they think you should, you can make what you actually need and want. Making things builds self-worth. Knowledge shared is power at a grass roots level. Never underestimate the power of a grass roots movement; the Indians took back India from the most powerful country in the world – Great Britain through the grass roots movement of spinning yarn. It was cotton and Gandhi got everyone making their own. He empowered the people by reminding them that they had the skills to make do in life.