Handmade vs. Machine Made
In my previous article I discussed the ongoing battle between old and new, especially when it came to technology. I touched upon some peoples preferences for handmade over mass produced by machine, giving the example of clothing, asking whether one would prefer a cheap item from their local big brand shop, or perhaps pay a little extra to get something hand knitted from a speciality store. Of course it isn’t always the case that handmade is more expensive, there is a sliding scale. If you wanted to purchase a Gucci or Dolce & Gabbana cardigan, for example, it may cost a lot more than even one painstakingly hand knitted with organic llama wool all the way over in Chile, just because of the popularity and exclusivity of the name of the brand. But there is a lot more to it than cost of course, and more examples other than just clothing.
A trend that seems to be common amongst those who make handmade items is to go organic. In general people making things from hand are concerned about the materials they use, preferring less harsh chemicals and opting for essential oils for cleaning and perfuming. Those with sensitive skin or noses may prefer to opt for these choices, and many places specifically advertising their products as SLS free, Paraben free, organic and so on. Some consumers prefer products that have a more homely and rustic feel rather than going for generic store bought options. Clearly aesthetics plays a part in this ‘movement’, with, as mentioned before, a rustic theme being used for both the item itself and the packaging which houses it. Imagine handmade soap in brown paper and tied with string instead of factory processed and plastic packaging.
Another example that makes the point is candles. You can buy perhaps 50 tea light candles for about £1 from many places, where as a hand-rolled 100% beeswax candle may cost the same for just one. Again, you can find factory produced candles for a very large sum, but people seem to want simpler things, healthier things and prettier things, even if this comes at a price. Suggesting that the handmade movement is a new trend is only partially correct, in many ways it was ever thus. OK, I don’t mean the aspect of online selling or fancy product labelling and so on, but it wasn’t too many years ago that if you wanted a candle then yes it would be handmade, your clothes would be handmade, your food organic, even your furniture would all be put together by a skilled tradesman, not at a factory or a storeroom. This isn’t something new historically, but there seems to be a popular revival in reaction perhaps to huge chain supermarkets, factory production lines and faceless companies. Handmade adds some personality and care back into the items we use in our daily lives.
Some people of course may not care or enjoy popping over to their local shops and getting everything they need there. For others ordering one special product online is a hassle. Having to pay shipping, particularly when a similar item is half the price locally, is another obstacle. A higher price will be a big stumbling block but one that is understandable given that many of these small businesses are made up of just one, two or three employees, possibly all friends or family members. I think most would agree that some of these said businesses are a pleasant niche in the market providing a different option for those who want it and can afford it.