Sunday, May 22, 2011

Is Handmade Better?

Not according to my friend's sister, an opinionated artist who says machines make goods cheaper, faster and more consistently. "Why would anyone want to pay more for handmade? You can't even tell the difference."

She has a point.

But, as a result we live in a disposable society. There are incentives to buy new cell phones only after a year. We are forced to retire capable computers that can't run the latest software. A very successful Swedish company sells furniture we assemble and after a few years we'll see on the curb waiting for trash day.

It wasn't always this way. I have a couple of 100 year old pocket watches that are still keeping time and cameras from the '40's that are clicking away to prove it. These garage-sale-gems were built in a era where things were made to last, often for a lifetime.

When did we suddenly move away from owning objects for decades? Are we better now for it? Or does it make these things inferior?

These are some questions I asked myself after speaking to Sarra in her studio at the Distillary. (I found a recent video (click here) on Toronto Standard showing the behind the scenes of her unique textile business). I was blown away by her dedication and passion to her craft.

Let's throw out the debate for now, as we won't solve it here. But rather focus on the benefit by connecting with these driven artists and the items they choose to make whether it be a handbag, a piece of cheese, or even crackers. And to be reminded we are creative creatures who were driven to take chisel to stone to make a tool or piece of art just may inspire others to do the same, or support those who do.


  1. I believe in handmade Ed!

    There is a difference--we need the artisanal community of makers to be the pivot point and the foundation so that there's a choice between the mom and pop joints and the ever expanding Walmarts and Costcos!

  2. As a handmade card designer/maker, I love to buy and support handmade whenever possible. I receive mass-produced greeting cards on special occasions, and always like to inspect them, see what I could learn from them. (I also receive handmade cards, and that always makes my heart soar!) What I have seen on mass-produced cards, and from some huge manufacturers, are dried glue visible on the front of the card, the paper insert haphazardly attached to the inside, or barely attached at all, flimsy paper envelopes. Things that I would never allow to leave my studio for sale or even a gift. I'm my own "quality control" and want the best for customers who are willing to purchase a card that might cost more than at the local drugstore. And that's true for artists: when you support and buy handmade, whether a piece of jewelry or a box of crackers, you are receiving a product infused with the maker's passion for their craft. You just can't get that same passion from the person who pushes the "start" button on the mass-produced conveyor belt.