I’ve been thinking a lot about how some customers and people in general perceive handmade items. It’s an interesting topic, because I myself have always thought of handmade goods as something special, something unique, something to be coveted.
I’ve always been crafting on some level, and often give away handmade gifts at holidays. These gifts have always won far more appreciation from the recipient than something that is mass produced.
I figured everyone else thought this way, too. Until I started selling my jewelry.
The impetus for my chewing on this topic was a recent comment I received when someone reviewed my Etsy shop site. She said “I can’t believe this beautiful jewelry is handcrafted. Nice site beautiful selection…” Hmm.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to receive the compliment. Very happy! However, the idea of “I can’t believe this beautiful jewelry is handcrafted” has been sticking in my brain. Why do people have this perception that handcrafted translates into junky? I’ve seen this time and time again.
A girlfriend’s husband, a few years ago, mentioned that she was dragging him to a “crap show”. I asked him what he meant by it (I’d never HEARD of a CRAP show before!) and he said. “Oh ha ha.. you know, a craft show.” I laughed it off but will always remember it.
I’ve heard several, dozens of stories about people selling at craft shows and overhearing comments like “Nice, but I can get the same thing so much cheaper at fill in the blank retailer”.
The answer to this is yes, you can get a better price. But you won’t be getting the same thing. You forfeit quality in materials and craftsmanship. You forfeit your chance to support a local business person, to say no to mass produced items that are often made in poor working environments paying bad wages to the workers. You often forfeit the opportunity to own a completely unique piece of art, clothing or jewelry. You forfeit a true human connection to the artisan that made the item with their own two hands. In my eyes, that’s a lot to give up.
It’s very funny to me, not only because I make quality handcrafted items that I believe seriously rival anything you could buy that has been mass produced. My jewelry has gotten high marks from my clientele for originality and durability. You truly do get what you pay for. It’s funny to me because people seem to perceive the things they buy that have been mass manufactured to be somehow magically formed in a cauldron somewhere. If you would stop to think for just a moment about where the items you buy off the shelves of WalMart, Target and the like may come from their perception may change entirely. Most things are handcrafted. It’s just a matter of this: in what fashion? under what circumstances? at the expense of whom? who stands to gain from my purchase?
Ask yourself: Do you want to purchase assembly line items that are exploitative and sometimes poorly crafted with poor materials (lead, in some cases)? Or, do you want to know where your purchases come from, have a friendly conversation with the person that actually laid their hands on the raw materials and whipped up a thing of beauty just for you. I promise you if you stop to think about it just a little bit every day, your entire world could change. For the better.
Think about this when you shop, think about it during the upcoming holiday season. You know the saying “Think globally, act locally.” Try to think of this whenever you shop for yourself, shop for a gift, or during the holiday season. Whether you’re shopping online, seeking out local retailers or attending a craft fair. Where do you really want your hard earned dollar to go?