The Importance of Handmade

This week I wanted to talk about a topic that’s near and dear to my heart since I started knitting: the importance of handmade. I’ll be speaking from a crafting and artistry perspective, but this information can apply to everyday things like cooking as well. I hope you’ll read, learn about my perspective and join the conversation afterwards.

When I say handmade, I’m really talking about anything made by hand and fueled by creative energy and imagination. For me, that outlet happens to be knitting, but the ideas I’m about to mention really apply to anything creative!

If you are a part of the online Maker community, you’ve likely participated in conversations that cover some of the things I’m writing about now. But if not, I hope this post gives you something new to think about when considering handmade items and the people who make them. Luckily, many people still appreciate handmade, whether they are makers or not, but for others it’s a hard thing to understand the value of. What follows is a collection of my musings on the subject of handmade, which I hope will shed some light on the perspective of makers, whether or not they are small business owners.

Handmade is deeply personal

When you’re struck with an idea, the inspiration can come from many different places. No matter where it’s coming from, that inspiration is unique to you, because it came as a result of something you saw or did, or something that happened to you. Your brain processed that experience and gave you this AWESOME idea, and now you can’t wait to make it! Maybe it’s a new glaze combination you want to try on your next pottery piece. Maybe it’s a line that you’ll start your next poem with. Maybe it’s a new colorwork design you want to build a sweater pattern around. No matter what it is, you thought of it and you’re super excited about it, because it’s unique to you, and now you want to tell the whole world about it.

No matter the medium, that inspiration, and subsequent process of making, is undeniably personal. That’s time, energy and effort you are putting into making that item. And that item is one of a kind, unique to your process and your hands! How special is that?

Handmade connects people across generations

If you follow me on Instagram, you may recognize this next point, but I’ll reiterate it anyway. When you make something, whether it’s a scarf, a piece of jewelry or a painting, or even a family recipe, you’re participating in a tradition that is centuries old. Generations and generations of people before us have done those exact things for ages. While your piece is unique to you and can never be exactly replicated, you are still following in the footsteps of countless others before us who valued the same craft, and chose to devote time and skill to it.

My favorite example of this is a sock that dates back 1700 years to ancient Egypt, made using a single-needle technique called nålbindning, which predates both knitting and crochet. This sock is evidence of the handmade fiber arts tradition going back thousands of years! How cool is that?
There is a unique duality to handmade in this sense—what you make is unique, but also contributes to the larger body of human artistic work over the ages. That longevity, and the work of artisans and makers before us, is worthy of respect. And we do that by participating in the same crafts today.

Handmade brings people together around the world

Stop by your local craft store, yarn shop or woodworking studio and it’s clear—handmade brings people together. Those who love a particular craft want to share it with others who feel the same. And so, you have knitting circles and community arts classes that give others camaraderie and a creative outlet. Now, with the advent of social media, you don’t have to travel at all to find likeminded people who share your love of handmade—you can interact with them right from your living room couch!

For many, a love of your craft won’t be the only thing you have in common with someone you meet through making—but it may be the first thing you find in common. This is an extremely important thing to remember. I say this as an American living during a time where many seek to emphasize our differences instead of our commonalities. Will crafting and making resolve these differences by themselves? No, but they can be a way to start important conversations with your neighbor, and work toward understanding and caring for each other.

These are just a few of the things I think are important to consider when thinking about handmade. I hope you’ll remember these ideas the next time you see a sign for a craft show, or hesitate at a price for something handmade, thinking that you can find the same thing in a store for less. Handmade is markedly different, and worth supporting. When you buy or are gifted a handmade item, you’re getting with it all of the time, effort and creativity that the person put into making it. Those are things that you can’t get with a machine-made item from a big box store. And that’s why I feel that handmade is so important.

P.S. supporting handmade can mean taking the craft up yourself, too! 😉

How do you like to support handmade? Want to share your perspective on handmade? Leave a comment below and join the conversation!

Source – Wu, Katherine (Oct 10, 2018). 1,700-year-old sock spins yarn about ancient egyptian fashion. Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smartnews-history-archaeology/1700-year-old-sock-spins-yarn-about-ancient-egyptian-fashion-180970501/.

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