By Emma Clark Gratton
In theory, we all know the benefits of handmade. The anti-globalisation catch-cry of ‘Think global, act local’ has definitely hit home, with handmade and craft-based micro businesses popping up everywhere. But the very real, tangible benefits of making, using and buying handmade products have an effect that goes beyond a simple business transaction. We’ve outlined ten ways that the handmade economy is a win-win for everyone.
For the maker…
Keep craft skills alive
Traditional skills such as crochet, macramé and embroidery have had a comeback in the past couple of years, despite few people actually needing these skills in the same way that we did 100 years ago. Keeping these skills alive and active is an important part of our cultural heritage, and worthy of support.
The reason why most people start handmade or creative businesses is because they are passionate about what they do. They love their work, and want to share it with the world. Buy handmade and support the spreading of joy and happiness!
Support the person
When you buy handmade, you are literally supporting a person, not a faceless corporation. The products might be made on the kitchen table in between school pick ups, or by a particularly creative lady who left the corporate world behind to make unique products. And the (small) profit they earn will go directly to them, not to line the pockets of some guy in a suit.
For the buyer…
You only need to look at the shelves of your local Woolies to see the range of products dwindling in response to cost-cutting measures. With out the ‘make this cheaper at all costs!’ impetus of most mass-produced industries, the handmade economy throws up way more creative, unique and customised outcomes. This diversity is of huge benefit to the consumer – mo’ money, mo’ problems (or something like that).
Again, without a corporation’s bottom line looming over every detail of a business, handmade products are generally much better made than mass produced goods. Plus, if something does break, the maker is usually more than happy to repair your product.
A study researching cheeses in America found that consumers prefer buying ‘artisan’ cheese because they feel it provides a fuller ‘sensory experience.’ This is a factor of both intrinsic properties, like better taste, and extrinsic properties, like the joy of finding something you really love. Even just the knowledge that a product was handcrafted contributed to the feeling of a better experience because there is a relatable, knowable back-story.
Much, much greener
This is an obvious one, but buying local handmade products is a trillion times more sustainable. Less transport, less overheads, less waste. Work done by hand takes less energy than a mass production assembly line, which makes it more environmentally sustainable.
Support the economy
Studies have shown that locally owned independent businesses —many of which sell wares produced by hand— return a higher percentage of their revenue to their communities than the bigger chains. This means that by buying local, you are pouring money back into your local community, rather than the money heading off overseas.
Decreasing dependence on multinationals
Frighteningly, there are only ten companies in the world that own almost everything we buy. The same company that owns Pringles also owns Duracell, Hugo Boss and Oral B. Supporting handmade means sidestepping the global corporations, and securing our economy for the future.
Handmade is forever
There is a cheeky thing in the mass-market design world called ‘design obsolescence.’ This means that a product is built to fail after a certain amount of time, so the consumer will need to repurchase the product (I’m looking at you, Apple.) It is a relatively new phenomenon, which is why your nana’s Mixmaster is still going strong after 50+ years, while your new Breville broke after three years. After a few decades, this has created a culture of ‘if it’s broken, don’t fix it – just chuck it out’.
And this is where handmade excels - there’s no need for an upgrade as it is perfect already. And the nature of handmade products means that they will literally last as long as the materials will- so think of it as a good long term investment!
Emma Clark Gratton is the Head of Content at Creative Women's Circle, a staff writer at ArtsHub and a podcaster who, alongside her husband Lee, runs GRATTON, a timber furniture and architectural joinery company. She blogs occasionally at Worst House Best Street and posts endless photos of her sons on Instagram at @emmamakesthings.