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  • Ilona

What's in it for Handmade?

There are so many ways of getting hold of 'stuff' nowadays - you can go to Primark and pay near to nothing, you can go to a local market and buy something that's completely hand made and speak to the maker, and then there's everything in between. Here I want to talk about what's in it for paying that extra bit, going to that extra effort and knowing who made your stuff!


Firstly I want to talk about relationships. Not the relationships we have with people, but those we have with our stuff, with the things we surround ourselves with in our day to day life. William Morris the British textile designer famously said "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be beautiful or believe to be useful". He was part of a movement that pushed back against all the developments of the industrial revolution, where more and more was made in factories and the quality and beauty of things reduced greatly. I want to take this a step further and say - What is your relationship with the things you have in your house? They might be beautiful or useful - that is something that depends on you though. And that depends on your relationship with them.


Think about the way you relate to something you bought quickly and because it was cheap, to something you bought with careful consideration as a gift to yourself, something you thought was absolutely useful, stunning and you knew you were doing something good by buying it - supporting a local maker, the environment, animal welfare. Every time you use that item, you have a little thought that goes along with it, you know something of the story behind it, you feel good about using it. Your life is that much richer for interacting with this object. This is I think what William Morris was getting at too - if you surround yourself with only things that give you joy or pleasure in using them, you will be a happier person.


This thing with relationships could apply to any object, not even a hand made one - often there is cheap trashy stuff that you have a very special relationship with, maybe because they were given to you by someone close, or they remind you of a special moment.


But I feel that we have much more of a chance to build a positive, enriching relationship with something that you buy that's been lovingly hand made.


Whilst a factory made garment appears almost magically - many of us probably can't get anywhere near imagining the endless trips back and forth your item has made, the multiple stressed hands it has touched, in order for you to pluck it off the shelf at under a tenner - you will be able to write directly to the makers of hand made items and know more of the human behind your item.


Whilst a factory made garment rushes through machines with quantity rather than quality as the goal, a hand made item is often hand finished, carefully sewn and checked for quality.


Whilst a factory made garment is one of thousands churned out to look identical, monotonous, a hand made garment is unique every time, the colour, shape varying just slightly, as the maker takes it from start to finish.


(I have to clarify here that of course factory made things are also essentially 'hand made' has without human hands they wouldn't exist, but the involvement is much less personal, and often will involve less human contact than a truly hand made item.)




I'm not saying you have to buy everything hand made - it's more expensive, for a start and most people can't afford that. But consider how the item will serve you going forwards - both practically as well as the joy it will give you knowing those extra things about it, having that special relationship with it.


What William Morris was also concerned about is the loss of skills - real know - how, hands that have years of experience, techniques are beautiful as they are clever. That will slowly fade and disappear if we do not support it to survive and thrive.


Many people say you are what you do - your work helps define you, it's the way you interact with the material world. I believe when you buy hand made you enable someone to interact with the world with beauty, care and grace.

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