Friday, 2 May 2008

Buying Handmade Over The Mass Produced

The rapid rise of the large chain store culture and global manufacturing has left us furnishing and dressing alike. It’s almost like the consumer is being told what to buy because the shelves are full with goods of all the same design and colour as the next shop. Our ties to the local and human sources of our goods have been lost.

Mass production has always been with us, generally speaking as a way of ensuring quality. But this has not always been the case. Taking printing as an example, the earliest printers initially showed perfectionist tendencies, probably because the hand operated press machine and letter stamps were all created by hand to do the job. In the late sixteenth century, printing began to turn into an industry. It was largely considered at the time that these industrial printing practices should never allow commercial considerations to lower the typographical standard of books and printed documents.

But things inevitably went the other way in the nineteenth century after the invention of the steam press. The necessity to produce cheaper books and newspapers meant that standards fell, and mass production began to gain its poor reputation. It was during the nineteenth century that artist and writer William Morris began to worry that mechanised production was taking away opportunities for individual creativity, and to almost dehumanise people's working and social lives. Morris planned to counter these apparent problems with a revival of handicrafts. Numerous craft based associations, guilds and communities were founded, and the idea of something being hand made all of a sudden became rather fashionable. The customers for these hand made products were of course the better off for this change.

A memorial to what became known as the ‘Arts and Crafts Movement’ is now preserved at Standen in Sussex, a grand house decorated by William Morris himself.

It is often considered that buying a handmade gift involves that little bit more consideration and thought. You buy into something that is a unique, one off creation, and in today’s world that is still consumed by mass produced goods, it makes it all the more satisfying.

A handmade craft, whether it’s in the form of a painting, clock, pottery or jewellery, will be chosen for its pure individuality and will instantly reflect the personality of the purchaser.

If it has been purchased for the purpose of a gift, the buyer may well feel the satisfaction of supporting an artist or craftsperson as well as being confident of giving something of quality and uniqueness. Likewise, the recipient of the handmade gift receives something that is one-of-a-kind, and made with care and attention. It is the result of skill and craftsmanship that is clearly absent in the world of large-scale manufacturing.

If you are looking to buy, whether for yourself or someone else, buying handmade can help us reconnect with ourselves and therefore certainly better for both maker and buyer.

Above: Allan Craig Arts and Craft style copper clocks, mirrors and sconces
Top of post: Kerry Whittle, John McPhail and Tim Fowler


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