Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Death of the handmade

You see, the problem with the handmade item is that you just can't make them fast enough to supply the demand out their at a reasonable price.
As an illustration of this, Etsy, the website known as a go to marketplace for handmade items, is know allowing people to have their items manufactured and shipped by third parties.

Etsy’s Industrial Revolution
Elizabeth Wayland Barber, New York Times, 11 November 2013 (hat tip: Freakonomics)
[L]ast month, Etsy announced new policies that would allow sellers to apply to peddle items they produced with manufacturing partners, as well as to hire staff and use outside companies to ship their goods — all provided that the sellers demonstrated the “authorship, responsibility and transparency” intrinsic to handmade items.
By easing the definition of “handmade,” Etsy is trying to accommodate individual vendors who are having more and more trouble keeping up with their growing volume of customers. But many Etsy users are outraged by what they see as Etsy’s abandonment of its commitment to human handicraft, with some jumping ship for purer artisan sites like Zibbet.
Yet Etsy’s latest move is entirely in line with the history of handmade goods, a history that is more complicated than the simple term “handmade” implies. The artisans have run head-on into the problem that led to the Industrial Revolution: Making things by hand is slow. Really slow.
The author of the article, an archeologist and linguist,   goes on to note that machinery (like spinning wheels and pottery wheels) are also machines, and thus machinery has had a hand in making craft items for a longtime.  This is of course splitting hairs.  I think most people understand the distinction between individually crafted items using machine assistance, and the modern assembly line manufacturing process using interchangeable parts and process broken down into specific units of production.
The very self limiting nature of individually crafted items is very much a part of their appeal.  That there is a rarity associated with them is why today they are the province of the middle and upper class consumers.  Pricing pressures would simply make this even more so the case.


James M Dakin said...

Mom, in the 70's, hand wove foo-foo fancy crap she sold to rich bastards. They weren't buying it because they needed another lumpy pillow but because they were more "peacock feathers". God, how I hated stringing the thread into that big ass loom.

russell1200 said...

James: LOL