Defining Handmade, Part One-Point-Five…

Now let’s meet Stacy.

Stacy is a stay-at-home mother of three boys. Stacy lives in suburban Ohio, and she has always been considered the “creative one” in her family. Being energetic and capable, she has been not only running the household from day to day, but also maintaining an active crafting regimen, beginning with the knitting she did to prepare for the birth of each of her children, and continuing through the many cross-stitching projects she completed to decorate their rooms, the sewing she did regularly to keep down costs associated with school clothing, and her crazy appliqué and ink-stamping and paper craft obsessions, which make holidays festive for everyone.

To keep up her crafting, Stacy happily relies on supplies from Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, Wal-Mart, Etsy, and on-line venues of every kind. A few years ago, a friend told her about a site online where she could download pictures of her craft items and sell them for some extra cash. To her surprise, this really worked well: Stacy uses several such e-commerce sites now, and sells several items per week, which brings her great satisfaction and some pocket money, which she generally spends on the kids’ needs.

Stacy’s main online sales have been of cards that she creates by stamping and folding machine-made paper; she also sells quite a lot of barettes and girls’ hair combs, to which she adds beads and plastic decorations with thread and plastic wire. The beads and plastic decorations she buys in small packs from Hobby Lobby or another hobby store. During the holidays, she often sells wreaths made on the same principle: she buys pre-fab wire wreath skeletons, and adds pre-fab plastic components to create colorful decorations. When she picks up some nice appliqués at the hobby store, she often goes to Wal-Mart, picks up some inexpensive t-shirts, adds the appliqués, and sells those, too. She loves scrapbooking, and sometimes sells her extra scrapbook stickers as “destash.”

Is Stacy doing “handmade”?

Hmm. None of the materials that Stacy uses are anything other than machine manufactured. Stacy assembles these materials cleverly and attractively. But is she “making” the objects that she sells? Etsy says so; other “handmade” sites tell her “yes,” too. She can sell her “destash” under “supplies” in many venues, and no worries.

But is she really making things by hand in the way that a carpenter makes things from raw materials? Not only are her materials machine manufactured: they are already finished designs. When Stacy irons a brightly colored fish appliqué, made on an assembly line in Malaysia by hands, most certainly, but not by Stacy’s hands, onto a pair of turquoise shorts she picked up on sale at Kmart, which were assembled in the Dominican Republic from cotton cloth processed and dyed and cut elsewhere … is she “doing handmade”? When Stacy uses beads produced in a small factory in the Philippines, and plastic wire produced in a factory in southern California, and decorates plastic combs that were mold-made in a large plant in Taiwan, what exactly is she making by hand? And should we be worried about the workers who created all those pieces that Stacy buys so cheaply and uses in her creations? Should the designers of those beads and appliques get credit, or more money, or…?

So, you see what I mean…

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4 Responses to Defining Handmade, Part One-Point-Five…

  1. Johnnie says:

    Enjoyed reading, great inspiration. I support and and it’s wonderful handmade sellers shops

  2. Deana says:

    Very interesting points. Something to think about.

  3. karalennox says:

    Hi, Jerise, love the new digs.

    I’d have to draw the line at iron-on appliques. But decorating wreaths and combs–that requires some creativity and skill.

  4. Carol says:

    I’ve started referring to my items as “handcrafted.”

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