The Definition of Handmade- A Hard Line to Draw

“I had it all. Even the glass dishes with tiny bubbles and imperfections, proof they were crafted by the honest, simple, hard-working indigenous peoples of… wherever.” – Narrator “Fight Club”

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The Definition of “Handmade”, according to




made  by hand,  rather than by machine: the luxury of handmade shoes.
What is authentically handmade can be hard line to draw.  I don’t make my own yarn.  I buy it in a store from companies that make it with machines, sometimes from synthetic materials.  I don’t make all of my own beads.  Some are glass, some are plastic, some metal, and other materials.  I LOVE finding things that have already been made, used, and sent to the thrift store to “upcycle” into something fabulous and new.  Is what I do handmade?  I’d say yes, absolutely.
Fabric made in China (with people operating machines) and sewn on a sewing machine (that was made by other people operating machines) makes a wonderful HANDMADE dress or pillow.  An artist using laser cutters to make wooden flowers she designed for earrings she assembles is also handmade in my book.  That same artist would still be a handmade artist ordering designs of her wooden flowers from another company.  How could she be less a handmade artist than me?  I don’t make my own beads.  I just find nice ways to combine them.
How about if someone buys something like a cross stitch pattern and takes the time to fill it in?  Is that handmade?  Yes.  Is it art they should be able to sell?  No.  It wasn’t their creative output.  It required some skill and patience, but for me it’s missing the artistic spark.
How about someone that designs furniture and has it made in another country by people without machines?  Is that handmade?  Yeeessss……  Do I want it being sold in a market that claims to be handmade?  No.  Maybe because the product is built by someone else.  If i wanted furniture like that, I could go to Cost Plus World Market.  If the wooden flower earring maker designed flowers and had them cut by someone else on a machine and then sold them I wouldn’t call them handmade flowers.  If the furniture designer had furniture made, then stained it herself or upholstered it or SOMETHING, I’d be okay with calling it handmade, by her.  Maybe because she would be adding something to the final product…
There has been a big issue going on at Etsy over a featured seller.  It’s led me to evaluate what I consider handmade, what I want out of Etsy.  I’m disappointed that something I don’t consider appropriate for the handmade market gets to be there, but Etsy is not my business.  It’s a tool for my business.  I choose to use this tool.  At this point, I’m going to continue using this tool.
I guess the only thing that can be hoped for is that customers continue to raise their conscienceness, to be aware of where their purchases come from.  Be informed, find out about the process of creation.  This should apply to all areas of consumption, really.  Know where your food comes from, how it’s made.  Know about the goods, processes, and people you support with your money.

One thought on “The Definition of Handmade- A Hard Line to Draw

  1. MegansBeadedDesigns

    Adriann, you have written an incredible post on this subject! I agree with you >>>>100%<<<<. While I am hoping that etsy changes their mind on the decidion to allow designed objects made by others (outsourcing) to be considered handmade, I'm not going to depend on it. Our greatest hope is educating our buyers to know the differance. First of all so they know what to look for, and second of all so they don;t feel cheated if they find out the details on their "handmade" product after purchasing.


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