The subject of handmade versus mass produced items comes up on a fairly regular basis on the Etsy forums. The responses are often emotive, with many sellers having a very clear idea of what constitutes handmade items as opposed to those products manufactured by large organisations. One comment in particular caught my eye and had me bristling
'People who use laser cutting machines are cheats!'
The remark, which the poster tried to quantify later, was in relation to those of us who use anything other than our hands to make an object.
Needless to say, this remark gained the attention of a few hundred sellers itching for a fight. One seller asked 'If I make cupcakes but I don't mill the flour, harvest the sugar, keep chickens for the eggs etc, etc, are my cakes mass produced?'
Another seller admitted that her dresses were stitched with a sewing machine rather than by needle and thread and yet she still listed them as handmade.
So this is my question to you...where do you draw the line between handmade and mass produced?
In my opinion, everything I make is 'handmade'. No one else is involved in the process. The reason for using machinery is a matter of cost and what savings I could pass onto a customer if I sold something. Take for example the laser cut credenzas and lights that I have made.
To my mind they are handmade in that I design a vector file, cut that file using the laser cutter, construct the object by hand using glues, jigs and clamps and then finish it with sandpaper and wax.
Would it be any more handmade if each piercing was cut with a jewelers fret saw? Maybe, but the cost of that piece would multiply considerably.
I posed the same question to the joiners where I work. Each one of them had to endure a four year apprenticeship, shadowing another tradesman and then working on their own before they were deemed a qualified joiner. Yet in the workshop, all of the dovetail joints are cut with a jointer machine, they don't hand plane wood to a desired thickness or use a chisel and mallet to cut a rebate for a door latch. They use machines specifically designed for each task. However, like me, if we had a power cut, they would revert back to the skills learned years ago.
Okay so over to you. I'm intrigued to know what you think?
Have a great weekend