By Hand | Why handmade goods are highly in demand

Automobiles, furniture, homes, even food: Today, so many of the goods we consume are mass-produced by technology-driven machines half a world away. Which is why handmade items really shine.

At a time when things can be made so quickly, in such quantity and for so little, the trend toward anti-mass is growing. Farmers’ markets, craft fairs and flea markets proliferate across the country, all of them showcasing handcrafted and home-produced goods. E-tailers like Etsy and eBay feature a bewildering array of items made by hand. Graphic design annuals testify to the popularity of hand-rendered lettering and line drawing in branding and print communication

Perhaps this interest in handmade goods is simply an antidote to our increasingly digital world. Or perhaps it’s more than that:

 

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Mt Washington Pottery, the L.A. studio of Beth Kaltz, creates functional and decorative ceramics with a Japanese influence | Photo Credit: Nicole LaMotte

 

We’re wired to create.
Throughout time, humans have been makers. Modern makers are using the tools of their forebears in new ways to produce goods with a fresh sensibility. Witness the continued popularity of home canning and woodworking—but with a twist. Cruise any urban flea market and you’ll find bearded dudes using hand tools to craft furniture that’s perfectly at home in a downtown studio apartment, creative canners hawking jams and pickles in unexpected flavor combinations.

 

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Shelter Publications founder Lloyd Kahn celebrates small scale and hand-built architecture in his books, including Tiny Homes: Simple Shelter” and “Home Work: Handbuilt Shelter.” For his photoladen title, “Builders of the Pacific Coast,” Kahn connected with an under-the-radar community of Northern California craftspeople who create buildings, by hand, of found materials. This “magical” seaside home was constructed of scavenged driftwood and fallen cedar. | Photo Credit: Lloyd Kahn

 

We admire the process.
Producing things with our hands may be in our DNA, but many of us today don’t have the time or training to do so. Seeing evidence of an artist’s hand in an item gives us a window into the process by which that item was made. We feel closer to the act of making.

 

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Florida-based designers Anna and Nathan Bond have built their Rifle Paper Co. brand on a mix of elegance and whimsy. Their broad range of high-quality paper goods, from greeting cards to wallcoverings, feature the duo’s gorgeous hand-drawn illustration and type. Botanical elements are prominent in their work, including the art print above by Anna.

 

We crave connection.
We want to know that the things we buy were made by someone—a real person—and not by a machine. The imperfections inherent in handmade goods—a rough edge, a smudge of ink, a potter’s thumbprint—are signs of the artist’s presence and character. Maker fairs and farmers’ markets let us actually meet those creators face to face.

 

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When does a classic become a keepsake? When Thornwillow Press creates a hyperlimited edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” by rebinding the book’s 75th anniversary edition with Moroccan leather and handmade paper. Luke Ives Pontifell’s company is one of the finest custom publishers and stationers in the country, crafting exquisite business cards, invitations and journals.

 

We want unique.
Are we coming to the realization that more isn’t better—that owning lots of junky stuff is less satisfying than owning fewer, better-quality items? Bespoke may not be the new mass-market (yet). But savvy consumers recognize that they can convey their personal style and character by surrounding themselves with one-of-akind goods.

We treasure heirlooms.
Because we recognize the effort, craft and vision that goes into handmade goods, we regard them as keepsakes. A gorgeously bound volume of classic literature isn’t something to off load in next summer’s garage sale; it’s to be passed down to children and grandchildren. The hand bestows meaning, longevity, value.

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This article was written by Bryn Mooth and originally published in Issue 07 of the Mohawk Maker Quarterly. The Mohawk Maker Quarterly is a vehicle to support a community of like-minded makers. Content focuses on stories of small manufacturers, artisans, printers, designers, and artists who are making their way in the midst of the digital revolution. Learn more about the quarterly here and sign up to receive future printed issues.

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