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Handmade and handcrafted products are gaining popularity among people. You must have seen numerous people online and offline (in your surroundings) claiming to be artisans, creating so-called handicrafts.
The increase in their numbers is directly related to the increased demand for Handcrafted products. Amid the technological advancements, people are missing the old-fashioned manual ways of life and they are trying to fill that gap by buying handcrafted goods. It is human nature to like things that are prepared through simple methods with human involvement and intimacy.
People also like such products due to their strength, details, and they can be customized easily, contrary to mass-produced products which are hard to customize for individuals.
Generally, these two terms Handmade and Handcrafted are used interchangeably and their meanings are the same. Handmade means something that is made by hands and not machines.
The same can be said about Handcrafted, things which are essentially crafted through hands. However, there are some subtle but vital differences between them. Let’s try to understand them.
Handmade vs Handcrafted
You must have noticed, the terms Handmade and Handcrafted are often used interchangeably on the description of products like shoes, belts, wallets, or other leather goods and wondered what’s the difference and which one is better. Today we are delving deep into this topic to understand it better.
Definitions of Handmade:
If you search “Handmade” in Merriam-webster dictionary, it defines it as something “made by hand or by hand process”. It does not include or exclude the use of any machinery or a specific skill. Further in the list of synonyms is "handcrafted" as well as "handwrought."
Consequently, we can assume that anything that is made through the substantial involvement of human hands can be called Handmade while the usage of any machinery remains ambiguous. You can argue that many machines need the guidance of hands to achieve the set goals.
Whereas, Cambridge dictionary has cleared the ambiguity regarding the use of machinery in handmade goods and defines it as something “made by a person using just hands or tools, not by a machine”. Through this precise definition, you can conclude that any item that is solely prepared through hands or simple tools without any machine, is considered Handmade.
Apart from dictionaries, the term Handmade is often used for products where machinery is used to some extent. For example, machines are used for stitching and sometimes cutting leather in certain shapes.
Or the raw materials are produced through machines, but the product is then assembled by hand. So, the products which are considered handmade, have involvement machines, to a certain extent, like a sewing machine or die press machine to facilitate the process of stitching and cutting making the process more time and energy-efficient.
What does Handcrafted mean?
Handcrafted is defined by the Cambridge dictionary as something “made using the hands rather than a machine”. This definition is identical to that of Handmade by Cambridge dictionary. Neither definition states anything about skill but includes the use of hands while excluding any machine use, making this a more clear definition of handmade versus handcrafted.
However, the term “Handcraft” is defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as “to fashion by Handicraft” and further defines “Handicraft” as “a manual skill” or “an occupation requiring skill with the hands”. So, handcrafted essentially means a thing that is made by hands through a specific skill.
Due to no mention of machine usage, this definition is a bit ambiguous because there are certain machines, for example, sewing machines, that are guided by hands and stitch dresses or quilts. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, they are handcrafted while according to Cambridge they are not Handcrafted.
Another assumption you can make is that you call every Handcrafted item Handmade but you cannot call every handmade item a Handcrafted item.
Generally, “Handcrafted” is used for products that are entirely produced by hands, from collecting raw materials, stitching to cutting and shaping the product, without the use of machines.
The term Handcrafted is often associated with products that require extremely skillful craftsmen, a high level of passion and patience, and which are crafted completely through simple tools like a hammer, knife, small metal rods, and needles, etc.
However, this is not a debate about the legality or illegality of something, therefore, everyone might hold a unique and subjective opinion.
Problems while defining Handmade or Handcrafted
When different people have various definitions of a single term, problems can arise. For example, you may consider a dress, made with fabric bought from a store and sewn with a machine, as handmade or handcrafted while others may not.
The same goes for leather products like wallets and bags etc. The retailer will list them as handcrafted or handmade while the customer may consider that fraudulent. However, oftentimes consumers are unaware of the production process and involvement of machines.
Public opinion on Handmade and Handcrafted
In today’s technological world, people debate about things that they like or hate on the internet. Either you are sad or excited about something, social media sites are the places to throw your feelings.
You might be aware of the various opinions regarding the words Handmade and Handcrafted. Some think that sometimes people unnecessarily over-analyze things.
They believe that both these terms refer to the same thing and there is no point in complicating or specifying them to certain conditions.
Others are of the view that when a word fallout of fashion, we tend to introduce a new one, or when a word drives sales, it becomes popular.
We are always trying to use fancy or innovative words and avoid the traditional and redundant words and that’s why we come across multiple words describing a single phenomenon.
Relation between Premium and Handmade or Handcrafted
As you know, everyone has got a unique point of view. According to a survey conducted worldwide in 2016, 29% of people said, Handcrafting or making a product through artisanal methods (i.e., with simple tools like a knife, needle, nail, etc. by an artisan) makes it a premium item. This point of view is pointing towards the uniqueness of handcrafted items.
An artisan cannot duplicate his crafted pieces like a machine, essentially every piece is unique in itself. Due to their uniqueness, many deem them as premium and exclusive products.
Due to the extremely subjective views on these two terms, one can’t help but use them interchangeably.
Should you buy Handmade or Handcrafted goods?
Handmade and Handcrafted goods are considered to be better than mass-produced items. Because they are made under the supervision of a real human who can pay attention to details and prevent errors that machines might miss.
Nevertheless, it comes down to one thing and that is the quality of the final product. Regardless of its production location, or who made the product, you should focus on the end product that is in front of you and decide for yourself, if it’s worth the monetary and environmental price or not.
Advantages of Handmade/Handcrafted products
We talked a lot about the differences and various opinions about the above two terms, now let’s shed some light on how beneficial it is for you.
- They are one of a kind
When you buy a handcrafted item, it is one of a kind because they are crafted manually with hands and simple tools with passion and love.
A skillful craftsman puts substantial effort and time to produce that item without any sophisticated machinery therefore they are hard to replicate and every piece turns out unique.
If you possess any handmade item, it is unique.
- Humans love things made solely for them
If your loved one’s birthday is coming up and you want to gift something that doesn’t end up in the trash can the next day, buy something special, natural, personalized for her/him, something made by hand and not mass produced through machinery. Handcrafted gifts trigger warm emotions. Consequently, the gift gains a special place in the heart and is kept near and dear.
- Handmade last longer
Today, we buy mass-produced products and after some time that doesn’t work so, we have to buy them again. There was a time when you would buy one item and it would last many years.
The reason behind that was the material used and the way the product was prepared. Artisans didn’t make them only to succeed in their businesses and fill their pockets, but also to help the society they live in with useful and long-lasting products.
- They are environmentally sustainable
Keeping in mind these products are made by hand without complex machines, they consume less or no energy at all. Therefore, they are much more eco-friendly than mass-produced items.
This is even more true if you are ordering something from afar like China while living in the USA, because that will just add up to the energy consumption which decreases its eco-sustainability.
- They create jobs
According to a survey, 52% of Americans are employees of small businesses (which have less than 100 employees). By buying local products, you are supporting your own nation. Since 2003, small businesses have created 5.1 million new jobs providing substantial help to the economy.
- Handcrafted products are deemed special
Handcrafted items are treated as special due to their wide background and attached sentiments. They are also considered authentic because their place of creation and artist are often known to you and sometimes, you even witness its production process which creates a sense of attachment in you.
- Save your planet
It’s high time that we start paying attention to not only our own, but also the long term sustainability of our planet. Various surveys show that people are destroying their ecosystem through mega industries and their use of industrial machinery.
To meet their energy needs, these mega industries use coal and other harmful fuels that lend themselves to destroying the planet's natural resources.
It is important that societies become more conscious of these harmful effects and, when available, choose something handmade or hand crafted instead of feeding into and supporting these mega corporations and their destructive practices.
To that end, a 2020 survey showed that nearly 50 percent of French consumers preferred local products and tried to preserve their environment. Local goods are oftentimes better than readymade products, last much longer and support local indigenous cultures.
- Be satisfied with your purchases
Many times, you spend money and buy stuff but you regret, also known as buyer's remorse, or you don’t feel as accomplished as you had hoped.
One reason is that you bought something from a brand or industry that prioritizes their business interests over the environment, or they don’t contribute to the community in which their business is thriving.
However, you are not alone in feeling that way. According to this survey, 63 percent of Americans think it is the responsibility of corporations to contribute to the betterment of society and the environment while 73 percent said they will boycott companies that don’t see climate change as a serious threat.
In contrast, if you buy items that are crafted handcrafted, that money will be re-used in the local market and circulate throughout their local culture. Furthermore, handcrafted products don’t have any negative effects on the climate.
The difference between Handmade and Handcrafted products can’t be explained in one word or even in a simple way.
The answer to this question is always open-ended. However, you can conclude from the wide range of definitions and opinions on the topic that there is no clear boundary between the two terms and use them interchangeably and as synonyms.
Everyone agrees on one thing though, that both these terms refer to something that is made by hand with a substantial amount of effort, and skills. It is also very time-consuming work and is done with passion and patience using skills handed down from one generation to the next.
Finally, remembering to buy handmade or handcrafted items when you can goes a long way in the good it brings, both to the environment and to the local cultures that bring these beautiful items to the market.
By supporting the numerous fair trade organizations, which bring these artists work to market, we all benefit.
And you can feel good about not only your beautiful, unique hand made item, but also about the good of the environment and the generations old cultures these purchases support.