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In today’s world, you can buy a carpet for $40 and even $400. Even though the only difference between the two is their point of origin, there is a massive difference in their prices.
This is because one of them is machine-made, and the other is handmade.
Children in Pakistan can operate a machine and make your carpets at cheap rates, or an artist in America can do the same by hand for a reasonable cost.
The former seems better because even though the children are made to work, there isn’t much you can do about it, and we all love saving our money, right?
But it is time to take responsibility and stand up against such cruelty that people have to go through while making machine-made products.
There are many more benefits to getting a handmade product. When you are paying more for a pair of earrings than their subsidized version would cost, you get a unique product.
They are gorgeous, and since you are paying extra, they are thoughtful and customized to your needs.
Hand-made products are for anyone looking for products that aren’t available in the ‘mass market.’
Here’s everything you need to know about purchasing handmade versus machine-made products.
Exploitation Or Bargain?
Think of machine-made products, and your first thought is probably low costs. However, that shouldn’t be your primary concern because there is so much more to consider than just a price tag when it comes to these goods.
They’re cheaper than handmade products, but why do you think that is true? Both have the same output.
The only real difference is where and how they’re made. Unfortunately, this slight variation has huge real-world implications.
According to a recent Oxfam report, a shirt that costs 5 dollars for you costs a West African household even more in terms of a shortened life expectancy due to the harsh conditions in these factories.
More specifically, the average adult life expectancy is on 48 years! Additionally, adults in these areas generally have a literacy rate of less than 25 percent.
Compare these statistics with those of the United States. We have an average life expectancy of 78 years and a literacy rate of 99%.
One of the biggest reasons for this stark contrast between the developing and developed worlds is the multinational corporations (MNCs) producing your cheap goods.
When you purchase a mass-produced shirt, you are pushing these people into horrible working conditions, stifling their education, and contributing to the shorter life spans because of it.
How Do MNCs Hurt Developing Countries?
The cheap labor in these developing countries is the primary draw for these large, MNCs. Countries like Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh have a huge underutilized and unskilled population.
So when companies offer them menial jobs at low salaries, they have no choice but to accept, given the high unemployment rate.
Furthermore, these areas have poor labor protection laws. Minimum wages are meager, anti-child labor laws aren’t implemented, and the MNCs aren’t held accountable for violating regulations.
This is because the companies come from strong countries like the USA and have immense political standing. It is true that money brings power with it.
Weak local governments stand no chance against them.
But what does this mean for you? It means that every time you purchase a machine-made product, you are contributing to this exploitation.
You are giving these MNCs the power to carry out their activities and exploit the helpless.
The same simply isn’t true with handmade goods because they don’t need production on that scale.
This takes away the need to employ a large cheap workforce. Therefore, it also removes the need for exploitation.
Advantages Of Machine Made Goods
Despite the extreme exploitation of the third world’s population, there are some good things about machine-made goods.
While these don’t compare to the cons, no article would be complete without mentioning them.
The first benefit of mass produced products is their price tag. Most of us live on budgets, and low-cost goods are always attractive.
This, of course, makes things affordable and allows the end buyer to accumulate much more and a price they can afford.
Machine-made goods are uniform without variations in stitching, material, and dyes etc. like you would find in hand made products.
You know exactly what you’re getting because each product comes from the same mold.
The exact same product is created tens of thousands of times over.
Since a machine is creating the goods, there is little to no room for error. Engineers calibrate it once for the job, then the machines simply replicate it time and time again.
Each step is precise and perfect.
Machine-made goods have many benefits and our societies would not be what they are without them.
This article's goal is to offer the idea of buying your gifts and many more products from businesses that align with more sustainable use of our natural resources as well as actually helping the artisans make a livable wage, where before, they were unable to do so.
Benefits Of Purchasing Handmade Goods
Handmade goods also have several other benefits. They are unique, surprising, and only available in limited quantities, making them exclusive.
Handmade products are created by the artists themselves. Their labor can be tedious, time consuming and intense as well as using time tested techniques handed down through generations of ancestors.
Each one of us has a different outlook on life, and our work reflects that.
A carpenter puts their heart and soul into each piece of furniture.
An artist can spend weeks on a singular piece just to make sure it is perfect. These products are an extension of these people since it is their life’s work.
Similarly, when a clay enthusiast is making a mug, they’re going to want to make it perfect and personal.
Since the creator is involved in the process, the products also reflect the attention that went into each item as well as the hard work.
This makes handmade products unique and different.
They have a story because their creator is a person with a life.
So when you buy one of these beautiful items and place it in your house, you know that it means something and isn’t just another piece of mass produced wood or plastic.
Someone spent several hours creating it with their own hands and therefore gave it meaning.
Another great benefit of handmade products is that they are surprising. Since there isn’t a lot of standardization, each product comes out different.
When you order an item good from us or another business active in the fair trade field, you have a rough idea of what you’re getting.
But each of the same products isn’t a replica of each other.
The intricate details will vary. For instance, if you get a hand-crafted bracelet, the design and theme are going to stay the same.
But the specific shape of the stones embedded might change a little.
Alternatively, the engravings could differ.
Such variation is surprising and takes you out of the tedious monotony of mass produced, machine made products.
Artists and craftsmen who sell handmade products dedicate their lives to honing their skills.
They spend weeks, many times years learning how to make that item to the best of their ability. So you know you’re getting a quality product.
However, you should also know that these people can only make a small number a year.
Since this alternative to machine-made goods removes the highly efficient and fast-paced AI, they don't get large-scale production.
But that’s a good thing for you.
There are only a few of them, and you can own one. You can’t say the same about mass-produced items.
Handmade goods are better than machine-made goods for several reasons, depending on your needs.
First, they mean something. These products are the result of the years these craftspeople spent honing their skills and making a product that matters.
Second, it’s exciting. You know what you’re getting, but you also don’t. Meaning, you’re going to get a sloth coin purse if you order one.
However, the stitches on it might not be the same as the last time you ordered it.
This slight variation makes each purchase fun and interesting. Machine-made goods are precise and predictable, but that is boring.
If it is a unique and surprising gift you're after, or that just right eye catching wall art or pottery dish, then hand made is the way to go.
Third, since it takes a lot of hard work and time to make a product by hand and ensure its quality, producers only put out a limited amount of their goods every year.
There are only a few of them, and you could own one.
Lastly, handmade goods are better on principle.
They’re created with love and care, whereas machine-made products come from sweatshops in the third world.
The people working there don’t care about the quality of work; they’re living in deprivation and just want to survive.
On the other hand, the primary concern of those making hand-crafted goods is ensuring you get the best quality products and to preserve their centuries old skill set from one generation to the next.
So, next time you're shopping for that gift or home decor item to finish out your space, consider shopping these one of a kind and beautiful fair trade items.