Once a hipster trend, the desire for handmade goods has become thoroughly mainstream. It can be seen from the meteoric rise of Etsy, right through to proliferation of the word ‘artisan’ on products ranging from shoes to bread. Handmade products tend to be more expensive, and by no means assure better ‘quality’, so what’s all the fuss about?
Over the last forty years our world has become increasingly friction-free. We work in offices of sheet-glass, we have lunch at wipe-free tables, we go home to Ikea furniture – designed on computers and made by machines; and, if we are a typical millennial, we spend much of our lives prodding, poking and swiping spotless smooth laptops and smart phones. All of this has left us craving some texture: objects which are rough, imperfect, unique.
These are after all the very qualities we find in nature - a thing which humans living in urban areas may feel increasingly detached from.
Of course, these are also very human qualities. Increasingly connected in the digital world, humans may not feel as connected to each-other in real life. In some subconscious way, the desire for handmade objects may be a response to this. When holding something which has been entirely made by hand a direct link is established between yourself and the person who made that object. The product you hold in your hands, has been held in theirs. In a way no factory made product can, handmade objects remind us of our shared humanity.
This is not the first time craftsmanship in Europe has experienced a renaissance. The first Arts and Crafts movement began way back in the middle of the 19th century. Much like today, the first Crafts movement was a response to a rapidly changing world. As Britain industrialised, handmade objects became increasingly replaced by machine-made items.
It was a change which provoked great worry. ‘’To banish imperfection’’ said John Ruskin ‘’is to destroy imperfection, to check exertion, to paralyse vitality’’. The digitisation of our world is posing similar questions today, and the response is very similar. The human ‘vitality’ Ruskin talks about has remained a precious commodity, and likely always will be. The search for the human touch in our objects isn’t a hipster trend. Handmade is not a fashion like a big bushy beard, a fixie bikes, or quinoa, its a basic human impulse, and it’s here to stay.