“That's the thing with handmade items. They still have the person's mark on them, and when you hold them, you feel less alone.” - Aimee Bender
When it comes to retail, there are a wide range of products available to the consumer. A common question I get asked (and have asked myself in the past) is “why is handmade so important” or perhaps, “why support craft and craft cultures?” Handmade pieces are made in small batches and cannot maintain the demand of a consumeristic society, like mass-produced products. In addition, handmade goods tend to be more expensive because of the valuable resources of time and labor necessary to create each unique piece. So why is handmade so important?
One of the perks of working at Sustainable is getting to connect with our artisan partners. Each piece holds a story of the men and women who learned the art of their craft from their parents. And the story of their parents, who learned from theirs. Getting to hear those stories straight from the artisans or watch them in their element, brings that story to life.
I love getting to watch Macrina transform mere dirt into beautiful pieces of clay pottery. I am amazed when I watch videos of Ana taking harvested cotton, dyeing it with fruit and herbs, and then turning it into her lovely and intricate textiles. Pancho and his family are all weavers. His sons, Pancho 2 and Alejandro have been weaving since they were ten years old. Macrina, a ceramist in Oaxaca, never married because she said she is married to the clay. Together with her sister, she has created a successful business that employs other women in the community. Through the use of elaborate geometric shapes and symbols, our Moroccan rug makers share cultural themes of femininity, male protection, and spirituality. The lovely Ethiopian jewelry makers that we partner with, utilize recycled bullet casings for their pieces, as a way to redeem the horrors of war. There are countless craftsmen and women who incorporate things like recycled glass, brass, and newspaper. to create unimaginable works of art.
Handmade goes deeper than retail. Handmade pieces show the power of the human spirit and its propensity to create. When you support artisan-made pieces, you also support the craft skill they practice. By supporting skills like silversmithing, basket weaving, or glassblowing, we are helping them to pass the skills to the next generation. And when we buy handmade, we affirm to kids like Pancho 2 and Alejandro that their craft is not only beautiful, but it is also profitable, and therefore, worth preserving.