We interrupt this blog…

We interrupt this blog…

For a small rant. I keep seeing articles like this fluff piece from the New York Times about Etsy’s new policies and in particular  this one fraudulent seller who is getting a lot of attention for supposedly making a million dollars a year hand knitting legwarmers. I’m pretty sure most people reading this blog understand that importing sweatshop-made goods by the shipping container and slapping a button on them isn’t really handmade, and why that’s a large problem when Etsy sellers who really do responsibly make their own goods are forced to compete with this sort of unscrupulousness.

However, one thing I keep seeing pop up as justification in almost every single one of these arguments is the whole “well you can’t really call YOUR legwarmers handmade either because you bought that yarn”. From the NYT article:

Nicole Burisch, a fellow with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and an expert on crafts, said separating the handmade from the manufactured would always be tricky. After all, she said, how handmade is a hand-knit sweater or clay pot?

Most of the goods for sale on Etsy were never strictly handmade, she said — “that is, unless you are digging your own clay, weaving your own cloth, raising your own sheep.”

Excuse me here, but seriously, what a load of utter and complete garbage.

I am so tired of these false arguments. Are you any less of a painter if you don’t grind your own pigment or weave your own canvas?

No, and no one would even begin to question it.

What people expect when they buy a painting from an artist is that the artist picked up a paintbrush and created that image themselves. Not that they imported 1000 screen prints from AliExpress, slapped a little gel medium on top and signed their name. When someone buys a pair of “handmade” leg warmers, they expect similar, which is that the seller picked up her needles and ball of yarn and turned them into the piece for sale. No one really expects that the knitter is raising their own sheep any more than they expect the painter to be pulverizing ore or pressing their own linseeds. 

So let’s just nip this false argument in the bud, shall we? I think we are all a little smarter than that.

tweeting 140 stitches

There was a little kerfluffle over at Etsy recently over it’s decision to implement more aspects of social media into the shopping experience. People have varying opinions on how serious the privacy issues were, but while I think there was definitely an ‘oops’ moment, I’ll leave the harsh critique to others.

Their efforts to make themselves into something more akin to facebook did, however, make me stop and think about the dichotomy between a site created to sell artisan goods and a world living in 140 character increments.

For many, ‘handcrafted’ conjures an image of items made with care by someone who has taken the time to learn a true skill. Items made by someone taking their time, enjoying the process- creating something they are proud to finish, and hopefully someone else will be proud to own.

Etsy certainly hasn’t lost the image of being a place to find such things, but the dynamic of the site has changed as the site has become more social. It has been easier to find people and easier to curate collections, but perhaps a little harder to find an individual artisan voice in the radiating rings of “Circles.”

On a similar note, I’ve been reading my blogroll via RSS, and while it’s convenient, it’s a habit I’ve decided to give up. The feed-reader removes so much format and is missing the personal touch from viewing the post in the environment it was written for. I miss those little bits of voice – the writer’s equivalent of handmade.

The race to make content of all types appear faster, fit a trending hashtag and be readable on ever-smaller devices is surely having an effect on the creator as well as the audience. If you get paid per click, all you might need to worry about is a catchy headline, but what about the satisfaction from the creative process?

Wasn’t the handmade movement supposed to slow us all down a notch? Did that concept fly away with the failwhale when I wasn’t looking?