we’re here to give you the low-down on handmade business… but what exactly is ‘handmade’ anyhow?

There’s an eternal debate in the community as to what exactly constitutes handmade – and in this episode, we aim to tease out the technicalities of how we should aim to use the word handmade.

  • Who, exactly ‘deserves’ to use the term?
  • Can you use it if you don’t make your own products?
  • At what point does using tools and machinery tip things over from being handmade to being manufactured?

After you listen, we’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue!

Come on over to our community and share your personal definition of handmade!

~ Jess, Mik & Deb

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today we talk about what handmade is.

There is a lot of drama and tension around this topic as it can mean different things to different people.

Etsy has this reputation of being the place to go for everything handmade and here is their definition.

  • According to Etsy, Handmade is a spectrum. People can:
  • Make products with their own hands or tools;
  • Design their products but rely on production partners to physically produce the products;
  • Both create and designing products.
  • Wherever in the spectrum you belong, you must be transparent who’s helping out and how the items are being made.
  • The seller must be designing or creating your own products.
  • Mikaela designed her pieces on the computer, had them laser cut elsewhere, got them back and assembled them – and is more on the designer side of things.
  • Jess makes her jewellery by hand using tools. She buys the raw materials but Jess and her husband creates everything else with their own hands. She designs the pieces, gets the raw materials, and make the items from these raw materials.
  • The term handmade has evolved.
  • The tension comes from the idea that one is better than the other. Where you make everything from scratch versus using tools and having materials outsourced.
  • The people who are hand makers feel like their work is being devalued and they can’t charge their product with the price that’s it is actually worth. So how does the consumer know?
  • Deb shares that she uses “handmade” as a generic term for makers and illustrators. But what she really means are independent shop owners. It’s really hard for the consumer to understand the difference and to justify the value of the product because we are not really helping solve the problem.
  • How is someone, from the outside, supposed to differentiate why products vary in price when from the outside they look the same?
  • We need to educate our customers by our branding, by making sure that we use the correct words and descriptions in selling our products.
  • The customer wants to know how the product can benefit them. We need to put the spotlight on them. Highlight how you create your products but also show how the products can benefit your customers.
  • Some people don’t care whether or not it is handmade. They are never going to buy if you are not the right shop from them. We can’t force them because they will not care about the process. You can’t market to people who will never be ready to understand that.
  • But remember that there is a market out there for you and you should focus on them. Some people want the cheap stuff  and will go and find the cheap stuff because they are only interested in the thing. But there are people out there who do care about the process, about how the product was made. Like if they value eco-friendly stuff or if they value handmade, and will pay for that.
  • Some people will see the value and will pay for it. It goes back to branding. There is also a lifestyle that people want to buy into and who want to support small businesses. They value it and they pay someone else to make it.
  • As makers ourselves, we can do more for the industry by being more careful in the terms and phrases that we use and not using the word “handmade” for everything. We can help customers appreciate what is actually going on in the process.
  • Check out the video from Saddleback Leather which shows people how to knock-off a bag. By showing the materials that are cheaper and the many ways to make the leather bags that are of high quality, this is the kind of thing to communicate to your customers.
  • You can show how the process is made and you can allow others to copy but it won’t be as good as the original. But the transparency is there and you know how the product was made.
  • Ethical manufacturing is also important and you can do your part by educating yourself. It helps in keeping the skills alive and it is a good investment.
  • So whichever spectrum of the definition of handmade you belong to, create something you value and you care about and get that into the world.