Justin McGuirk’s articleThe art of craft: the rise of the designer-maker discusses the move towards designers including and participating in craft processes.
I believe that there is a demand for handmade objects however I am not sure how large that demand is. There will always be a niche for unusual or bespoke products aimed at the super rich but I am more interested in the demand for handmade products within the general public.
Reading McGuirk’s article which mentions designers creating craft hairdryers etc, these objects have the feel of novelty items or a gimmick. Personally, I think that there is possibly a greater appetite for objects handmade locally as an alternative to mass produced items freighted half way around the world.
I do believe that people like to own objects which are high quality but also are individual. With so many products mass produced with everyone ending up with identical experiences, people start to crave the unique. I think McGuirk makes a valid point about poorer countries moving toward mass production to lift their citizens out of poverty. Ultimately, I believe that a balance will have to be reached. Many basic products will be mass produced so that they are affordable and everyone has a decent living standard. Consumers will then have the choice of purchasing a smaller selection of unique or handmade products which allow them to express their individuality.
There is certainly a romanticised nostalgia when discussing hand made products, a focus on the idea of each individual product being lovingly crafted. However the reality is that most people expect a basic level of quality for a minimal price point which is something that is impossible without mass production or the exploitation of others. What will be interesting in the future will be seeing how the improving living standards in countries that mass produce many of our goods will affect consumers buying patterns once the costs are similar to those should those goods be produced locally.
I believe that the only way for makers to sell products that are hand made is to emphasise their luxury value. If the maker cannot compete on price with mass produced goods, the additional cost must be seen to reflect some other value added. Whether the focus becomes on the individuality of the products or better quality or ethical values is a choice of the designer and a marketing exercise.
There are a multitude of mass produced products that are good quality and have a long life cycle. After all, I don’t think anyone would want to individually cast the nuts and bolts for washing machines. I believe that mass production and hand making products could both be ethical, the question is about the appropriateness of each process to the final product. A hand made product is not necessarily inherently more ethical for example products created using child labour or workers making things by hand for poor wages is no more ethical than a factory.
The first handmade product that I purchased was bought when I was 16. I was given money for my birthday and decided that I wanted to buy myself a ring. The one I bought can be seen below. I was drawn to it as it was unusual compared to most other rings found in jewellers. Made by Gavan Riley in New Zealand it features Arun lilies which make up the band. I still wear this ring (hence why it probably needs a good clean!) and it was probably one of the first objects that started my fascination with hand making objects myself. Part of the decision making process for me was purchasing jewellery which would not irritate my skin so the fact that this ring was made in silver was a key deciding factor (at 16 I couldn’t afford more expensive metals such as platinum). The fact that I still wear this ring shows that the design and emotional attachment I have to it has meant that it has stood the test of time.
The other rings that wear everyday are also handmade by a lovely woman called Zomile. These rings are made in silver and are decorative however fulfil an important function. They are actually splints to protect my joints from bending backwards when I type or write. I decided to invest in these as the NHS provided splints are the ubiquitous ugly beige plastic which screams “medical product”. The designer of Zomile ring splints uses them herself to mitigate the effects of her own condition. For me, this first hand understanding of the medical needs as well as the desire to have aids that reflect your personality created a sense of community or bond with the designer-maker.
The art of craft: the rise of the designer-maker 1/8/2011 The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/aug/01/rise-designer-maker-craftsman-handmade
[All links accessed on 21/3/18]