Thursday, June 9, 2011

Explaining Handmade

I love my shop, I really do…we are an amazing mix of handmade goods from myself and several other artisans, also a few well-done mass produced lines.  Together it makes the perfect collection; in fact, many customers can’t tell the difference between what is handmade and what is mass-produced.

So, today I get one of those customers that ask me to “reorder” a mosaic in the shop she saw over 6 months ago.  Problem being it was handmade, one of a kind and the artist doesn’t take custom requests because of the nature of her work; it’s impossible for her to replicate any piece.  Thinking I would be better at this by now, I begin to explain how the item is handmade and one of a kind…by an artist, not a factory.  I see the lady is visibly becoming upset because ultimately I am telling her no.  Exasperated I tell her how I deal in a lot of one of a kind items and I always encourage people to buy it when they see it…or someone else will.   She makes an off hand comment that if my artist really valued money she would do this for her.  I left it by taking her info and told her I would pass the info on though I really wanted to choke her.

Later, I got to thinking I never explained myself well enough.  We all want to make money; it's how we put food in our mouths, drive our cars, pay the bills…but some lucky few that create do not let money dictate their art.   I know for a fact that my artist appreciates all the money her craft brings as a single mom with a mortgage; however I know her time is more precious.  She spends her free time after work and on occasional weekends sans kids to create these masterpieces, so why would she let someone dictate how she spends it?  Especially, when the right buyer will come along?

I did pass on this story and info to my friend and artist and she just shrugged and laughed.  For me, the confrontation still lingers in my mind and bothers me that there are still so many people that just don’t “get” handmade art and crafts.  Hopefully, my shop and artists can find better ways to help convert the public and I personally will continue to use my buying power towards handmade goods.

How do you explain handmade to a mass produced lovin’ world?

--Lisa LeBlanc

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  1. A situation we have all encountered and I think you handled that customer with grace. Probably better than I would have but it is what comes with the business. Good article, good advise.

  2. We sell both handmade and vintage in our shop. Once when explaining the store to someone, I had a hard time with a guy saying that handmade sounded like it meant worse a grandma sitting in her basement knitting in a house full of cats or something. I was so infuriated! Pushing down my anger, I tried to explain that we work with amazingly talented designers who have mastered their craft and provide quality, limited-edition housewares that are made on demand. Someone actually took the time to come up with a unique design and bring it to life. By nature, no 2 items are the same which means each customer gets a custom piece. THAT is unique, quality design that's worth paying for.

    Even some of my (older) family members have a misconception about what handmade is. It's leading me to think I should stop using the word "handmade" and switch to "hand crafted" or "custom made" or "limited edition"...anything to get the point across. So annoying!