the meaning of ‘handmade,’ the evolution of cultural artifacts

The largest market for ‘handmade’ goods is Etsy, the online marketplace for all things vintage and handmade. Until recently, their definition of handmade was that it was not factory-made. But Etsy has changed the definition of ‘handmade’ largely because of its success… sellers aren’t able to keep up with the demand for their products. So, Etsy is ushering in its own industrial revolution by redefining handmade to allow sellers peddle items they produced with manufacturing partners and to hire staff and use outside companies to ship their wares.

The size of your shop is up to you.
Hire help if you need it or collaborate, even from different locations. Everyone who helps you make handmade items should be listed on your shop’s About page.
You can use shipping and fulfillment services.
If it’s right for your business you can let someone else handle these logistics. Keep in mind that shop owners are ultimately responsible for buyers’ customer service experience.
Manufacturers can help you produce your designs.
Sellers create their handmade items in many different ways. Partnering with an outside business is okay, but we’ll require you to be honest about how your items are made.

Some see this as a sell-out, an unconscionable compromise to what it means for an object to be handmade. But this redefinition of the meaning of handmade is precisely what happens with the use of objects in social contexts… high demand meets the very slow process of making everything without machines and so handmade comes to mean something you make with your hands, possibly aided by a machine (like a sewing machine, loom, soldering gun, and so on). Using something like a loom to weave a rug is just such an example, and watching a Turkish woman weaving a rug still looks like making something by hand. When an object includes parts that have been manufactured or is made with the assistance of a tool, it may still be considered handmade, the outcome of an individual’s creative work.

The meaning, role, and value of artifacts is fluid, changing with human use and interpretation.

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