What does handmade and sustainable mean to you?

For the last three years Alison and I have been knee deep in this shop local, handmade, sustainable, eco friendly, ethical, and canadian made, movement. As Christmas approaches I wanted to look at some questions surrounding this movement. 

  1. What does this all mean? 
  2. Does buying handmade really make an impact? 
  3. How do handmade and sustainability relate? 

Businesses and marketers are using the handmade movement to pull consumers into their ads and into buying their products everyday. It’s not a coincidence that as our society digs deeper into technology and mass production there seems to be a push back into the natural world and all things handmade. Humans are made to enjoy nature and the imperfection that comes along with it. Beau Lotto, author of Deviate: The Science of Seeing Things Differently says, Our brain is not only drawn to certainty, it’s also drawn to the ‘noise’ – the imperfections that create difference – and of course you’ll remember that our five senses need contrast in order to make sense of meaningless information.

Which means when we see something that says it’s handmade or handcrafted we want to learn more. There is authenticity and truth that goes along with a handmade good, but the definition has grown to include an array of things which can make buying handmade goods difficult and overwhelming. Alison and I decided early on that we wanted to have a definition to go along with what handmade meant to us and our business. We strive to carry like minded makers in our collective. 

Handmade – An item that is thoughtfully and slowly made by hand using methods and materials that conserve the earth’s resources.

Goods that are made by hand require thought and time.  Mass production is not an option with handmade so by default it is slowly made, and the thoughtful and slow piece applies to consumers as well. We are passionate about encouraging consumers to become more thoughtful about what they purchase and consume. This means thinking about how and where an item is made, what it is made of and who made it.  

Just because something is handmade doesn’t mean it is ethical or sustainable.  Shopping handmade can be a slow process and it takes time to research before purchasing.  For example, when looking at clothing it’s important to know what type of fabric was used. Where did the fabric come from?  How was it dyed? Yes, it is possible to fall down a rabbit hole with this type of research, but it could be as simple as choosing a hemp shirt over a cotton shirt this time, and furthering your research for the next purchase. 

When buying handmade remember these five things. Is the product unique – one of a kind? Do you believe it to be creative – imaginative, original? Is it of heirloom quality – an object of value been passed down through generations? Do you have a personal connection – what is the story behind the maker and good? Lastly, was it made using sustainable practices – ask questions? 

Buying handmade can have little impact on our local economy and on helping the environment when the goods being made are not ethically or sustainably sourced. If something is handmade and ethically sourced it will cost more than a mass produced item.The artisan is not trying to rip you off. They are trying to earn a living wage.

We believe if we try and make small changes to our everyday lives, we will see a positive change in the consumer industry. We believe in educating the consumer first and foremost. We think home goods should be seen as beautiful pieces of art as well as functional objects. We believe handmade functional goods make beautiful heirlooms.

Life isn’t always easy. We go through seasons of busyness and seasons of slow. When life seems to be getting away from me I always resort to easy practices or things done out of habit, which in our culture usually isn’t the most sustainable option. Which means I have to try and change my habits for the better.