Handmade goods made by artisans have lost their significance over the years and have been replaced by cheaper machine-made mass produced goods. The reasons for this shift are due to lower cost of machine goods and our fast-paced lifestyles, which have caused us to prioritize convenience over quality.
As a result of the efficiency and affordability of large-scale manufacturing, the vast majority of items we use in our daily lives, including food, clothing, and household goods, are mass-produced rather than artisanal in today’s global economy. But have we ever considered the true cost of these mass-produced goods? Oppressive labor practices, low-quality materials, environmental degradation, and a lack of attention to detail are just a few of the known facts that surround the opaque and mysterious mass-production goods industry.
If you believe that the artisan industry is dying, you are mistaken. According to the 2016 census, over 145,000 Canadians identified themselves as working in an artistic or cultural occupation, and the industry contributes $2.4 billion to the Canadian economy each year.
However, there’s a growing movement towards handmade products that celebrate the art of craftsmanship over conformity. In this blog post, we’ll explore the advantages of choosing handmade products over mass-produced goods.
The environmental impact of mass-produced goods is well-documented and well-known, factories that produce mass-produced goods emit massive amounts of carbon dioxide and harmful greenhouse gases into the earth’s atmosphere. Furthermore, these factories are responsible for depleting limited natural resources such as water, oil, natural gas, coal, and so on at an unprecedented rate.
According to a 2020 report by the Canadian government, the manufacturing sector in Canada is responsible for approximately 11% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions. The same report also found that only a small percentage of the waste is recycled or properly disposed of, with the remaining ending up in landfills or exported to other countries.
Artisans, on the other hand, create their products using sustainable eco-friendly materials and traditional techniques that have the least amount of environmental impact. The Canadian Crafts Federation, a national organization that supports and promotes Canadian artisans and the craft community, has established clear and stringent guidelines for local artisans to follow.
These guidelines encourage artisans to use sustainable practice’s in their work, such as using non-toxic materials, reducing waste, and conserving energy. Artisans can help reduce their environmental impact and contribute to a more sustainable future by following these guidelines.
According to a 2019 report by the Canadian Crafts Federation, 87% of Canadian artisans surveyed indicated that they use at least one environmentally sustainable or responsible practice in their work. The same report found that the most common sustainable practices adopted by Canadian artisans were using recycled or repurposed materials (71%), reducing waste in their production process (60%), and using locally sourced materials (50%).
Unique & Individualized
Artisanal goods have very distinct features and characteristics, and they can be distinguished from mass-produced goods simply by looking at them with the naked eye. There will never be two identical artisanal goods because each handmade product made by an artisan is unique and has a story to tell. Because artisanal products are one-of-a-kind, they are even more special and personal, with a deeper emotional connection than mass-produced goods.
Artisans put a lot of thought into their products and put a part of themselves into them, which is what makes them unique, because for the artisan, each of the products is more than just a product; it becomes a part of the artisan. Although the time it takes an artisan to make a product varies greatly depending on the artisan’s skill and experience, the type and complexity of the product, the material and technique used, the statistics below may astound you and make you appreciate local artisans even more.
Consider a time when a loved one gave you a piece of jewelry or a handwoven product made by a local artisan. You may have developed a stronger emotional attachment to the product after learning about the care and attention to detail that went into its creation. This emotional attachment to the artisanal product contrasts sharply with the impersonal and often disposable nature of mass-produced goods, and it reminds us of the importance of supporting and preserving traditional craftsmanship.
Quality is prioritized over quantity by artisans, which is not the case with mass-produced goods. Artisanal goods provide a sense of individuality and personal touch that mass-produced goods cannot. Customization is an essential feature of artisanal goods and one of the reasons they distinguish themselves from mass-produced goods.
Customers can personalize their product by instructing the artisan to use specific materials, designs, patterns, embellishments, and so on. Because artisans work on their products in small batches or individually, they are usually able to customize the product to the customer’s specifications.
According to a survey by the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise, it can take anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks to make a single artisanal product, depending on the type and complexity of the product. A study by the International Labor Organization found that the average time it takes to make a hand-knotted rug is approximately 6 months.
The World Bank, on the other hand, estimates that the average production time for a pair of shoes is around 30 minutes. According to a US Department of Agriculture report, the average production time for a pound of processed cheese is approximately 10 minutes.
Quality & Durability
There is no denying that artisanal goods are not only more long-lasting and durable, but also of higher quality than mass-produced goods. Artisans are skilled craftspeople who take their jobs seriously. They use high-quality, eco-friendly natural materials to create their products, which can last for years or decades if properly cared for.
Mass-produced goods, on the other hand, are made with less expensive synthetic materials and are produced through automated processes that are designed to produce the product as quickly as possible with little regard for detail or quality.
This is primarily because businesses involved in mass production are more concerned with maximizing profit than with providing optimal customer satisfaction. The durability of artisanal products is determined by a variety of factors, but they generally have longer life spans than mass-produced goods and must be replaced less frequently.
Artisans, on the other hand, strive for perfection and customer satisfaction, so their products will undoubtedly be more expensive than their counterparts, but they will undeniably be worth the price. A study by the German Federal Environmental Agency found that handmade wooden furniture can last for over 100 years, while mass-produced furniture may only last for 5-10 years
According to a report by the nonprofit organization Aid to Artisans, many handmade textiles can last for over 50 years, while mass-produced textiles may only last for 5-10 years. A study by the British Standards Institution found that handmade ceramics can last for over 200 years, while mass-produced ceramics may only last for 50-100 years.
Supports the Local Artisanal Community
Buying locally made artisanal goods has profound effects on the community as a whole. Artisanal goods are created using techniques and methods that are deeply rooted in the community and have been passed down for decades or even generations, so supporting local artisans not only helps to preserve our cultural heritage but also ensures that traditional crafts thrive.
According to a report by the Canadian Crafts Federation, 78% of craft artists in Canada are considered to be micro-enterprises, meaning they have fewer than 5 employees. This suggests that a large majority of artisans in Canada are small business owners.
Purchasing locally made artisanal goods creates job opportunities, fosters community self-sufficiency, and ensures that money stays in the community to support local families. According to a study by the American Independent Business Alliance, for every $100 spent at a locally owned business, $48 stays in the local economy, compared to only $14 when the same amount is spent at a chain store.
Promoting artisanal goods that reflect a community’s rich culture and aid in the creation of a stronger identity for the community can lead to cultural tourism and support in the promotion of the community as a cultural destination.
Artisans prefer a more direct and personal connection with their customers because it allows them to provide personalized service and build long-term relationships. They are able to develop deeper and more meaningful connections with their customers, as well as mutual respect for one another, making the community as a whole stronger.
To summarize, the advantages of buying handcrafted artisanal goods outweigh the advantages of buying cheap, machine-made, mass-produced goods. Artisanal goods are superior in every way, from superior quality, durability, customization, and personalization to sustainability and community support. By choosing handmade products over mass-produced goods, consumers can support local artisans, promote traditional crafting techniques, and reduce their environmental impact.
Furthermore, purchasing handmade products supports local economies and can help build stronger communities. It also allows you to connect with the product’s creators and gain a better understanding of the skills and expertise required to create handmade goods.
While mass-produced goods have their place in the market, handmade products provide an unrivalled level of quality, uniqueness, and personalization. So, the next time you go shopping for something new, consider buying a handmade item to reap the many benefits that they provide. You are not only supporting local artisans, but you are also investing in a better and more sustainable future.