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Buy Handmade
November 23, 2007 3:53 PM   Subscribe

I pledge to buy handmade this holiday season, and request that others do the same for me. Why? Better gifting experience, better ethics, better for the environment.
posted by divabat (95 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
We could also buy used. Or not buy at all.
posted by 45moore45 at 4:04 PM on November 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


Better for the environment than what? Nuclear warfare?
posted by public at 4:05 PM on November 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


Interesting, they seem to not like mass production in the creation of items. I would think that creating items on a smaller level would create greater inefficiencies, in terms of materials and environmental impact, than the creation via mass production. To put it another way, is the environmental cost of a 1000 brooms created individually more or less than the cost of a 1000 brooms created in a factory.

Sad note, the first thing I looked for on the site were links to web stores where I could buy handcrafted items. Somewhat defeating the point? :-/
posted by zabuni at 4:06 PM on November 23, 2007


Alrighty...here is a great event featuring only cool handmade stuff by small time artisans from around the country: http://www.atomicholidaybazaar.com/
posted by 45moore45 at 4:06 PM on November 23, 2007


Pledges are creepy...this one especially so because it's trying to convince you that this is some sort of non-profit effort that's designed to be "good for us" when, in reality, it's a consortium of companies trying to pimp their products to us under the guise of "doing something positive."
posted by dhammond at 4:07 PM on November 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


Alrighty...here is a great event featuring only cool handmade stuff by small time artisans from around the country: http://www.atomicholidaybazaar.com/

I was more commenting on how having a handmaid item flown across the country might not be the most environmentally friendly action. As said above, the most environmentally friendly action might be to not buy anything at all. Also, gift cards and money have much less environmental impact. Especially for something like iTunes, where no physical product is actually purchased. Of course, that's a hell of a lot less sexy than a bamboo/organic cotton fair trade hoody.
posted by zabuni at 4:11 PM on November 23, 2007


Great, so now I'm going to have to uncomfortably feign pleasant surprise and enjoyment at more gifts this year...
posted by Jezztek at 4:16 PM on November 23, 2007


Most of the things I buy are handmade by small children in Pakistan and India.
posted by sien at 4:18 PM on November 23, 2007 [4 favorites]


Where can I get a handmade version of the new Blade Runner box set?
posted by papakwanz at 4:19 PM on November 23, 2007 [10 favorites]


Someone point me towards that handmade large screen plasma tv that I've been looking for.....

or... what papakwanz said
posted by HuronBob at 4:22 PM on November 23, 2007


I only buy organic locally-produced handmade gifts because I am rich.
posted by Falconetti at 4:24 PM on November 23, 2007 [6 favorites]


Isn't this just a marketing campaign dressed up as social awareness?
posted by whoaali at 4:26 PM on November 23, 2007 [4 favorites]


I do like this idea, but I can't help but wish that the pledge emphasized the giving, rather than the buying. I'd rather give (or receive, for that matter!) something from an independent crafter or artisan than from Target, but even more than that, I'd rather give something that I had made myself. Sadly, I'm not so good at making things.
posted by dizziest at 4:28 PM on November 23, 2007


Jesus fucking christ, do people really say "Better gifting experience"?

If you're alienated enough to use a phrase like that it's no wonder you need this kind of pathetic illusion of authenticity.
posted by silence at 4:29 PM on November 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


It's great pity when people overstate their case to such an extravagant degree. I agree with the spirit of investing something besides a credit card swipe in the things you give to people, but zabuni's entirely right about multiplying inefficiencies. Mass production of almost any given item is, generally speaking, many, many times more efficient in terms of energy, transportation and work than it would be if a hobbyist had made it at home. For one thing, each and every one of those storebought items didn't involve three trips to the craft store in the family SUV to get the things that went into it. Also, unless you whittle out of fallen wood from your back yard, chances are most of the things you make are from mass-produced parts: fabric, buttons, thread, zippers, patterns, etc.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:32 PM on November 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


I prefer giving to local, controllable communities which deliver some kind of measurable result, or maybe give something to somebody who is more need than me.

Do you know who else does handmade ?

yes, exploited child labor all over the world...hey but you helped the children get a job, aren't you fucking proud ?

In other news, the Queen Victoria sez : goddamn it looks like we are back to my times , my most beloved proles !
posted by elpapacito at 4:33 PM on November 23, 2007


Jesus fucking christ, do people really say "Better gifting experience"?

If you're alienated enough to use a phrase like that it's no wonder you need this kind of pathetic illusion of authenticity.
posted by silence


Gee, sorry. I just didn't know how to word it better, and their term "better gift-giving" didn't seem adequate. I didn't mean to offend you or anything.
posted by divabat at 4:35 PM on November 23, 2007


And to all the people bringing sweatshop labour to the "handmade" argument: part of the campaign to buy handmade is to protest against mass-produced products that are often made by sweatshop labour.
posted by divabat at 4:37 PM on November 23, 2007


divabat: well there is protesting and protesting. Does it make ANY sense to encourage sweatshop labor by submitting money, when you want to discourage it ?

Sounds almost like "war is peace" to me.
posted by elpapacito at 4:41 PM on November 23, 2007


I pledge to not participate at all in Christmas this year. Why? So I don't encourage the retail monster during a made-up holiday, and because I am a cranky cantankerous old coot.
posted by Eekacat at 4:42 PM on November 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


Craftivism: Is Crafting the New Activism?
posted by maryh at 4:43 PM on November 23, 2007


Better for the environment. What a frigging laugh. Handmade is better for many things, but as a knitter, I'm under no illusions about how and where my yarn is manufactured. Or how it gets from there to me.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:46 PM on November 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


etsy.com/ is a cool site for handcrafted items. I have been thinking of listing some of my own items up there. Environmentalism be-damned, I'd rather have a limited edition (or one off) item, than something prefab, but that's just me.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:46 PM on November 23, 2007


Hey, it's officially Buy Nothing Day. What a coinky dink. http://adbusters.org/metas/eco/bnd/
posted by 45moore45 at 4:55 PM on November 23, 2007


Oh Noes!!!!1!! And here I am out of booze!
posted by maryh at 4:58 PM on November 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


One of the gifts I'm planning on giving this year is a multi-terabyte disk array (shh, don't tell!). What am I supposed to do, beaver the thing out of a log with my teeth? Handmade stuff is all well and good, and it can be very personal where very personal gifts are welcome, but let's face it. A vast majority of it is crufty-crafty crap that's going to sit on a shelf until the next time you move. I prefer to give people things they want, need, and care about.

I don't need a cardigan or a scarf or a handmade beer cozy this gift giving season. Such a gift might be adorable and lovely and sweet, but it's not something I want or need but rather a bunch of wasted resources that will go to something I'm going to throw away because I don't allow crap to accumulate in my life. I actually want and need a gigabyte switch with some decent but minimal management features. Knit me one of those and I'll be damn impressed.
posted by majick at 5:02 PM on November 23, 2007


Hang on, I suspect this site is not on a hand made computer using hand made power and serving things over a hand made internet.
posted by sien at 5:02 PM on November 23, 2007


This isn't just an advert for Etsy? (Which, don't get me wrong, is a cool enough site I suppose.)
posted by chunking express at 5:03 PM on November 23, 2007


We must, we must, we must increase our bust.
posted by chunking express at 5:04 PM on November 23, 2007


I admire the crafters and collectives like etsy, but I think the movement is overselling (ha!) the political and feminist angle. There are plenty of reasons to enjoy making or receiving a handmade object; I don't see the need for the additional validation, particularly when the argument for it is so tenuous.
posted by maryh at 5:04 PM on November 23, 2007


Fuck Corporate Sponsored Holidays.
posted by threadbare at 5:06 PM on November 23, 2007


Ms. Vegetable's family only gives handmade, but they made it. It's a bit more meaningful that way.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:08 PM on November 23, 2007


This year I'm giving all the women in my life Cherokee Hair Tampons. Lovingly twisted and braided by hand by ancient Cherokee wisewomen.
posted by Nelson at 5:11 PM on November 23, 2007


Also, unless you whittle out of fallen wood from your back yard, chances are most of the things you make are from mass-produced parts: fabric, buttons, thread, zippers, patterns, etc.

You might actually be surprised how many crafters are reusing and repurposing the components of their works. With the possible exception of thread, it's pretty easy to buy second-hand versions of all the things you listed, or to harvest them from garments or objects that would have otherwise been thrown out.
posted by dizziest at 5:13 PM on November 23, 2007


This year I'm giving all the women in my life Cherokee Hair Tampons. Lovingly twisted and braided by hand by ancient Cherokee wisewomen.

This woman might be selling.
posted by whoaali at 5:17 PM on November 23, 2007


Hey, it's officially Buy Nothing Day.

And as with every year, "Buy Nothing Day" was a tremendous success.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 5:18 PM on November 23, 2007


I pledge to not participate at all in Christmas this year.

I started doing something similar a few years ago. My friends and I stopped buying gifts for one another based on a holiday, and instead try to make a point to get someone a gift at some point throughout the year, because we like them, not because of some arbitrary date.

At the very least, try to convince your friends to wait 2 weeks after xmas to swap gifts. You can usually get each other the same stuff on sale.

As to the limiting yourself to buying only hand made gifts, I think it's kind of silly. Unless you know the artist/ artisan who is making it, or you are making it yourself. Hand-made doesn't necessarily mean better or more ecologically made.

because I am a cranky cantankerous old coot.

Age sometimes brings wisdom. And cranky cantakerosity often brings humor.
posted by quin at 5:22 PM on November 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


Hey, it's officially Buy Nothing Day.

And as with every year, "Buy Nothing Day" was a tremendous success.

Yes, well I can't help it if the lemmings line up at the Wal-Mart at 4:00 a.m. to buy a microwave... Did you look at the Adbusters site? They have been trying to buy air time on MTV to let the kiddies know they don't have to be mindless consumers, if only for one day. What an uphill battle, selling that one on MTV (MTV has not sold them the air time).

I like the idea of crafts, crafters and homemade. I like the idea of Buy Nothing Day. I like the idea of less crap in landfills and less built in obsolesce that makes us constant consumers. I like the idea of making do with less. For those on this thread thinking crafts is crochet beer cozies, take a look at some crafts that aren't being sold at a church Bazaar and you might find something appealing, hip and eco-friendly. Many crafters are dumpster divers and recyclers who are re-using things that are headed for landfills anyway. It's a good thing...I don't think much of signing a pledge to that effect, though. Especially a pledge drive with a vested interest. Anyway, still like the spirit behind the message and wish more Americans embraced the concept.

posted by 45moore45 at 5:29 PM on November 23, 2007


Oh shit. Sorry for all italics.
posted by 45moore45 at 5:29 PM on November 23, 2007


I wanna buy something SO BAD right now.
posted by stavrogin at 5:38 PM on November 23, 2007


let the kiddies know they don't have to be mindless consumers, if only for one day.

Not only is that sentiment rather condescending and patronizing, it espouses a viewpoint that's ultimately pointless. Choosing not buy products on an arbitrary day does absolutely nothing to minimize clutter and waste in our lives, and simply gives its participants a reason to look down at the unwashed masses with smug superiority.
posted by dhammond at 5:43 PM on November 23, 2007


Yes, well I can't help it if the lemmings line up at the Wal-Mart at 4:00 a.m. to buy a microwave... Did you look at the Adbusters site? They have been trying to buy air time on MTV to let the kiddies know they don't have to be mindless consumers, if only for one day. What an uphill battle, selling that one on MTV (MTV has not sold them the air time).

I find it paradoxical that organizations that wish to destroy consumerist culture, seek promotion and validation from those who profit on same. Or, to simplify: OF COURSE MTV ISN'T GOING TO RUN THE COMMERCIALS. Advertisers are their air, their water. Asking them to help you kill them seems a bit counterproductive.

Much like the drug war, providing meaningful alternatives that people want is much harder than telling people to "just say no".
posted by zabuni at 5:49 PM on November 23, 2007


What?

I don't get that from that at all. Smug superiority is the definition of American at this point. And where the fuck are you getting looking down the noses at "unwashed masses" from the decision to not engage in the madness?

I think mindless consumerism is a ridiculous point of view to embrace and if a single day someone could think about it, that would be good. It is a symbolic gesture to be aware.
posted by 45moore45 at 5:52 PM on November 23, 2007


I don't get that from that at all. Smug superiority is the definition of American at this point.

Yes! We can convince the people of America to do what we want by insulting them!
posted by zabuni at 5:54 PM on November 23, 2007


I find it paradoxical that organizations that wish to destroy consumerist culture, seek promotion and validation from those who profit on same. Or, to simplify: OF COURSE MTV ISN'T GOING TO RUN THE COMMERCIALS. Advertisers are their air, their water. Asking them to help you kill them seems a bit counterproductive.

Yes. No shit. I think that was their point, too.
posted by 45moore45 at 5:54 PM on November 23, 2007


divabat : I'm not offended, I'm just aghast. I guess it's cultural difference, but I find it easier to understand japanese torture game shows than the idea that someone could say "gifting experience" without collapsing in horror and shame. Even the word "gifting" makes me want to go out and shoot people.

A phrase like that can only have been conceived in the poisoned womb of some hellish marketing meeting - presumably in the depths of Hallmark Card's hollowed-out-volcano-headquarters.

When you take a spontaneous and open part of life - like the millennia-old idea of giving stuff to people - and you package it up into a "gifting experience" you're submitting to the concept that someone should design that part of life for you. A "gifting experience" is inevitably something to be bought. A noun has been created where before there was only a verb.

This is the language of the shopping mall. That homogenised and controlled, designed and focus-tested environment is what produces that awful yearning suspicion of a fall from grace that makes people seek some kind of validation and authenticity by buying "handmade stuff". By defining and putting bounds around the "gifting experience", you immediately make it available to be designed for you, to be sold to you. You surrender a part of your life to a simulacra.

That's what made my flesh crawl when i read your post, and that's why I reacted like I did. Sorry if I was rude.
posted by silence at 5:56 PM on November 23, 2007



Yes, well I can't help it if the lemmings line up at the Wal-Mart at 4:00 a.m. to buy a microwave... Did you look at the Adbusters site?

You know why they are there today? Because shit is on sale for CHEAP today. And some people, despite having not having a lot of money, enjoy cooking their food.

This silly-ass "anti-consumer" movement is never going to get anywhere period. But it's especially not going to get anywhere while it's apparently being run by Marie Antoinette.

And no, of course I am not going to look at the website of something called "adbusters."
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:57 PM on November 23, 2007


Yes. No shit. I think that was their point, too.

I doubt performance art will help them achieve their goals either.
posted by zabuni at 5:58 PM on November 23, 2007


Fine. Run the planet into the ground, the usually self-congratulatory politically correct Meta-folks have outed themselves as tools of the corporations and are quite frothy at the thought of giving up their plastic kingdom for even one day. What greedy little bastards you must have all been at christmas.
posted by 45moore45 at 6:02 PM on November 23, 2007


silence: Yikes! Again, "gifting experience" was MY term, NOT theirs. And it certainly didn't mean to have all the connotations you brought up, though I can definitely see where you are coming from.
posted by divabat at 6:07 PM on November 23, 2007


Yeah, sure, 45moore45 because nobody on this thread has made the argument that handmade stuff isn't actually better for the environment or anything.

'Buy our overpriced, overworked crap and have it shipped at great expense instead of the cheap mass market crap you could have bought that was produced and transported efficiently!' is not exactly a planet-saving anti-consumerist mantra.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:09 PM on November 23, 2007


I find it paradoxical that organizations that wish to destroy consumerist culture, seek promotion and validation from those who profit on same. Or, to simplify: OF COURSE MTV ISN'T GOING TO RUN THE COMMERCIALS.

So much about about capitalists, rope and Lenin.
posted by ersatz at 6:11 PM on November 23, 2007



Fine. Run the planet into the ground, the usually self-congratulatory politically correct Meta-folks have outed themselves as tools of the corporations and are quite frothy at the thought of giving up their plastic kingdom for even one day. What greedy little bastards you must have all been at christmas.


No, we just feel that actually doing something is better than feel good sloganeering. It is said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

So much about about capitalists, rope and Lenin.

lol, true. But they'll also sell the other side the guns.
posted by zabuni at 6:13 PM on November 23, 2007


You insensitive clods! I made a homemade condom out of banana peels and now I got AIDS!
posted by JeNeSaisQuoi at 6:16 PM on November 23, 2007


i loathe the word "gifting" and have denounced it on a number of occasions here in meatspace.
on the other hand, "regifting" is no problemo.
posted by bruce at 6:19 PM on November 23, 2007


Fine. Run the planet into the ground, the usually self-congratulatory politically correct Meta-folks have outed themselves as tools of the corporations and are quite frothy at the thought of giving up their plastic kingdom for even one day.

Oh man, I willingly participated in Buy Nothing Day, but this comment is seriously making me rethink my effort. I'm assuming that there's plenty of people out there, some even reading MeFi, who have scaled back for any number of reasons. Maybe they're financially strapped, or are tired of the waste & poor quality of many of the things they're expected to consume. Either way, if one of those people sees Buy Nothing Day as an empty gesture, can you really argue with them? Does calling them "tools of the corporations" really serve your point?

Also, go easy on the bold tag, 'kay?
posted by maryh at 6:22 PM on November 23, 2007


Fine. Run the planet into the ground, the usually self-congratulatory politically correct Meta-folks have outed themselves as tools of the corporations and are quite frothy at the thought of giving up their plastic kingdom for even one day.

Sweet-pea, this is the kind of rigid absolutism that gives M. den Beste demi-boners.

Are you his sock?
posted by dogrose at 6:49 PM on November 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


This has already been done in this thread but I will add my $.02

I would like a Rip Saw UGV

Lovingly hand crafted by artisans and competely bad for the environment.

Three please. I've got a militia to build.
posted by strontiumdog at 7:04 PM on November 23, 2007


Three please. I've got a militia to build.

...That you're building with your bare hands I hope.
posted by greenskpr at 7:16 PM on November 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


I would like a Rip Saw UGV

Lovingly hand crafted by artisans and competely bad for the environment.


I'll do you one better.

All I want for Christmas is...

Thermite.

Pounds and pounds of homemade thermite, lovingly handcrafted from free-range iron, organically produced oxygen, and free-range aluminum.

Also, I want a tungsten super-soaker to put it in. My God, it'll be beautiful.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:20 PM on November 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Bleah. That was supposed to be free-range iron and recycled aluminum.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:22 PM on November 23, 2007


Better for the environment than what? Nuclear warfare?

How about if we say it's better for the environment than, say, plastic? If you ponder the materials that generally go into handcrafted items, they are generally, at the very least, biodegradable.

Other general commenters:

I don't think anyone is saying "only buy handknitted TVs" or anything completely stupid like that. I interpret this more as "if I'm buying my sisters kitchen packs this year, why not buy handmade aprons, tea towels and teapot covers from someone in Iowa instead of buying stuff mass manufactured and imported all the way from China?"

Do I want DVDs and mass market perfume in glass bottles this year? Sure I do. But I also want cloth pads, socks and a reusable shopping bag, and those things can all be purchased from handmade vendors. Surely the intent of the concept really isn't that difficult to grasp.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:04 PM on November 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


Where can I find a hand crafted compiler, one not spoiled by the automated evil that is YACC?
posted by b1tr0t at 8:39 PM on November 23, 2007


You could also do a "Waste Free Holiday" and give a discount/service/experience to someone instead of a material good.
posted by polyester.lumberjack at 9:08 PM on November 23, 2007


Where can I find a hand crafted compiler, one not spoiled by the automated evil that is YACC?

I have some for sale. Starting with a blank grid of zeroes, every one is carefully placed by exiled Tibetan lamas using only domestic or fair-trade electrons. It might appear to be a bitwise copy of a standard compiler, but it will compile with love, integrity, and the wisdom of the ages. Also, each compiled program also generates a Weighted Companion Cube Program that is totally not a trojan.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:04 PM on November 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


divabat, I think you are witnessing a "cynical experience" here today - this just doesn't seem like a gifting crowd ;-)

I think the site does overstate the case, but this certainly rings true to me:

The ascendancy of chain store culture and global manufacturing has left us dressing, furnishing, and decorating alike. We are encouraged to be consumers, not producers, of our own culture. Our ties to the local and human sources of our goods have been lost. Buying handmade helps us reconnect.

My "gifting experience philosophy" (©2007) this year is to buy as much as possible that is recycled and local.
posted by madamjujujive at 11:02 PM on November 23, 2007


Not necessary to fly"handmade" products across several continents. Shop local church and charity bazaars - ask for handmade items. There is usually a response to specific requests.
posted by Cranberry at 11:46 PM on November 23, 2007


Yes, Chunking Express, this site is just an ad for Etsy.

This website is owned by "Etsy," which is a store:

...
Domain Name:BUYHANDMADE.ORG
Created On:14-Sep-2007 15:55:22 UTC
Last Updated On:14-Nov-2007 03:47:05 UTC
Expiration Date:14-Sep-2008 15:55:22 UTC
...
Registrant Name:Matthew Stinchcomb
...
Registrant City:Brooklyn
Registrant State/Province:New York
Registrant Postal Code:11217
Registrant Country:US
Registrant Phone:***
...
Registrant Email:matt@etsy.com

Note the email address, and the fact that Etsy is linked on the righthand side of the page.

This is just marketing. And kind of pernicious marketing at that. Making their marketing seem like some kind of activism pisses me off a bit, actually.
posted by MythMaker at 11:48 PM on November 23, 2007


MythMaker: Etsy isn't a single store, it's a place for individual craftmakers to set up their own shops. Rather like eBay minus the auctioning. Etsy in and of itself doesn't sell its own stuff (so no Etsy-brand bags or whatever).

The indie crafting community has taken to Etsy in a BIG way so a lot of things indie-crafting-related tends to center around it. The other websites in the consortium include a crafting magazine (the sister mag to Make) and a popular crafting board.

It does seem a bit marketing-y but the theory behind it is interesting, at least.
posted by divabat at 12:15 AM on November 24, 2007


Actually, I hadn't heard of etsy before, and just looking at the site, there are some interesting things on there. I have nothing against people making and selling their handicrafts. In fact, I think more people ought to try to make a living as artists and artisans.

There's just something about making your site's marketing out to be a kind of activism that rubs me the wrong way, I guess.

Thanks for pointing me in the right direction about etsy. :)
posted by MythMaker at 12:29 AM on November 24, 2007


in our family, we make handmade "tie-dyed" gift wrap, made by dipping large heavyweight tissue paper in food coloring and letting it dry. It looks great, and we always get compliments on

But beneath our homemade gift wrap are the items that people actually WANT. How the hell am I supposed to hand-make "Ratatouille" on DVD?
posted by Down10 at 1:35 AM on November 24, 2007


Is there a way to buy an organic TV? How about an organic American Girl Doll? Though this idea is admirable in today's society that can be very hard-especially when you have kids. Maybe we could start with buying just American made products.
posted by pure_ecommerce at 4:29 AM on November 24, 2007


Etsy isn't a single store

Yeah, it's a consignment store. And this "we're saving the environment" crap is an advertisement for that store. Etsy's great, but it's great without the santimonious, specious argument that somehow buying stuff from them is going to save our Mother Earth.
posted by Nelson at 6:59 AM on November 24, 2007


Sanctimonious is the perfect word, Nelson.
posted by Eringatang at 7:37 AM on November 24, 2007


So, wait. Instead of maybe, gasp, shock, surprise, not buying useless consumerist crap, I'm supposed to buy useless consumerist crap that's *handmade*, and that's all better then?

How's this for radical: don't buy worthless knicknack shit. I don't care whether its made in China by slave labor or lovingly handcrafted and sold for 100X its true value.

The stuff I give as gifts, and recieve as gifts, is generally stuff that is wanted or needed by the recipiant and isn't just random consumer goods.

And, generally, the sort of stuff both me and the people I exchange gifts with want isn't possible to handmake. Silicone bakewear, misc cooking stuff, useful small electronics and/or electrics, books, movies, etc.

Clothing is the only real possibility for handmade, and all the stuff listed on Etsy is either a) made in traditional slave labor nations and offered at prices indicating the use of slave labor, or b) decorations on mass produced shirts/underwear/whatever. You can't buy an ethically produced chengosam (for example) for $28, and I seriously doubt its handmade in any meaningful sense of the word.

I don't want to shit on divabat's post, but I think its a bad concept, and the places he linked two are poor executions of an already bad concept.
posted by sotonohito at 8:51 AM on November 24, 2007


grrrr....

s/two/too
posted by sotonohito at 8:51 AM on November 24, 2007


Couple Wearing Protest Shirts First Through The Door On Black Friday. I wonder if they bought anything or were just there for the cameras.

It's hard to see, but isn't that a copy of Everything You Know Is Wrong in the guy's hand?
posted by homunculus at 9:43 AM on November 24, 2007


Even better for then environment than buying handmade over the Internet, would be going down to your local Salvation Army, or better yet signing up for Freecycle, and getting all your gifts from the local 'to be thrown out' waste-stream.

Also, it's cheap.

Anyway, I think Zabuni, way up at the beginning of the thread, had an excellent point. I understand the site in question is advocating handmade stuff mostly as gifts, but some people take the whole artisan-manufacture/handmade thing a bit far. There's a reason that the manufacture of consumer goods moved from the cottage to the factory, and that's because there are efficiencies in bulk manufacturing that don't exist otherwise.

Artisan manufacturing only makes sense for luxury goods that not everyone is going to want. If you're talking about something that everyone is going to get one of (say, refrigerators, or even everyday clothing), it makes a lot more sense to make it in a factory and take advantage of the economy of scale. Without that, there'd be vast amounts of waste -- not just of resources, but of labor and time. Efficiency is, in general, a good thing for the environment.

The problem with large-scale manufacturing is that we allow so many of the indirect costs to be externalized and not included in the purchase price. (E.g., transportation costs don't include the environmental damage due to hydrocarbon combustion; if they did, shipping something from Hong Kong might be a lot less attractive.) But there's nothing inherently bad about mass production.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:58 AM on November 24, 2007


Clothing is the only real possibility for handmade

How is clothing the only real possibility? There is all kinds of stuff on Etsy - clothing, yes, but also pottery, soaps, lip blams, bath bombs, handbags, jewelery - all kinds of stuff many people enjoy giving and getting as gifts.

and all the stuff listed on Etsy is either a) made in traditional slave labor nations and offered at prices indicating the use of slave labor, or b) decorations on mass produced shirts/underwear/whatever.

Um that is just factually incorrect. See the random sample list above. I've bought all of that stuff and more and I assure you, none of it was made by anyone other than the seller, and none of it was a silkscreen on a Hanes Beefy T. I have, however, bought a shopping bag that was recycled out of old t-shirts, which I think is nifty.

You can't buy an ethically produced chengosam (for example) for $28, and I seriously doubt its handmade in any meaningful sense of the word.

Yep, this one I'll totally give you. However, Etsy is specifically defined as "all handmade goods being sold by their makers" with a few exceptions for suppliers, like people selling findings for other crafters to use in making jewelery. The seller you link to is in violation of the terms of the Etsy agreement. Those sellers don't last long before they are noticed and terminated. That account is three days old; I'll be surprised if it lasts past Monday before being shut down.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:03 PM on November 24, 2007


sotonohito: I'm a she. and DarlingBri already pointed out the factual error - none of the things sold on Etsy are sweatshop labour.

Sure, you can't buy EVERYTHING handmade. But I think their point was that if you're already deciding to buy them clothes/stationery/bags/etc, why not buy it from somewhere where you know who made it, where you know it's not sweatshop labour, where you know the materials?
posted by divabat at 4:27 PM on November 24, 2007


Americans buying lots of new stuff fuels the world economy, better technology, and generally world peace (nations that trade alot don't usually go to war.

That said, I plan on making all my gifts.. but that is just because I think the time spent making stuff means more the recipient than the money spent, with a few exceptions (books & cds for example)
posted by ba3r at 6:43 PM on November 24, 2007


Shopping fuels world peace? Ridiculous.
posted by 45moore45 at 10:15 PM on November 24, 2007


Wehn it comes to soap, I buy mefite Soapy Hollow by Mefite dejah420. It's great stuff, I love the Pumpkin and Orange Creme Brulee.

Nevermind Etsy, we should have a shop mefi page for the holidays ;-)
posted by madamjujujive at 3:47 PM on November 25, 2007


I like the advisories.
posted by homunculus at 7:39 PM on November 25, 2007


I still can't read about soapmaking without thinking of this.
posted by homunculus at 7:45 PM on November 25, 2007


I'm making my own holiday cards and some gifts, and I hope I am being a responsible consumer when I do make purchases. Please don't preach at me.
posted by misha at 7:58 AM on November 26, 2007


Hee, thanks for the shoutout MJJJ. I agree that we should have a "shop mefi" page. There are a ton of creative people on mefi who make jewelry, print photography, fine art, stained glass, and even, dare I say it, soap. ;)

I think I'm gonna go suggest it on meta and see what Matt thinks about the idea.
posted by dejah420 at 8:25 AM on November 26, 2007


jacquilynne said: Better for the environment. What a frigging laugh. Handmade is better for many things, but as a knitter, I'm under no illusions about how and where my yarn is manufactured. Or how it gets from there to me.

But that's your choice. There are a ton of yarn vendors out there who don't cause any damage to the environment. One of the farms from which I buy goat's milk also sells carded wool for spinners. Those spinners sell carded yarn that you can dye or have dyed with vegetable colors rather than artificial dyes. Is it 100x more expensive? Sure...but it's absolutely better for the environment.

With my company, I chose to spend some of my start up capital joining a group that funded microloans to women's collectives in the countries where I purchase raw ingredients. So, for example, my shea butter is produced by a single tribe of women, my palm oil is harvested from renewed resources, my essential oils are all produced by distillers that have agreed to follow certain strictures and guildlines that are both earth and culture friendly.

From an environmental stand; my products are not putting a ton of petroleum products like sodium laurel sulfates and longlife fragrance oils into the ground water. My butters are actually plant oils and not whipped mineral oils. My scents are distilled flower and plant essences, and not lab created petroleum based aromatics. My manufacturing studio has been tested by the local water company and a local lab as having zero impact to local water tables and wildlife. (I had everything tested to make sure I wasn't going to hurt the wild ducks and egrets in my pond.)

But that means that my products fit firmly in the "luxury" price range, because "free-range bathing" doesn't come cheap. And with oil prices rising, and transportation costs becoming prohibitive, my prices will probably climb next year...not because I'm a money grubbing corporation, but because my costs have more than doubled for some items. (Olive oil, for example, has gotten crazy expensive, even when you buy 50 gallon drums of the stuff...and getting a 50 gallon drum of anything delivered....hoo boy...that's a scary cost.)

My point is this; many handmade products are significantly better for the environment than their mass produced simulacra. However, that all depends on the person/persons *making* the product as to the quality/safety/environmentalism.

But cheap *and* environmental? That's not terribly likely. Ok, sorry about the rant. I'll get off the soapbox...as it were.
posted by dejah420 at 9:01 AM on November 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


If transportation costs are a significant portion of your raw goods costs, you're not being that environmentally conscious. Burning oil is bad for the environment. That it happens to be an ocean and a middle eastern desert and not your local ground water that you're choosing to pollute smacks of NIMBY-ism.

Ultimately, though, the decision to be environmentally conscious is separate from the decision to be handmade. That page makes it sound like 'handmade automatically equals better for the environment' but offers nothing at all to back that claim up.

Producers of handmade goods may be conscious of their environmental impact, and that might, possibly reduce their footprint below that of similar, more efficiently produced items and transported items, but unless they can very clearly explain every step of their supply chain and the environmental impact of it, and how it compares to similar mass-produced products on a per product level, then any such claims are really just hand-waving, feel good, unciteable crap.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:42 AM on November 26, 2007


If transportation costs are a significant portion of your raw goods costs, you're not being that environmentally conscious.

Find me *any* product, on any American store shelf, where transportation is not a significant portion of the raw good cost. Seriously.
posted by dejah420 at 10:52 AM on November 26, 2007


Find me *any* product, on any American store shelf, where transportation is not a significant portion of the raw good cost.

Local produce? Here, at least, at our Major Chain Grocery Retailer, as much of the produce as possible is sourced locally to each store. I have no idea how much that works towards offsetting the beans flown in from Kenya, but most of my root vegetables, potatoes, one range of sausages, etc are very local.

Oh, and pies. Mmm. Pie.

Anyway, Trader Joe's says they source locally, too, to an unstated extent.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:06 AM on November 26, 2007


I'm not the one claiming my products are environmentally friendly just because they're handmade.

My point is, the fact you're handmaking stuff doesn't change the fact that you're getting your raw goods from somewhere else and not particularly efficiently. Your individually delivered 50 gallon barrel of olive oil is likely costing the environment quite a lot more than any particular 50 gallons out of BigSoapConglomerate's 5 million gallon a year supply. Why do you think it costs so much?

It's possible, even probable, that BigSoapConglomerate is doing some other evil environmental shit that counteracts the efficiency savings of doing things on a large scale, but a basic claim that handmade isn't bad or as bad for the environment as mass produced hasn't been supported here.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:07 AM on November 26, 2007


With all due respect, I disagree. And I never claimed that my products were environmentally friendly "just because they were handmade". They're environmentally friendly because I use organic or renewable resources 95+% of the time. They're environmentally friendly because my studio has a zero impact footprint chemically. They're environmentally friendly because I support growers collectives, farmers collectives, and organic farmers. They're environmentally friendly because using them puts nothing damaging back into the system. (Unlike detergents...the majority of products on the retail shelf, which have a massive chemical footprint.)

To claim that because I take part in the global economy by having 3 square feet of a ocean liner to transport my shea butter from Africa to here means that I'm thereby not environmentally responsible is nonsense. The ships are going to float whether I have a box on them or not. Just as the trains are going to run from California olive groves to here, whether I buy the oils or not.

The fact is that I can't change the massive transportation grid that wraps around the globe. What I can do is make my purchasing decisions based on that which does the least harm...which is what I do.
posted by dejah420 at 11:42 AM on November 26, 2007


But that's the claim on the original link.

You're making decisions as part of your process, that help to reduce your footprint, and that's great. But those decisions aren't inherent to things being handmade, and they can be offset by the inefficiencies of doing things the way you do other things. I'm not making a blanket claim that handmade stuff is worse for the environment every time, I doubt that's true. But a blanket claim that it's better for the environment every time, like the claim made on the Etsy 'buy handmade' site strikes me as pretty clearly a load of crap.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:56 AM on November 26, 2007


Point well taken. I perhaps took things too personally and strapped on my "I must defend the crafters" suit. :)


I think I understand the point they're trying to make, which, if I'm not mistaken, is that handmade stuff generally doesn't have all the packaging effluvia that normally surrounds product, and as such, it is more environmentally sound. Also, I think that they are suggesting that by purchasing from online vendors, you're saving gas/the air/etc.

And while there is some truth in those claims, I will grant that you are correct in saying that the vast majority of it has been incredibly overstated.
posted by dejah420 at 12:57 PM on November 26, 2007


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