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Teaching the Value of Handmade

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I think most, of not all, makers have run into a situation where someone else has failed to adequately value their work. Whether it’s a stranger at a craft show, friend, or family member, it can be frustrating and painful to hear someone dismiss your efforts. A careless word can keep a person from embracing his or her creative potential for years – my husband mistakenly believed he wasn’t creative or good at making things for over a decade after an ill-considered comment from a family member. I used to feel so bad for him when he’d say he just wasn’t creative or good at making things! Now he’s awesome with polymer clay and is definitely a better knitter than I am. {{It’s so adorable to watch him knit and crochet cute items for our baby!}}

Although the handmade movement has gained traction in recent years, many makers still struggle to have their creations adequately valued. I believe this trend of valuing handmade will continue, especially if makers work to educate others and really teach the value of handmade. With the advent of mass production of goods, accumulating lots of stuff became a popular status symbol, but an increasing number of people are deciding that possessing large quantities of mass produced, frequently poorly made stuff isn’t as fulfilling as the commercials make it out to be (plus it’s downright unsustainable!). In my experience, the more people are exposed to handmade and educated about what goes into making items, the more they realize they’d rather have a smaller quantity of nicer, lovingly crafted items.

If you’re a maker who would like to see others place greater value on handmade items, I hope these tips for teaching the value of handmade help you out! Also, please be sure to leave a comment if you have additional advice on how to help others see the value of your work!

Teaching the Value of Handmade

Support actual “fair trade” handmade

Even if you are not a maker, you can still support the handmade movement! I asked friends on FB for their input on valuing handmade and teaching the value of handmade, and one person responded with information about crochet. She pointed out that, unlike knitting, there isn’t a true crochet machine. Anything that is actually crocheted is made by a person with a hook, which means that inexpensive handmade crochet items and embellishments were very likely not made by someone being paid a fair wage. Similarly, because the handmade aesthetic is popular, many companies are making items intended to replicate the handmade vibe.

As a consumer, you can help support “legitimate” handmade by shopping directly from the maker through personal websites, Instagram, craft shows, and sites like Etsy, DaWanda, ArtFire, etc. Even with these sites you have to be careful – if a price seems too good to be true, take look at the shop’s profile to see if it seems like a reseller or someone in Asia selling items that probably weren’t made for a fair wage. {I’ve seen a fair number of people complaining of resellers and Asian-based sites selling cheap goods on Etsy over the past year or so. Do some research and use your best judgement!) In stores and catalogues, try to seek out certified fair trade businesses and do your research whenever possible to make sure the organization really does live up to its claims and your expectations.

Be encouraging to others

Another friend on FB mentioned the importance of supporting others, particularly children, and encouraging their handmade efforts. As I mentioned above, my husband was scared away from making for about 15 years because of some careless comments.  Obviously no one becomes an expert overnight, but offering support and encouragement helps people not give up. This is especially true with children (a lesson I hope to remember when our LG is presenting us with ‘fridge art’ in a few years!). Their creations may not seem particularly spectacular to you, but offer your encouragement and useful praise. Praise the process by saying things like “I saw you put a lot of time into choosing the colors for this drawing” or “I can tell you put a lot of effort into this.” This helps children learn to value the process of making and encourages them to keep at it. Children who receive constant praise for their results, not the process, can develop a fixed mindset and become wary of branching out. Conversely, children who hear praise of the process develop a growth mindset and encourages children to tackle more challenging projects in the future.

Own your value

Take pride in your work, whether you’re gifting an item you made or telling someone what you ‘do.‘ My husband and I are huge fans of photographer Sue Bryce. We’ve watched countless hours of her educational videos and belong to her student FB group. One of the things she stresses over and over again is valuing yourself and valuing your work. The same holds true for your handmade creations. Own your value with pride! Don’t tell people an item’s price like your apologizing for it, state it confidently. How can you expect someone else to see the value in your work if you don’t value it highly enough, yourself?

I knew a lady who made and sold baskets at craft fairs. When someone asked how long a basket took to make or raised an eyebrow at the price, she’d tell the the basket had taken her 20 years! This would inevitably cause more raised eyebrows, so she would explain that each basket was the product of 20+ years of knowledge and practice. What a great way to own her value!

own your value

Educate others

In my experience, people who make value handmade more highly when they understand the time and effort that went into the item. To help teach the value of handmade, you can:

Blog, microblog, post to FB, etc. about your process. I know some people are reluctant to ‘give away’ their ‘trade secrets’ or what have you, but you don’t have to post an in-depth tutorial. Simply showing the process and how long it takes can help educate others about how much effort goes into handmade items! A time-lapse style video is a fantastic way to show your process and who long it takes to make an item without having each part of the process clearly discernible, if that’s something you’re worried about.

  • Make sure to use terminology that laypeople understand. Using technical terms can be off putting and make potential customers feel like they don’t know enough to purchase your product.
  • Think carefully about how you describe your items and process. If you make the description “I did this” then “I did that” your audience hears “I, I, I” when you want them to be imagining making this item or purchasing it. Instead, try to think of ways to describe your items either in a neutral way “The item is made with X” or, better yet, find a way to throw a “you” in there and help your audience imagine this item already in their life. For example, instead of saying “I made this blanket with organic cotton yarn,” you could say something like “This soft, organic cotton blanket will perfectly complement your green lifestyle.”

If you’re okay with it and it suits you style, consider posting tutorials. I’ve written tutorials for several of my most popular Etsy store items. I firmly believe that someone who wants to make something will, so I might as well be the one to help educate them. Other, less-committed or comfortable with the process folks see the work that went into the item and then head on over to buy it, instead! My store is largely dormant at the current moment, but I’ve made several sales in the past because people clicked over from a tutorial on my blog.

If it’s feasible, consider demonstrating your work while selling at fairs and shows. I haven’t done a show in several years, but I used to try to casually ‘work’ on items behind my table when I could. I liked to work on tying knots because it was something I could easily set down in a hurry. It helped to draw curious people into my tent and they’d see the amount of time and materials that went into each knot. These people obviously didn’t always buy something, but I definitely made a few sales to people who stopped by simply to see what I was doing! Also, people are funny – they like to see what all the fuss is about. Once you draw a few extra people to your booth, more people will come on in to see what’s going on.

Give the Gift of Doing

This is really an extension of educating others, but I thought it deserved it’s own section! I grew up not only with handmade, but with lots of kits. From lip balm to bubble gum, knitting, quilting, and more, kits for making and doing were popular present ideas in my family! Making things, myself, has really helped me value things others have made by hand. Nothing teaches you how much time went into something like trying your own hand at it! For example, my experience knitting a baby blanket made me that much more thankful for a lovely cotton blanket my mom knitted for our baby. My blanket is smaller and the pattern is easier but it took me about two months to complete!

Because handmade is gaining popularity, there are a variety of DIY kits for adults on the market these days. You don’t have to be limited to the kits on the bargain tables at bookstores – many of today’s kits are from ‘real’ companies that are authorities in their fields. For example, KnitPicks has a Learn to Knit Club series that starts with this easy dishcloth kit. Craftsy has a variety of kits for knitting, crochet, sewing, and baking.

They don’t have to be just for crafts, either – culinary and science-y DIY kits are also popular! I couldn’t believe how many cool-looking culinary kits I found with a quick search on Amazon. I totally want this DIY chai tea kit, for example! Or how about this artisan hot sauce kit?

If kits aren’t your thing, you can also give the gift of education. small batch cupcakes using the same recipe and frosting pattern to celebrate our second anniversary:

Wear and Share Handmade with Pride

For several decades, handmade became kind of ’embarrassing.’ Making your own clothes used to be less expensive than buying them, for example, so admitting that your clothes weren’t store-bought could feel like admitting you couldn’t afford to purchase ‘store’ clothing. The times have changed, however – a yard of fabric can easily cost more than a t-shirt! I think a perceived stigma can still keep people from sharing that something is handmade, and it’s time for that to change! Whenever you’re wearing or using something handmade by yourself or someone else, try to practice being proud about the fact that it was made by hand. Whenever someone complements it, say “Thank you! I (made it myself, got it on Etsy, found it at the farmers’ market, etc.)” to help raise awareness for just how nice handmade can be.

As you can probably tell, I’m passionate about teaching the value of handmade. We try to give handmade gifts whenever possible and really appreciate when we receive handmade. Besides, creating is downright fun! Writing this post ended up taking far, far longer than I originally planned because I ended up having a whole lot to say on ways to value and promote handmade. I’m sure I’ve missed things, though, so please share: How do you like to teach the value of handmade to others or generally support handmade?

Natasha of The Artisan Life-01









{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Marieken February 19, 2018, 06:24

    Love this post! Do you mind if I link to it on my blog? Your cupcakes look incredible! I am so happy your husband started making things again. The both of you are so incredibly talented.

    • Natasha February 26, 2018, 07:06

      That would be fine, thank you for asking! Sorry for the late reply – my mom was visiting for the past week so I wasn’t really on the computer.

      • Marieken March 5, 2018, 03:25

        No need to apologize, yay for spending time with mom. Hope you had a great time together.

        • Natasha March 6, 2018, 08:18

          I also forgot to write down my March stats on time. Eek! But my mom’s visit was nice and I think she really enjoyed it. It was her last trip to visit us while we still live in Hawaii so she tried to do all the things!

  • Duni February 19, 2018, 04:23

    You and your husband are such a crafty couple! I truly admire your handmade work! It annoys me that Dawanda is projecting a “cheap” image – so glad I have my own website now! I make sure my price for my handmade item reflects the work that went into it. This way I also attract the “right” kind of customer.

    • Natasha February 26, 2018, 08:04

      I didn’t realize that Dawanda tries to cultivate a cheap image – that’s a shame. I’m always so happy when I see handmade items online priced in a way that reflects all the work that went into them. I hope your new personal site is working out well for you!

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