Handmade, what does it mean? Most would say you use your hands but that pretty much covers everything. Some might say you create from start to finish but that doesn’t work either, the woodworker doesn’t make the wood, the weaver didn’t make the wool so the craftsman is starting midway. Is writing handmade? How about music? Food? Does being handmade imply or even require uniqueness? Not really. I’ve spent some time thinking about this and have decided that for something to be handmade it must be capable of containing some part of the creator’s soul. Now how about speech? My thought is if it passionate, from the heart then it has soul and would be “handmade”.
Does the length of time spent on a project make it handmade? Probably not, as a skyscraper takes many years to build but few would say it is handmade and even fewer would say it has a soul. Yet a master calligrapher’s work might take seconds to complete but it is surely handmade.
Back in the 70s handmade was a big deal and there was a move to a style such as “imperfect” finishes on furniture, lumpy yarns, irregular bubbly glazes and pretty much anything that would make the item seem less machine made. Ironic really, craftsmen before the 70s had spent their lives perfecting their craft and then when machines had to a large extent replaced them they had to demonstrate their humanness by being imperfect. They perhaps mistakenly tried to show their soul by manifesting artificial imperfections. We are hungry, actually starving, for what we called back in the 70s the real. It’s our soul that makes things “real”, our energy imparted into our creation whether words on a page or a sweater, lumpy or not or a beautiful piece of calligraphy it’s all handmade. It is our soul that keeps us human.