Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The Difference Between Handmade and Handcrafted


When I first started Little Miss Delicious, back before I had my own website, I used Etsy. Without it, I would have never had a platform for my designs online and I doubt LMD would be where it was today without that. I stopped using it when my website started to grow as it was too time consuming to promote both, and ultimately my own site became priority. I've been considering signing up to Etsy again lately just for a little extra promotion, but after having a look through the website I couldn't believe how much it's changed.

My favourite thing about Etsy was always its strict handmade policy, meaning sellers that were buying charms in bulk from China then attaching them to a chain usually weren't around for long, but now that's all that seems to be on there! And all those listings are still under the tag handmade. But surely putting two pieces together can't be considered the same as making something from scratch through a time consuming process - which is what I'd usually consider handmade? 


I decided to look up the definitions of handmade and handcrafted according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, and was surprised to find the definitions are very similar -
  • Handmade; made by hand or by a hand process. 
  • Handcrafted; to fashion by handicraft. 
  • Handicraft; 1 a: manual skill b: an occupation requiring skill with the hands 2: the articles fashioned by those engaged in handicraft.

I can't be the only one that feels there should be a better distinction made between handmade and handcrafted? Maybe hand assembled would be a better phrase? If you buy a jigsaw and put the pieces together, surely that should be considered something different compared to making each jigsaw piece yourself and then assembling it. This is the same approach I think we should take when it comes to jewellery.


I find it hard enough competing with prices of hobbyists who don't have to think about price points or make a living from their designs, but competing with people marking handcrafted items as handmade is now another struggle facing truly handmade businesses. It's easy to sell items for £1 when you're buying mass produced cast items in bulk and don't have a time consuming process, but some of us are spending hours even just creating one piece.

But it's a difficult line to draw - at what point does a product become truly handmade? I don't make the clay I use from scratch, but I do sculpt and paint each piece by hand, with many stages in between, so can I still count my products as handmade? What if the person using mass produced imported charms cuts the chain to length themselves? It's very difficult and I think it's a very personal distinction to make, or even whether you make a distinction at all.


Clicking the handmade hashtag on Twitter or Instagram, I'm always overwhelmed by the results. It's amazing to see so many people and companies making beautiful and unique products by hand via lots of different means. I'm just not sure if putting mass produced charms on chains should count as handmade, but if not handcrafted, I'm not sure what the most fitting alternative would be.

What do you think?

4 comments:

  1. I totally agree with this blog post, however I must admit I am guilty of selling jewellery made from charms. I really do value handcrafted items, and when I started out I was making felt decorations which were designed, hand cut and hand sewn by me. But my sales started to dwindle and due to my fibromyalgia and connective tissue disease it started becoming increasingly difficult to sit and put in the time required to make the items to the standard that I wanted them to be at. I started getting disheartened with it all as there didn't seem any point in continuing, but I didn't want to give up on it all just yet. And then a couple of years ago I had an idea for a couple of jewellery items which I felt would be perfect for my customers (spoonie themed!), and bought the supplies and set about 'testing the waters' as it were. They quickly became my best selling products and still are to this day. And so this summer I made the decision to change my focus to jewellery and maybe still make the odd felt item when I've got the energy. But my jewellery is all made from charms. It's the only way I can really keep the business going and it seems to be what the customers want. And maybe one day I'll be able to start making my jewellery pieces from scratch, but I know that's not in the near future. I agree that Etsy has become awash with stuff like this and it's very easy to get buried in the search with hundreds of similar items, or overlooked due to a comparatively high price, but at the same time it seems to be what people want these days. To me it feels like the appeal of the truly handmade is over for the masses, so to speak. People seem to want a unique-ish item, but for a highstreet price.

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  2. I agree. I think there should be a clearer distinction between 'handmade' and 'handcrafted' on Etsy. But to play Devil's Advocate, does that mean Etsy shop owners who create jewelry shouldn't be considered handmade/crafted unless they are making their beads, charms, pendants etc. themselves? So I can see where the definition of "handmade" starts becoming murky.

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  3. I was kind of talking about this on my blog the other day. I adore finding truly handmade jewellery such as Pip Jolley and yourself. I honestly find it so annoying when I can't see the stuff I'm looking for amongst everything else. Even more annoying when I can't tell which is a charm and which is an actual handmade thing. X

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  4. Hootie McBoutique28 November 2014 at 13:39

    I design, draw and then laser cut my necklaces and earrings quite often then hand painting but it gets so lost amongst hand assembled things. Because it's laser cut I think people assume it's bought in x

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