DIY goes chic: on why handmade is better

handmade slippers

Since DIY (do it yourself) implies distaste for consumer culture, it seems eminently commendable to buy handmade gifts for others this season, and request that others do the same for you.

That's the aim of the Handmade Consortium, and so far 6,500 people have made this pledge at buyhandmade.org (via ny times mag).

Rob Walker looks at why buying handmade is better for the environment, both as an alternative to mass production and to avoid supporting sweatshops.

Says Walker, this "idealistic language of a tree-hugger activist group" is actually the motto of the online shopping bazaar Etsy, a very much for-profit entity that bills itself as “your place to buy & sell all things handmade.”

Walker notes that "Etsy is more of an online craft fair, or art show, where the idea is that individuals can sell things that they have made."

At last count, more than 70,000 crafts people have signed on to deliver one-off products for Etsy, about 90 percent of whom are women

They use Etsy to peddle their jewelry, art, toys, clothes, dishware, stationery, zines and a variety of objects from the mundane to the highly idiosyncratic.

Notes Walker, "browsing Etsy is both exhilarating and exhausting."

There is enough here to mount an astonishing museum exhibition. There is also plenty of junk. Most of all there is a dizzying amount of stuff, and it is similarly difficult to figure out how to characterize what it all represents: an art movement, a craft phenomenon or shopping trend.

This is not something Etsy created, yet it's trying to make the handmade movement bigger, more visible and more accessible.

Dontcha love it when mixing high-minded ideas about consumer responsibility with the unsentimental notion of the profit motive creates such a win-win?

Published by Ken on December 19th, 2007 tagged Best Practices, Community Initiatives

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