I've been having these tiny heart-attacks the last week every time I type or post a url for Handmade Family. I think to myself, "have I been posting it as Homemade Family?". It might not seem like a big deal...I mean, who doesn't like to eat homemade cookies, or to receive a card that was made by their grandchildren? These things are wonderful and I don't want to refute that, but there IS an important distinction that has to be made between "Homemade" and "Handmade", and that is what I would like to talk a little bit about today.
"Homemade" means that something was made in the home, and not by some giant, faceless, multinational company. Usually it's personal and made with love, but that does not mean that there is necessarily any quality control. Valentines day is coming up soon, so this morning Abby (our nearly three-year-old daughter) and I made cards for her grandparents and godparents. I am sure that they will love them. That being said, it's hard to write straight letters or cut straight lines when there is a little girl working around and underneath you. On top of that, her design choices are often...suspect.
On the other hand is the word "Handmade". This also implies that something was not made by some giant, faceless, multinational company. Often it is made in the home and is personal and made with love. But to say that something is handmade is also to imply a level of quality and care in the craftsmanship that machines and factories can not afford to us. One other quality that handmade items have to offer is individuality. There are always differences that reflect the individual crafts-persons mood and temperament as well as what they feel is right for a particular piece. It's this individuality that some would call the "soul" of an object.
So, here's the question: How can we tell if something could or should be called "handmade" or merely "homemade". My take on it is that we all need to be honest with ourselves as artisans and craftspeople. We'll nearly always be proud of the things that we spend the time to make, and the folks we show it to may even feed into that by letting us know how much they like it too. It's important to note that there is a difference between liking something that your friend made, and being willing to pay money for it. So, that's my rule of thumb. If I honestly wouldn't pay money for it, it shouldn't go in the shop.
Pictured here is the prototype version of my handmade play town and people. When you're considering making a new product, it's always important to design and make a couple first as homemade gifts so that you can see what sorts of stumbling blocks you may meet, how long it takes to make, and whether people actually like it. We still have a little bit of testing to do on this one, but I think it is a good idea, and possible to make it and still be able to feed the kids, so I'm very excited about the play village.
Our mission is about play and comfort, family and imagination, but it is also about quality. The kind of quality and attention to detail that you can only get from handmade.