"Do what you love for those who love what you do"

What is handmade?

HandmadeTexas4I have discovered there is no easy answer to that question. I have seen it asked in many creative environments and the answer is never a single universal consensus.  Just do a search on the internet and you will see and read what I say is true.

The issue begins and the answer changes with using a tool to aid the use of ones hands in making something. A sharp rock (flint) is considered a tool when it is used for human controlled cutting. So has that somehow diminished the definition of handmade primitive arrows? Another rock (a tool) was used to bash the sharp edges on the arrowhead. But the tools were actually handmade from available “raw” materials.

So… perhaps handmade must include the use tools? Handmade tools? No commercial made steel edge tools? I could expand on this line of thought but I proclaim that “pure” handmade is a very extreme limitation to be a part of modern interpretation of the handmade definition.

But there is another expansion into the use of machines. Does the use of a sewing machine prevent a man’s dress suit from being handmade? Probably. How was the cloth made?  The term of preference is hand tailored to avoid the conflict with handmade.

One generally accepted definition is that handmade includes any tool or machine that is directed solely by the human hand. So this conveniently includes purchased or non-handmade tools and machines. It doesn't mention a powered machine... Hmmm.

I am actually not proposing any fix for the purest meaning of hand made. I am making my point that it is not a well-defined concept to the casual user of the term. What is handmade depends on whom you ask. Jewelry has a precise trade definition as found in this Wikipedia search. Does the definition infer the use of automated (automatic directed) machinery used to produce “finding” like clasps and chains and factory beads or even automated wire drawing (sizing), that should preclude the use of the term “handmade” in the jewelry business? So be it. The Wikipedia link may be defective as I certainly consider lost wax silver casting from hand carved wax as “handmade”. So even this example demonstrates the ambiguity of creating a one size fits all definition.

Perhaps it’s like defining pornography, “You know it when you see it.”

I understand the intent and tradition of the archaic term “handmade”.  I personally make handmade items I believe to be within the definition. I may also add non handmade items like the necklace chain to finish the project. So there can be a mix.

I also make many items using my mind and hands on a computer input devise to store personally created directions that guide automated machines to do things my hands and limited muscle control cannot manage. These items are just as personally created (note the change in definition) as my handmade items. I can easily NOT refer to these items as handmade.

However, the machines are strictly limited to doing what I direct by the hand programing. So I can argue that I directly control what the machine produces, but breaking “hand” tradition is not worth the fight. I am happy with traditional handmade and love to work within the perceived definition, just because it is traditional.

I also do not feel less of a creative person using my modern definition of personally produced items using computer numeric control (CNC) machines.

Personal CNC makes precision dimensioned components from my human directed inputs. As far as single person art, it is still as pure and traditional as it can be, because I control all the steps. I have total design control. The final machine execution is automatic but there is total human effort in creating the machine movement.

Including automation in handmade is more a concept of creativity control verses human muscle control. I can honor the difference.

So I will leave the term handmade as a sacrament to muscle control in the creative process. My choice of the words “personally created” will include any creative process under total control of myself.


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