Monday, January 19, 2009

DID YOU REALLY MAKE THAT YOURSELF? HONESTY IN THE MARKETPLACE

Recently on a Bonanzle forum, I asked for opinions on homemade vs. handcrafted and what claims of “handmade” should or could be made by a seller.

The questions I posed were:

1. Should sellers refrain from claiming “handmade” if, in fact, they are actually embellishing ready-made products?
2. Do you buy handmade because you appreciate the talent and work that has gone into the product?
3. Have you ever been disappointed with a “handmade” purchase that you have made?

WHEN CAN A SELLER CLAIM HANDMADE OR HANDCRAFTED?

“Handmade” vs. “handcrafted” – is there a difference? The terms are very similar, but there is a difference. Many crafters claim their items are “handmade” when, in fact, they have been made “en masse” using machine stamped parts, sewn on with an industrial sewing machine, embossed by a mechanical press or hand-cranked machine or otherwise “embellished”. Yes, they may have “technically” been handmade, but they may still fall into a category known as “mass produced in order to make a buck.”

Handcrafted items, on the other hand, are made wholly by hand…they are cut, finished, stained, painted, punched, stitched, tooled or embossed…by hand. But wait…here’s another point…and a good one.

In today’s market, there are tons of craft items that can be bought separately and then handcrafted into new creations. You could buy a wooden plaque (instead of making one because many of us don’t have access to power tools or a place to use them), sand, paint, stain and finish the piece, apply decals, transfers, appliqu├ęs or other purchased embellishments, and it would still be considered “handcrafted” and “original”. Why? Because the seller used their imaginations and talents to create something new out of a variety of products. Is this any different that going out in your back yard, picking up a piece of wood and working on that? A little, perhaps, but as I said before, many of us do not have access to a yard, or a garage where we can work.

If, however, someone purchases a ready-made ornament (for example) that looks handmade, but is not, cuts off the tags and then claims that it is “handmade”, that to me is fraud and false advertising. Maybe someone did hand make it; however, if it is being sold in any of the chain stores like Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, Target, K-Mart or JoAnn’s, you can be certain that the “hand-crafter” surely didn’t make millions of that one item for sale in all those venues; therefore, it falls in to the “mass produced for a buck” category and is most certainly not “handmade” by one person.

One forum response probably summed up point two (Do you buy handmade because you appreciate the talent and work that has gone into the product?):

“I like buying “hand made, home made” items because it was done with meaning. The factory made items are just that, made with cold hard steal machines that could care less if someone likes what they get or not. Whereas, handmade products from real people are done with more tenderness because they want their product to make the customer smile when the customer receives it!”

HOW TO AVOID DISAPPOINTMENT IN PURCHASING HANDMADE PRODUCTS
I hand make a lot of the items in my Bonanzle booth and I strive to include in the description what the item is made of (100% cotton, for instance), what method was used (hand-embroidered, crocheted), that my home is smoke-free and the pets are not allowed to sit on the product. I never, ever put something up for sale that I would not be thrilled to have and use myself. Quality is important to me. I want the item to last. I want my customer to be totally happy with the product. I want them to enjoy it for years. However, if a buyer has questions about a product and how it was made, those questions are answered straight-forwardly. It would then be up to the buyer to decide if they wished to purchase it or not.

Product quality is every bit as important to the seller as the price or the fact that it is handmade. I have made online purchases of handmade items that just amazed me…unfinished or raveling seams, jewelry with pointy edges, items that “break” after one use – poor quality workmanship will damage a “handmade” reputation faster than anything.

WHEN IN DOUBT IF SOMETHING IS HANDMADE…Ask! Ask the seller, “Did you make this?” “How did you do this?” “Where did you get the idea?” If you are not happy with the answers, then move on.

HONESTY IN ADVERTISING
So, is this what it’s all about? Honesty and integrity of the seller? I think yes, that is the answer. No one can really judge a “handcrafter” because there are so many creative ways to craft all kinds of things – but one has the right to expect honesty and integrity from a seller in representing their creations.

Our Bonanzle marketplace is filling up with wonderful handcrafters of all kinds and I welcome you to come to our community, do a search for the items that interest you. I think you will be clearly impressed with the variety of goods, dedication of these crafters, and the professional quality of their specialties.