More Than a Buzzword - What Handmade Means to Me

As a creator of handmade goods and active member and participant in the communities of “makers” and “creatives”, I see these buzzwords and others like them used regularly in the marketing, promotion, and discussion of other handmade products and businesses.

The thing about buzzwords, is that they tend to get used to the point of dilution and we become desensitized to the feelings they were initially intended to convey.

I’ve been thinking a great deal lately about “handmade”, and what this identifier really means for me in my personal life and in my business.

Taken literally at face value, a handmade product is something created and crafted by hand. For my business on a nuts and bolts level, it means measuring, pouring, melting, mixing, packaging, labeling, and shipping each product with my very own hands. It means participating in the creation of the product every step of the way – from choosing and procuring ingredients, to formulating products and gathering feedback, to designing the product packaging and labels to ensure I can be proud to put my name behind what I create.

For my business handmade means hiking into the muskeg to harvest Labrador tea and spruce tips at the peak of their season, which will then be washed and processed and stored for use, with my own hands. It means learning the cycles and seasons of these plants, and applying that knowledge to the creation of new formulas and products. It also means holding reverence for this knowledge, and sharing openly the things that I have learned so that others are also empowered create for themselves with their own hands.

To me, handmade represents the spirit, passion, drive, and gumption of the maker who has made the bold decision to listen to an inner voice and put a piece of themselves out into the world, and who is forging the challenging but rewarding path of carving out a life as an entrepreneur and small business owner.

Stocking shelves at Shop Groundswell - Wrangell, Alaska

In the company of other handmade goods at Shop Groundswell

To me, handmade is a tool for building and supporting community, and fostering more of the interpersonal connection we crave more of in our digital age. Purchasing a handmade item shortens the links in the chain of commerce, connecting you directly to the heart and mind that dreamed your product up and the hands that brought it to life. Dollars spent on handmade items support the ambitions and livelihoods of the makers who are dedicated to living their values, pushing creative boundaries, creating unique and authentic works, and contributing to a more localized and sustainable economy.

In my own business, I’ve been fortunate to develop relationships with my customers and fellow makers that have led to meaningful conversation, new opportunities, and a great sense of fulfillment. These connections in part helped propel me to co-open Groundswell, a brick & mortar retail shop that houses my Gathered and Grown studio space and features the incredible work of other local makers.

From my hands, for your hands

Gathered & Grown herbal body care, made by my hands, for your hands

“Handmade” means so many different things to each of us. So what does handmade mean to you? Why do you choose to shop handmade? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, and thanks so much to all my lovely G&G customers for shopping your values and continuing to support the values I see in the business of handmade.

Special thanks to Asia Dore Photography for the imagery within this post

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