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Handmade In The Modern Age

May 4, 2008
While there is no doubt that our modern industrial world has added to the richness and diversity of our lives, it could be argued that we have lost an essential understanding of the value of making something with our own hands and we have lost our connection to mother earth.

The industrial age kicked into full gear in the latter half of the 1800's, within just a few years of the end of the American Civil War. Before the start of the industrial age, nearly all products were assembled by hand and made by craftsmen who enjoyed creating the value that they were making available to others.

But with the rise in industrialization, every product once made by hand took on a level of manufacturing, so much so that today, most products bought and sold today on the world market do not have a single human hand touch the product prior to distribution.

In a world of compressed wood products and staples, it is hard to achieve the beauty of handmade wood furniture. In our world of assembly line glass products, it is hard to gain an appreciation for hand blown glass products. In our modern age of vinyl products, it is hard to experience handmade purses. With the development of plastics, we lost handmade luggage and outdoor furniture.

All around us, our world is changing, and not always for the better.

In the 1970's, there was a full-service gas station at nearly every major intersection. Full-service has since been replaced with self-service, so much so that one can hardly find a full-service station anywhere.

Handmade toys have been replaced with plastic and metal toys manufactured on assembly lines. Wood and plastic designs, made as cheaply as the manufacturers can make them.

We have replaced all that was beautiful and handcrafted, with products made by cold and uncaring machines. Modern living has transformed the products we put into our homes, from works of fine art to efficient and inexpensive products that we have been trained to throw away when the products break.

In this new era, it sometimes seems as if the only things we have left to cherish is each other. Of course, we will always cherish each other, but our grandmothers had handmade quilts and beautifully manufactured furniture. Our grandpas had boots or shoes that were made by hand and taken to the leather shop when it was time to replace the soles on their shoes. Our grandparents even had mechanical watches that were valuable enough to carry to the watchmaker, when the watch stopped working.

Yes, those days are gone.

Before WWII, Christmas was chock full of gifts that were made by the hands of the giver. After WWII, technology began to stamp itself fully into our everyday lives and Christmas was transformed into a "buying experience" rather than a "making experience".

When was the last time that you received a handmade quilt as a gift? When was the last time your kids made you something for Christmas? When was it when someone last made you a display piece to showcase in your home?

While I do know that few people in the industrialized nations make anything by hand anymore - an exception being the Rolls Royce and Ferrari automobiles - there are many people who live in South America, Africa, and Eastern Asia who still appreciate the value of making products by hand.

With the global saturation of the Internet, we find ourselves in a unique position that most people have not been able to experience in nearly one hundred years. As global retail corporations continue to shop for cheap, mass-produced goods to sell their customers, their customers have the ability to go online and find inexpensive, handmade goods that they may prefer over the mass-produced equivalents.

Many Internet retailers have searched far-and-wide to bring handmade products to their customers. Products that are made by hand, by real people in Africa and Eastern Asia can be found on many online retail websites.

In my world, that is a beautiful concept. It is wonderful to be able to go to a website and buy a product that is made by a real human, using his or her own hands to craft the product with love, care and commitment.

I love the fact that I can go online to buy handmade, but the thing that is most interesting is that one can frequently get handmade products from other areas of the world for far less money than an American, a European or Australian can get the same kind of machined products for from his or her local brick-and-mortar retail outlet.

If you are like me, and you like handmade products, then it will be worth your time to search the Internet to see what products you can acquire to bring good craftsmanship and mother earth back into your modern life.
About the Author
Nicole Maschwitz writes about fashion and design. When you are in the market to shop the world for distinctive jewelry, handmade handbags, unique gifts or decorative home wares, please visit Gift Hut and browse their selection of products from around the world at: http://www.gifthut.com.au
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