Handcrafted products can offer higher quality and more attention to detail – but they can give buyers some surprising side benefits as well.
Work done by hand takes less energy than a mass production assembly line, which makes it more environmentally sustainable. This is particularly true if the commercial good is produced overseas and needs to be shipped a very long distance to reach the consumer.
Another reason you should feel good about spending your money on hand-crafted products? Doing so creates jobs. One study found that shifting just 10 percent of consumer spending in a particular area to locally owned businesses would create hundreds of new jobs and millions of dollars in local wages.
A number of experiments have shown that people value an object more highly when they are led to believe it contains an “air of authenticity,” for example, if they were told it was a work of art. This means that artisan products, be they jewelry or jam, are perceived to have more value in society.
It’s not just an amorphous air of authenticity that causes people to shell out more for handcrafted products. Handcrafted goods are often just better. A study of coffee found that 47 percent of respondents said it tastes better when prepared by hand compared to just 11 percent who are happy to settle for machine-produced drinks.
And if you’re like most Americans, that’s something you prioritize. A 2012 survey found that 87 percent of American consumers felt that businesses should place at least as much weight on society's interests as they do on business interests. Supporting local artisans and their eco-conscious business practices certainly fits the bill.
Studies have shown that locally owned independent businesses —many of which sell wares produced by hand— return a higher percentage of their revenue to their communities than chains. That means the people who make money off sales at independent businesses, owners and employees, are more likely to spend their salary at places in the same area where they work.
Often with handmade goods, you have the option of customizing your purchase. Because you’re often dealing directly with the artisans when you purchase handcrafted products, they might be open to tweaking certain aspects of the product specifically to fit your needs.
A study researching cheeses in Vermont found that consumers prefer buying “artisan” cheese because they feel it provides a fuller “sensory experience.” This is a factor of both intrinsic properties, like better taste, and extrinsic properties, like the joy of finding something you really love. Even just the knowledge that a product was handcrafted contributed to the feeling of a better experience because there is a relatable, knowable back-story.
The Internet is packed with a burgeoning industry of handmade marketplaces – more and more people are embracing handcrafted goods. Some handcrafted sites saw a 71 percent increase in sales in just one year from 2010 to 2011. Buying handmade goods online allows you access to the skills of artisans around the world.
One of the most prevalent, although least quantifiable, reasons people report for choosing to purchase handcrafted goods is that they just like having something that didn’t come from a big company. The nature of handmade goods, like handmade Tinga Tinga Art means that there are fewer of them, so whatever you’re wearing or eating or adding to your home is as unique as you are.
We’ve seen that supporting your local artisan is good for the community, but it’s also good for the art. As technology makes it possible to replace skilled workers with machines it’s important to keep hand-making goods a financially feasible career choice.
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