The word "handmade" gets thrown around a lot today. It seems like any object that
gets touched by human hands on an assembly line is getting labeled "handmade." I
just thought I would jot down a few thoughts on what to look for and ask when judging
whether an item is really handmade.
1) Are parts in the object interchangeable? Back in the 19th century when industrialization
was taking over from the work of artisans, a big factor in that revolution was the
ability to make parts that were interchangeable–-where any two parts fit together
easily without modification. That characteristic is what made the assembly line
possible, and it reduced the cost of goods. But it is not a feature of a truly handmade
item. One test–if you are able to have a replacement part shipped for an item, that
item is likely not very handmade. The parts of a Wooden Specs frame are painstakingly
fit together individually and are not directly interchangeable one frame to another.
2) Are any significant steps in the making of the object done "by eye," or is there
no judgment involved in the making of each object? The more that the steps in making
an object are regimented by a pattern (or by a computer!), the less handmade it is
(in my opinion). Wooden Specs have significant parts of their creation performed
by eye (e.g. the shaping of the nose pieces, the marking and cutting of the delineation
between top and bottom of the frame, the design elements and art work on each frame,
the shaping of hinge parts), and there is no computer-controlled machining used in
making these frames!
3) Does the creator focus on making each item individually the best that it can be,
or is each object 'anonymous' (thinking of each individual object the same as another)?
This can be a hard one to get at for the purchaser, but I think you can get a sense
of it by trying to get in touch with your feelings about whether the item exudes
a kind of 'spirit' about it, the same way you can tell whether a painting has come
from a place within an artist or is simply copying someone else. I hope this aspect
of Wooden Specs comes through to people.