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Handcrafted vs. Handmade

No matter how hard I searched I couldn’t find a definitive answer to the never ending debate “Handmade vs. Handcrafted”. If you’re into any aspect of art or crafting I can almost guarantee you’ve had this discussion before one form or another. So what do the experts say?

The American Heritage Dictionary defines “Handmade“ as; made or prepared by hand rather than by machine. It’s definition of “Handcrafted”; to fashion or make by hand.

Merriam Webster: Handmade; made by hand or by a hand process. Handcrafted; to fashion by handicraft. Handicraft; 1 a: manual skill b: an occupation requiring skill with the hands 2: the articles fashioned by those engaged in handicraft.

Webster: Handmade; made by hand or a hand process Handcrafted; A work produced by hand labor

Almost every definition was identical. For fun I got out my old dusty Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary published in 1963 to see what they had to say 45 years ago. I wasn’t surprised to see there wasn’t much of a difference. Handmade; made by hand or a hand process. Handcraft; to fashion by handicraft. Handicraft; 1a: manual skill. b: an occupation requiring a skill with the hands.

Lastly I tried to find a more modern definition so I tried Wikipedia. Handmade; means something made by hand, rather than by a machine. Much to my surprise the word handcrafted came up with “No article title matches”. Tried “What is handcrafted” only to come up with a ton of ad’s for people describing handcrafted (as they see it) items for sale.

After several hours of research I gave up. I guess I’m going to have to give you my narrative of handcrafted vs. handmade and let you decide which classification to choose.

Since most agree that “handmade” is a process of making something by hand, or with your hands, does it mean entirely by hand or the process of putting something together using your hands? Reading the definitions I found, it means just about the same thing.

So you receive a jigsaw puzzle for your birthday and put it together using your hands. Did you handcraft the puzzle or was the puzzle handmade by you? What if you actually drew out a picture, cut it up into hundreds of pieces then put it back together again, is it handmade or handcrafted? You actually made the puzzle didn’t you?

In an article I wrote Art vs. Crafts - A Debate With a New Twist I mentioned the definition for “Artisan”; “ also called a “craftsman; skilled manual worker who uses tools and machinery in a particular craft“ . An interesting interpretation on the subject.

If you were presented with a kit to make a bracelet and did, I believe your bracelet would fall under the category “handcrafted”. You used your skills and put together something that was pre-fabricated.

Using the same analogy if you were to use the same kit and produce something other than a bracelet, or enhanced the bracelet using the parts in a different manner than described or instructed, then you’d still have “handcrafted”. If you were to actually make and add additional parts or assemble the kit in a different manner, then I would say it’s still “handcrafted”.

I believe this because I purchase and use prefabricated items for the creation of the items I design jewelry or otherwise. I may purchase jewelry findings or artisan-made beads to enhance or complete a piece of jewelry I design and make. How I used the findings, where I put them, and the ability to design the jewelry around the findings I use, I call handcrafted. Is this bad, no. Either way, I used my hands and my mind (what matters most) in the creation of a particular item. And yes, I use a variety of tools to help me in the process.

As much as I’d hate to admit it, I think “handmade” should refer to items which are uniquely made from totally raw materials. If you raise the sheep, process the wool, then weave it by hand into a rug, I’d consider that “handmade”. But wait, you need tools to weave a rug don’t you? So does that knock it out of the handmade category? What if you use a machine in the process? But what if you built that machine yourself? Is your rug handmade or handcrafted? Oh my gosh, this is too much informational overload to process.

I work with natural materials in a different art medium; gourds . They are a natural material. I grow them, dry them, clean them, sand, carve, inlay, embellish, paint and finish them in different manners. I still consider them handcrafted rather than handmade because I didn’t make the gourd itself. I simply used something and added to it using my hands and imaginative ability. I use my ability to craft something out of an existing item.

Is there an answer to the difference between handcrafted and handmade? I’ve considered which classification to add my own work to several times as I wrote this article. Which sounds better, handcrafted or handmade? Would it make a difference to you if you were given the opportunity to purchase an exact duplicate item; one marked handcrafted and the other handmade? Would you care so long as you knew someone used their hands to create the item? Does it boil down to keywords used in searching Google or Yahoo as to which you buy? Or are you going to purchase something you like? That’s the ultimate question.

The line I have to draw between handcrafted and handmade is the mass produced machine made items being classified as handmade only because someone had to turn the switch from on to off to start the process.

This debate will go on for years well beyond our time. It truly doesn’t matter. You’ll do a search for “handmade” first then proceed to “handcrafted” thinking you’ll get a better result or the exact opposite. Either way, what you’ll get is items which are made by someone using their hands. Someone who has put their heart and soul into the product hoping someone out there will appreciate their work and purchase the item.

Don’t limit yourself because of what I or anyone else says. Handcrafted, handmade is the same. It falls into the realm of Art vs. Craft - A Debate With a New Twist . If you like it and it makes you happy, by all means purchase it. After all, it was made by hand for someone special; you.

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