Head to any SF artisan market with the following list of crafts, and I guarantee you’ll get yourself a Handmade Bingo—a crocheted mustache, geometric earrings, an ironic tote bag, and an illustrative card with a bear. The now is easy to predict, but does it help us predict the future of handmade? Not really—because every era had its own particularly disturbing list of common crafts that fall out of favor within a few years. We’ve moved from ’70s tie-dye to ’80s bedazzling to ’90s painted Santa cookie jars to today’s crocheted facial hair. If we continue to draw on old inspiration, then I see elaborate tapestries and crude pottery in our future. The common thread from each era, however, is the fact that crafts in general continue to hold a strong place in our modern world.

It’s entertaining to imagine Captain Kirk taking time out from running the Starship Enterprise to DIY some bow ties for an upcoming event. It’s a comical image because many of our sci-fi predictions revolve around technology and seem to leave little room for anomalies or handmade quirks. Does this present an accurate view of what we can expect to see in the future? A cold, science-driven world in which imperfections are frowned upon?

Nobody has an accurate crystal ball, as far as I know, so to most accurately predict the future of handmade, the first place I want to look for clues is in the past. I think if we want an idea of how technology will influence the handmade world in the future, then we need to follow the trajectory we’re already on. Technology has started to creep its way into DIY with apps like Craftgawker and Pinterest and a growing number of blogs that cover the subject. However, it’s less a sterile takeover and more a social-media community of idea-sharing. I see this as the way of the future: technology as a tool to aid in handmade and not as a hostile takeover. Think of it as plugging into a Matrix of sorts; maybe you could mentally download instructions for knitting the perfect fisherman’s sweater.

Next, let’s hop in our Delorean and travel to the dawn of humankind. All we had were our hands, so everything that humans created was handmade. We painted our own pottery, built tools that catered to our hand shape, and made cave paintings. All these examples showcase the desire for humans to make things beautiful but also functional and informational. Handmade is the early equivalent of design. Why were we driven to go above simple functionality into aesthetically pleasing? Who can really say? But it’s obvious that it’s been part of our prerogative since we started walking upright. We were trying to solve problems in beautiful ways using the tools we were given. This process has continued to evolve with our skill set.

As the industrial revolution swept the Western World, people still gravitated toward handmade goods. Women sewed their own clothing instead of buying from department stores, maybe not entirely from choice, but from lack of funds. It was the beginning of the DIY movement that is continuing today, born from a strong sense of frugality. The handmade goods of today take into account not only the pocketbook, but also the allowance of imperfection that manufactured goods just can’t offer.

Handmade goods offer a level of sentimentality in their uniqueness that adds to their appeal. I see this only becoming stronger in the future, as our ability to produce things on a mass level starts to expand. The 3D printer might be the next toaster in 20 years, in which case we could presumably print any item we need, so why delve into the world of working with your hands?

My strongest argument for the continuation of handmade is the fact that it exists today despite every available manufactured good out there. It’s appealing to humans. Something deep within our psyche responds to the imperfections; maybe it’s because it’s closer to nature or the fact that we’ve always worked with our hands. Perhaps in the future it will be less about personal attachment to handmade goods and, once again, more about necessity. What if fossil fuel becomes so expensive that we can only import within a 50-mile radius? How will this affect handmade? It becomes less of a luxury and more of a need. Maybe the current upswing in craftsmanship is preparing us all to work more with our hands, or maybe we can look forward to LED flashing mustaches—who really knows?









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Music Issue - Released January 2013
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