“We live in a disposable society,” says Alec Farmer of Trakke Bags based in Glasgow. And it’s true. Today, in our acutely capitalist world where time is money, products are no longer built to last, but seem timed to break down. Not only are objects no longer value for money but the connection to an object and its maker, as well as the result of a handmade, more creative, process, has been lost to mass production. Underestimated and underrated, the handmade is enjoying somewhat of a global renaissance – and Black Dog Publishing’s Made by Hand profiles a whole generation of artisans making waves in their field around the world.
A celebration of the return to the artisan craft, Made by Hand (printed on sustainably sourced paper, giving it that nicely tactile grain) takes the reader on a journey from England to Australia, through the doors of some of the world’s finest artisans’ studios. The book is divided up into crafts including tailors, shoemakers, stationers, watchmakers, bag-makers, bike-makers, neon sign-makers and serves to share their differing environments, techniques and products, as well as shine light on their personal connection to their activity, giving the book a poignantly personal dimension. Going back to making daily objects like sunglasses, radios or suit jackets by hand is a choice – and it’s becoming increasingly fashionable to own carefully crafted products because of their unique feel.
The artisans in Made by Hand don’t fall into a militant discourse on sustainability and durability – they aren’t particularly nostalgic. “When the average person today thinks of ‘craft’ they commonly think it is practised by people that reject the present. I think this is a false dichotomy,” says bag maker John Cho Moore from San Francisco. The comeback of a mastery of tools and materials, an eye for detail and quite simply, love for the trade, is injecting life back into everyday objects making them more desirable than anything mass-produced.
As Moriah Cowles of Orchard Steel in Brooklyn says, “Having something that lasts a long time, and being able to place a face to the hands that made it, is becoming more and more valuable. We want to have less stuff, and the stuff we choose to surround ourselves with to hold more meaning.”