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The Industrialization of the Artisanal Revolution

(Photo: Gregory Han)

(Photo: Gregory Han)

The New York Times reports that Etsy, the website that sells handmade artisanal products, will now allow its sellers to manufacture products. The reason for the shift? It’s too hard to scale up when everything’s handmade:

But last month, Etsy announced new policies that would allow sellers to apply to peddle items they produced with manufacturing partners, as well as to hire staff and use outside companies to ship their goods — all provided that the sellers demonstrated the “authorship, responsibility and transparency” intrinsic to handmade items.

By easing the definition of “handmade,” Etsy is trying to accommodate individual vendors who are having more and more trouble keeping up with their growing volume of customers. But many Etsy users are outraged by what they see as Etsy’s abandonment of its commitment to human handicraft, with some jumping ship for purer artisan sites like Zibbet.

Yet Etsy’s latest move is entirely in line with the history of handmade goods, a history that is more complicated than the simple term “handmade” implies. The artisans have run head-on into the problem that led to the Industrial Revolution: Making things by hand is slow. Really slow.

(HT: Alex Coppock)