Some time ago I came across the Handmade Pledge. It was appealing – the pledge to support indie crafters by buying handmade gifts and requesting that others buy handmade for the pledgee. But I haven’t signed up and I suspect I won’t. I tried figuring that out this morning (pretty early, while knitting a sock that will be a gift).
First of all, a little bit more about the pledge. It is expressly in support of indie crafters in a move away from conspicuous consumption, the environmental damage involved in mass production, a political protest against unfair labour practices and the multinational ‘big box’ department stores and their homogenous style. As the site says, some take the pledge for political and environmental reasons and others in support of the individuality and creativity of the indie scene. These are all good reasons to take the pledge, whichever part of the globe you come from.
But I haven’t taken the pledge because real life intervenes and the things that have intervened are things that I think a burgeoning indie craft movement should recognise. Mostly, it’s economics. It takes a certain middle-class privilege to take the pledge. It takes a reasonably secure income, access to a secure high-speed internet connection, time, and exposure to the craft scene. A low paid job dependent on hourly wages won’t really get you there; public internet access is not great for the security of your banking details (and most indie craft is accessible online); working overtime, double shifts or the second job really eats into your crafting time; and a certain cultural orientation is required which relies on leisure time to explore one’s own creativity and value that time spent as a worthy activity (rather than supporting other family members, working those extra hours, or spending time on family and housework).
So I haven’t taken the pledge even though I’m middle-class with a steady income. I don’t have time to commit to making all of my gifts, much and all as I would like. I do have to consider housework, tiredness, and enjoying time with my family. I have to actively manage my stress levels and help others manage theirs, so saying I’m going to be out of the loop for the weekend while I craft isn’t really fabulous. And we have budget limitations so I couldn’t really commit to buying handmade. I respect the talent and hardwork of crafters enough that I accept the higher prices that go with hand made items.
This isn’t meant as a rant against the buying handmade pledge but a call to understand the economic and social constraints that may prevent many from participating. And having some understanding of those constraints means that indie crafters (and I hope to be one of them someday) can adopt a new way of selling our goods. A range of goods that can be priced into the lower range; investigating different physical market locations; a referral system that shows customers where to buy affordable, handmade fair trade goods.
It just seems to me that if you’re going to be alternative then you need to go beyond the surface of things and offer an alternative structure or way of operating. Think about why you find the system unacceptable and see how you can do things differently for the benefit of the greatest range of customers.
Hear endeth the lesson.