The Future is Handmade

Cottage industry can save the planet. How?

First of all, cottage industry reduces consumption. Things manufactured by hand, by middle class craftspeople cost more, and last longer. So, as in the old days - you covet something, think about it, learn about the maker, save for it, and when you are ready, you purchase it. Because it costs more, you are more likely to take care of it. Because it is well made, you will take it with you when you move (and it won't fall apart). Because it is well made, and well designed, you may even give it to your kids.

Second, cottage industry is produced locally: Cottage industry is much more likely to source materials locally. Local industries, local distributors, and other local makers all benefit from a strong local cottage industry. Not to mention, these workers live in middle class communities everywhere. They spend money directly in the economy - on housing, entertainment, in restaurants. There are no high paid executives that spend their money offshore, on luxury goods, or simply hoard wealth. There are no questionable foreign labour practices that are exploited in the name of profit. Cottage industry makers tend to have a passion for what they produce, and they often have passion for their local communities.

Third, cottage industry cares about the environment. On the most basic level, North American industry conforms to North American environmental practices. There are no alarming "out of sight"
environmental practices that are exploited in foreign countries. But more than that, artisan craftspeople tend to be very aware of the environmental consequences of what they produce, and usually choose materials and processes that are less harmful to their health and the environment around them. Many artisans also tend to aspire to be "green" in their own lives. By supporting the artist, you are also supporting these kind of choices.

Fourth, cottage industry could save local economies. Regional diversity could begin to emerge again as local aesthetics and specialities once again develop. These would not only emerge as a result of schools of thought, but also as a result of locally available materials, expertise and even climate. Furniture, textiles, ceramic goods or artisan foods (among many other things) may all become regional specialities that begin to redefine regions - and will combat the homogeneity of the big boxes and multinational chains that are steamrollering over all that makes our regions unique.

In many ways, the industrial revolution has run its course. Our material industrial capacity far exceeds our material needs. Industry's response has been increasingly short cycles of designed obsolescence - with increasingly fewer people benefiting from all this consumption. Thinking ahead, sheer consumption cannot sustain perpetual economic growth - everything is finite. Instead, we could place more value on beauty, and on the skill of our artisans. It is still a marvel what human hands can produce and a connection with the maker embeds value in an item. We could reinvigorate something that has been missing in North America for some time now - pride. Pride in design. Pride in innovation. Pride in craftsmanship. There is no shortage of talented, and eager young creatives in North America - people who would love to make a living with their minds and their hands. Stop feeding the bear that is rampaging through the village - buy handmade. Save the planet.


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