By Penelope Morgan
When I started staying home with my daughter Cecily, I fulfilled a dream and started my own handmade business. In February, I opened a shop on Etsy, selling children’s accessories, toys and décor.
Etsy.com is an online marketplace for handmade or vintage items. Amazingly, Etsy.com offers 35 million items for sale from 1.6 million sellers worldwide. They brought in $2.3 billion dollars in revenue last year. The exploding demand for handmade items is a reaction against the glut of cheaply made throwaway goods on the market. A handmade blouse and a store-bought one might look exactly the same - so why will consumers pay a premium for the handmade one? I’m convinced that handmade items give physical form to several universal human longings, and ultimately, our longing for the gospel.
First, everyone longs to be part of a story. Our culture has abandoned the traditions and faith that once gave us meaning and exchanged them for relativism and self-expression, which leave us empty. As Matthew Schmitz eloquently explains, rather than returning to actual traditions, our culture has embraced the trappings of traditions- artisanal techniques, vintage fashion, and so on. Knowing an item’s provenance acknowledges our longing for story. Ultimately, we were made to be part of the gospel story, and perhaps the handmade movement is a step in that direction.
Second, we long for significance. Owning a physical item that took time, effort, skill, and care to create affirms our value as human beings. To use my particular market as a case study, handmade baby items have always been popular for a reason. My daughter received 8 handmade blankets before she was born! Friends and relatives took the time to create these blankets to show that my baby has inherent human worth. If you can’t knit or sew, now you can buy a handmade blanket on Etsy. This is the primary reason I think the handmade movement is a good cultural development- it affirms human dignity.
All human beings long to last forever, for homecoming, and for all things to be made new. The gospel tells us that this longing will be fulfilled in Christ’s everlasting kingdom. If you don’t have the gospel, your only option is nostalgia- to treasure a glorified version of the past- the “good old days.” There’s a reason that the vintage aesthetic is a sister trend to the handmade movement. It’s a thrill to wear a vintage piece because you are taking something abandoned and renewing it. When it comes to the handmade, we feel we deserve things that last because deep down we long to last forever.
I take joy in my handmade work because I share these human longings. Creating a quality handmade piece is my small way of pointing people to their own eternal worth.