Who made your stuff, and do you care?


Somewhere along the line we forgot that people make stuff.

I hate pulling out the 'in the olden days it was so much better...' line, but long before factories and shopping malls took over the world, the ordinary person would have known the people who made every single item they had.

Joe Village would have been on nodding terms with the shoemaker, best friends with the horse-shoe guy and reluctant trading partners with the cranky old woman who knitted his jumper. We valued every item because we knew how long it took to make and how much effort went into it.

Somehow, the fact that almost everything we own comes out of a factory in another country, has divorced us from the relationship with the people who work to make our things. We now have relationships with our furniture and our electronic devices rather than with the people who make them.

Handmade craft items are making a resurgence. Just check out Etsy.com if you need to be convinced. I wonder if it's because we are missing personal connections in our lives. Somehow we find it much easier to value something we buy if we know it's 'hand-made', if someone has put their own work and creativity into it. 

Being realistic, I'm still going to buy mass-produced stuff. But this Christmas, I'm remembering all the people who work to make it. When I turn on my Christmas lights, I'm praying for the real life people - maybe some of them children - who designed them, put them together, shipped them and sold them.

When I look around me, I can see all the things I own - all of which have been made by people. I'm going to try to think about my relationship with them, rather than just with the stuff.

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