By Carolyn Edlund
Why do buyers crave individually handmade, one-of-a-kind work?
There’s a big world out there full of people who shop at discount stores to buy “wall décor” and who purchase mass-produced disposable goods. They don’t buy original art or fine craft. They aren’t your customers, and that’s OK. You can cross them off your list of prospects.
But those people who are your prospects are looking for something different and unique. Artists make what are usually considered “luxury” goods, but for many collectors they are virtually necessities. What elements lead to a true appreciation of the bespoke?
I recently talked with T. Michael, a designer and leather craftsman who makes incredible bags, backpacks, and briefcases using a time-honored method of construction. His collection is created slowly, one at a time, using only his hands and tools that don’t even require electricity. I asked him, “Why do people seek out your work?”
He first mentions the quality materials that go into each piece, and how important this is to his customers. Carefully selected leather, thread, and hardware chosen for character and durability.
Then, there is the sense of individuality this gives to the customer. In every bag is the evidence of detailed craftsmanship and unique design, providing the owner with something that no one else has.
Each piece is sewn, using a traditional saddle stitch, just so. He can take 2 – 5 stitches per minute, depending on the leather. Rounding, coloring and burnishing the edges of the leather are patiently done by hands that expertly work on each curve and detail. The time is spent to make it as skillfully as possible. His inspiration, talent and creative spirit become an intrinsic part of the finished product. And his signature proudly says “This is my work. This is handmade.”
Handmade may not be necessary in our time-sensitive, hurried world. But in a throwaway culture, handmade work represents permanence, history and even heirloom quality. T. Michael says, “Today there are many bespoke travel and handbags that are still alive even after 100 years of use.”
Many people who buy bespoke items are actually very creative themselves. They may not be artists or makers, but they express their creative side by appreciating, collecting and proudly owning one-of-a-kind handmade art and craft. They love the story behind the work, the slow and careful process of the maker, the touch and the feel of a piece made with love and attention to detail.
When they make the purchase of a bespoke item, it is an emotional and affirming experience that says, “I don’t want a carbon copy; I want something unique and different. I want to own things that make a statement about me, and show my individuality. I have excellent taste, and value the finer things in life.”
As you develop an audience of collectors who appreciate these aspects of your own work, tap into these values by sharing your story, your inspiration and the process that goes into each piece.