We know we're meant to care. Meant to value the artisanal over the factory-made. Are somehow afforded greater social worth for eschewing the mechanised, for chewing on hand-kneaded sourdough.
But why? Why does it actually matter? Artisanal usually means more expensive - why should we invest in this?
Firstly it's about quality and the physical feeling you get from something handmade. Hold a packet of sliced Hovis in one hand, and a dusty, crusty, squashy loaf in the other, you'll be more excited about eating the latter. It will look, taste and feel better.
Secondly, it's about contrast. The texture of a handmade object serves as the perfect foil to a life lived on a smooth and slippery screens, where things appear and disappear, where touch only serves to reinforce the virtual. The inconsistencies and natural character of something handmade give spirited punctuation to the automatic insistence of the stainless-steel lift-doors and bossy escalators that otherwise teleport us impersonally through life. They ground us to something that feels individual, special, real, in a sea of ubiquity.
And thirdly, it's about the impact of that item, beyond the look and feel. Where machines are used to hack productivity, increase units, undercut prices and maximise profit, master-craftsmen make things to build sustainable livelihoods, but also to prolong tradition, offer a sense of story and history, and give whoever ends up living with these objects a connection to the hands who made them.
Of course, something made with carefully sourced materials, using a process honed over centuries and built to last, will inevitably be more expensive. But the value is quite simply greater, at both ends of the chain. And even more so, if the chain is as short is possible.
That's why we care. That's why, where possible and appropriate, we choose the idiosyncrasies of something made by a human hand over the output of a cold machine. To invest in longevity and true quality in an era where quantity and corner-cutting have historically been king. And handmade ultimately matters because the hands that make these objects matter. More on that next week.