It isn't very often that I come across an article that hits the nail on the head (couldn't resist!) when it comes to consumerism in America. But the most recent issue of American Craft magazine manages to do just that during an interview with Ellen Ruppel Shell, author of Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture.
One of the books chapters, entitled "Death of a Craftsman" conveys how goods have become fairly disposable, shrinking the demand for craftspeople while causing handcrafted objects to become more rare and expensive. Interviewer Shannon Sharpe asks the question "Is it elitist to expect people to pay a higher price for handmade items?"
Here is some of Ellen Ruppel Shell's response:
"In one way, we view handcrafted objects as available to only the wealthy. But in the past, we made things by hand because it was economical. ...Craft doesn't need to be precious; it can be functional. A well made table will last for years, but craftsmanship takes time, and that is the enemy of discount stores. Mass production has led shoppers to view a table as just a table, a vase as just a vase. With well crafted goods, there is a relationship attached to the object. Craftsmen rely on skill, commitment, and judgement. Choosing to purchase something well-made that someone has invested time and skill in is rational, not elitist."
The conversation addresses cultural and economic factors in America today, yet is inspiring on many levels. It highlights the shift so many people are now feeling to make choices that not only have an intrinsic value and ethical foundation, but will stand testament throughout the years of our lives.