Handmade vs. Hand-Assembled

by Autumn Boutcher.
(United States)

The key and wire were mass produced, but I crafted the pendant

The key and wire were mass produced, but I crafted the pendant


My question for you all: Where do you draw the line between “handmade” and “hand-assembled”?

I think it’s different for each person. For me, I’d much rather make all components by hand. Unfortunately, that’s not always possible due to physical or technical limitations.

Some of my stainless steel components (ear wires, headpins and jump rings) are purchased. I still consider my items “handmade” despite this.

Autumn Boutcher
Caring Crystals
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  • Margaret says:

    That is a tough question, isn’t it? And I think you are likely to get as many answers as there are artists. For me, personally, I draw the line at how much you have changed the pre-made components you have used. For example, I have no problem using prefabricated ear wires or clasps, as long as the majority of the piece is “hand made”, and by that I mean, the parts were either made and designed by you or, at the least, changed to conform to your design. So a necklace that was composed of bought beads or gemstones and then simply strung together – I would have a hard time calling that hand-made. That’s hand assembled. In the case of your key pendant, I’d call it hand made because even though you used the key, you came up with the design of the copper swirls to enhance it and you bend that wire to reflect your design. You had to “make” that component of the pendant.

  • Autumn says:

    I agree with you. Simply transferring beads from the store string to your own isn’t “crafting” anything. I overheard one lady in a craft store telling her friend that’s what she did. She bought some beads, transferred them to another strong and sold it. If that’s what she likes…more power to her. But I don’t consider that “handmade”.

  • zoraida says:

    I also prefer to make every element myself. I just enjoy learning how to do everything I can by myself. That includes everything else in my life (like making dog food, breads etc) Maybe I’m a control freak? Of course, it’s not always necessary to create simple things like jump rings but I do it anyway. Although I do not consider completely hand assembled items as “handmade”, I have seen beautiful jewelry created by talented artists with a “vision”. So if the finished product shows a good sense of design using manufactured or otherwise purchased components, it’s fine by me.

  • In defense of assemblage jewelry, which is most of what I do, I’d just like to say that there *is” a very creative process that goes into ‘stringing the beads’. Searching for design elements, color contrasts or likeness, shape and texture of beads, style of the piece – all of these go into the process of ‘just stringing those beads’.
    We all have our niche in the jewelry business. I just hate to see one group of people being looked down on for what they do.

  • Beverly Holman says:

    Thanks for the question. I always wondered if I was representing my jewelry correctly. I purchase beads and findings and string them according to my design vision. At craft shows, I do say that they are “all handcrafted by me” and if I have designs with speciality beads like handmade paper beads or beads made in other countries, I do let the customer know the story behind them. And if I have something that wasn’t put together by me, I do say so. Now for another question, I am beginning to get into bead weaving, if I use a pattern as a guide, would that be handmade or handcrafted?

  • Catherine says:

    Assembled jewelry is not handmade, look handmade in any dictionary. Handmade takes much more time and skill. I teach assembled jewelry making at Michaels. I teach handmade jewelry in my studio. Handmade is measured by 80 to 100% handmade.

    I have a press and make back plates and stamp other material out of metal, that’s handmade. Buying prefabricated stamped out items from someone else is not handmade by you.

    To me there’s no fine line. For example, the key design is assembled because it doesn’t meet the percentage by weight.

  • Kelly says:

    Autumn, first off – nice work on the pendant! Very creative.

    I tend to think the term you choose to describe the jewelry you make is a personal choice. If you use your hands in the process of making it – I think you could use handcrafted, handmade, hand finished, or other possible descriptive words.

    In reading the article – What Does Hand Made or Handcrafted Really Mean by: Lou Radecki, he says; “At this stage, with all the variables possible, all the terms “handmade”, “handcrafted” “handicraft” and “hand finished” can possibly mean is that some part of the process has the mark of an individual human being. And that the final item cannot be exactly duplicated, and is therefore, one-of-a-kind. But the line is drunken blurry, and subject to individual interpretation”.

    Of course, this subject is debatable. But, bottom line is – use what is right and comfortable for you.

    As for me, I use Handcrafted to describe the Jewelry that I create.

    BTW – the article I referenced is at:
    if you’re interested in reading more on his take on the history & evolution of these descriptive words.

    Best wishes in your endeavors!

  • Aimee says:

    I would consider that handmade. Even if you took twigs and grass and wove it all together, you could argue that nature made the elements used. So, your project is made using man-made elements. I work with wire and stones…I did not polish the stones, or even drill the hole through the bead…but the work I put into my designs makes my pieces handmade…I don’t use a machine to make them! I crafted, wrapped, and wove… with my HANDS! And I spend a lot of time doing it, too! Hope this helps!

  • Andrea says:

    This is a great question that I’m trying to figure out myself! I started out using different suppliers and mix and matching different elements/items to what I like or specific for the intention it’s supposed to represent where I’ll then make a personal card for someone. I’ll include a personal messages for people that usually starts with a quote and use that as well as the gift itself to illustrate what it’s supposed to represent. One wholesale company referred this way of assembly as “hand manipulated”. Now I’m trying to make my own where I might use pre made necklace then I’ll create a drop charm with Crystal or a pendant with combination of tumbled stones and crystals etc., by using head pins, eye pins etc., would this be considered handcrafted? I’m also beginning to learn how to use different material adjust it to size I want, add clasps and again create a charm or add drop charm to a pendant etc., so would this be considered handcrafted? Sorry for loaded question! I’m just starting out and building more courage in attempting making things on my own and have wasted a lot of materials along the way! Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!

  • Jane says:

    Interesting discussion. Personally, I believe that my jewelry is handmade even though I use glass beads I did not make. When I take a bead and lay it out on my board, I put lots of thought into what other components to use to make the necklace/earrings/bracelets beautiful. When I finish a string, it may look awful, and I may re-string that particular creation 4-5 times before I get it right. It is my sense of balance, color, choice of components that makes my jewelry unique. At any show, nobody else has jewelry like mine–I use Murano beads because I don’t know how to make beads myself. Maybe someday I will. So I call myself a designer, and I consider my items to be handmade because my hands put together a creation that nobody else would think of.

  • It always seem the real issue with this particular question is one of, not just proper identification, but of determining “status”. If “handmade” and “hand assembled” were given equal merit, I think there’d be much less confusion. But because some like to use the definition of “handmade” to establish some kind of superiority, no one wants to admit to their work being “hand assembled” and, therefore, inferior.
    It’s really kind of insecure b.s., if ya ask me. I’m a bench jeweler, a lampwork glass sculptor, a stone carver….and an assemblage jewelry artisan. I think it’s more about whether something is thought out, designed and created on an individual level, by the artisan themselves (as versus, their design being mass-produced in a factory) in a soulful, dedicated sort of way, than determining “percentages” and “weights”. And, as far as quality & skill go, I’ve seen some stupidifyingly beautiful “assemblage” pieces that show a high level of design skill and some poorly-fabricated, butt-ugly, not well thought out “hand-fabricated” pieces, too.
    So, please…let’s not use the term “handmade” to beat each other over the head with…if your two hands are creating a finished piece out of loose components (whether you fabricated those components or not), I think you have every right to call that piece handmade.
    That said…. when you do nothing but buy a mass-produced charm, buy a mass-produced chain, stick charm on chain & call it a “creation”, you might be stretching the whole “handmade jewelry designer” thing a bit too far! 😉

  • Cindi Bernloehr says:

    Everyone has given very good opinions on the difference in terms so I just wanted to comment on your very “creative” use in stamping on a key and then creating an eye drawing design by adding the wire. Nicely done.

  • Judith says:

    I don’t do much beading but it intrigues me to no end. I have started to teach myself wire wrapping via excellent DVD’s. I find that I am now copying designs created by someone else, in the learning process. I feel I am hand-crafting. I have also seen beads strung for purchase at Michael’s and Joann’s which I’d deem just needing to be restrung to make a lovely bracelet. Not of much interest in that for me. ( I would be embarrassed to call a string of beads composed by someone else my handmade article). That said, in wire wrapping, one can keep to basic skill without much creativity involved. I think it all boils down to quality, not label, of finished product. I can’t wait to design and create–truly handmade.

  • Edselone says:

    I’m sorry, but if I take 200 to 300 loose store bought beads and 5 yards of beading thread and weave that into a beautiful bracelet, I’m going to be pretty upset if someone calls that bracelet “hand assembled”.

  • For purposes of applying to specific high end art and craft shows, the 80%/20% rule is there to keep out the re-sellers of manufactured goods from china, and help artists who really do make all or most of their own components from scratch get more exposure and the kind of recompense that will support further art. And by scratch, this often means milling one’s own wire from ingots, using bench tools to saw, punch, solder etc jewelry from scratch. It means taking a slab of natural stone and using lapidary equipment to cut and polish those stones.

    From that perspective, a lot of us here do assembly rather than pure hand crafting. Even bead weaving, while certainly put together by hand, is still using beading threads that are manufactured, and beads glass or otherwise that are ready to use. Assembly can be done very creatively, and with huge variations in quality of finished pieces. For example bead embroidery, when the artist is designing the entire layout from inside the mind. The design is certainly original, but the materials are not. Potters, start with raw clay. Bead makers start with glass in rods or powders or with polymer clay, or with paper, and turn those mediums into something not remotely resembling the original source material. And all of this should come into play when defining things for the ” High Art ” show circuit.

    But for me personally, the lines are a lot more flexible. Assembly means something more along the lines of purchasing a bunch of ready made components, like a pendant from one source, chain from another, and findings from another and then putting those together in visually interesting ways. The main portion of labor is in researching, sourcing, and ordering the supplies.

    Folks who knit, for example, unless they card and then spin the fibre from the animal before knitting wouldn’t qualify under the 80%/20% rule. But their work is definitely much more labor intensive than matching a pendant to a chain and adding components.

    In truth, my wire sculpted pieces have to be considered assemblage, because I don’t do metal fabrication and draw my own wire from an ingot. I still say that my pieces are hand crafted, because outside of this community most customers won’t understand the nuances of the different definitions. And my work tends to require a good deal of hand manipulation of the wire.

    In Autumn’s work. She takes existing vintage components and adds on her own styling in wire and beads. For those of us integral to the community we’d call it upcycling assemblage art. For the consumer, hand crafted works just fine!

    Lady M

  • Angela Darmali says:

    Creativity is not about what you use, but how you use it. Making something from kits (for example kits containing a pattern,beads, string/wire, pins, rings, and other components) is assembling; other than that, ‘handmade’ indicates that no machinery (stamping, cutting, punching etc.) was involved in the process. Designing and using your own components is definitely more satisfying than having to rely on market availability, but for many people (including myself) this is not always possible. Nevertheless, I still call my jewelry ‘handmade’, unless there is a law that clearly states that ‘handmade’ jewelry must contain a certain percentage of handmade components.

  • I remember this topic being discussed at length before, and I remember sharing my thoughts. I think they bear repeating here…
    I like to call myself a jewelry designer for the love of working with beautiful metals and gemstones and for the joy of the creative process. I purchase most of the items I work with, but my wire art and the designs I create are mine…no matter what label someone else chooses to put on them.

    I spent almost all of my life as a keyboard musician and vocalist. I got benched when an unfortunate fall screwed up my left hand and left me without a vocation.
    However, as a musician, I was all of composer, arranger, director, producer and performer…usually not all at the same time!
    I have had the honor of knowing some very gifted composers in my day. Usually, their instrument of choice was a keyboard, but I’ve known guitarists and even harpists who were good musical creators.
    These “composers” created beautiful, original work, but none of them went out and sawed down their own trees, killed their own elephants (for the ivory) or fabricated their own metal for the pedals, killed their own animals and gutted them for their own guitar strings, or (gasp!) even “created” their own manuscript paper on which these beautiful compositions were written.

    Yet, to call them musical “assemblers” or song “crafters” would be laughable! None of these people created their own raw material on which they created their musical tapestries, and yet ALL of them carry the honored title of “composer.”

    I would just encourage us all not to get lost in the forest of minutae, and celebrate the love of the creative process…no matter what form it takes.

    By the way, if you click on my link, you will find that I had to put my passion aside…temporarily…to build a business to make a living. Hopefully, I can be reunited with my creativity soon.

  • Autumn says:

    I knew this would be controversial. I wanted a topic where we could see the full spectrum of opinions. But NOT to bash one another. We all have our own definitions, values and whatever-else have you. We don’t have to agree, but we do need to respect one another’s opinions. That goes for myself respecting others, so I apologize if I’ve offended anyone. It wasn’t my intention.

    I agree with several of you about design and originality. I’ve met some people who do “just bead stringing” and make BEAUTIFUL designs. All their materials are pre-fabricated. But it’s the artistic nature of the design that makes it “handmade”.

    While I understand percentages for craft shows, I don’t like applying that to “real life”. Most of us don’t exist solely within the craft show realm. I think it’s unfair to judge everyone by such a strict standard. That was the point of this question, really. To both view everyone’s opinions, and broaden our own.

    So here’s another question, inspired by Lady M. Do you take your customer’s views into account when labeling your jewelry? My customers have said I am an “artists”, “craft-er” and “hand make” my art. Personally, if my customers and I agree on the description, I don’t see a reason to change it! ^.^

  • kathryn says:

    Even though I work with polymer clay and “fabricate” nearly every component I use uncluding the texture stamps I work with, I can understand that the terms “hand-made” and hand-assembled” are hot buttons. When a maker assembles a piece by combining elements that are commercially available and therefore fabricated by others, they are nevertheless designing the work as they are assembling it. So perhaps a better term than hand-assembled might be custom-designed. I think it’s more accurate and certainly less derogatory.

  • Margaret says:

    As my first post stated – we got as many different opinions as there are artists out there. And I must say I am very proud of everyone who has posted for I have not found any bashing in this thread at all so far. We are just sharing our opinions and noone is really saying that other opinions are wrong. This issue will never be black and white and I’m beginning to lean towards the idea that it has nothing to do with the “components” of the final creation but rather with the individual design work that goes into a piece and if we look at this issue from that point of view, then pretty much everything is “handmade”.

  • Aurora says:

    The Federal Trade Commission mandates a legal definition for “Handmade”.
    Short Version here http://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/16/23.3

    Full version on the government web site found here:

    CFR 23.3 – Misuse of the terms “hand-made,” “hand …
    50+ items – … 23.3 – Misuse of the terms “hand-made,” “hand-polished,” etc.
    Toc – Table Of Contents.
    Collapse. Chapter I – FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION (Parts 0 – 999).

  • I find it interesting that according to the FTC bulk sheet, and wire are considered raw materials. I’ve been turned down for shows because I used manufactured wire in my work.
    I am quoting the text here for simplicity sake.
    § 23.3 Misuse of the terms “hand-made,” “hand-polished,” etc.
    (a) It is unfair or deceptive to represent, directly or by implication, that any industry product is hand-made or hand-wrought unless the entire shaping and forming of such product from raw materials and its finishing and decoration were accomplished by hand labor and manually-controlled methods which permit the maker to control and vary the construction, shape, design, and finish of each part of each individual product.
    Note to paragraph (a):
    As used herein, “raw materials” include bulk sheet, strip, wire, and similar items that have not been cut, shaped, or formed into jewelry parts, semi-finished parts, or blanks.
    (b) It is unfair or deceptive to represent, directly or by implication, that any industry product is hand-forged, hand-engraved, hand-finished, or hand-polished, or has been otherwise hand-processed, unless the operation described was accomplished by hand labor and manually-controlled methods which permit the maker to control and vary the type, amount, and effect of such operation on each part of each individual product.

  • Margaret says:

    The problem is, it’s almost impossible to agree on what constitutes “raw material”. Take a copper stamped pendant wirewrapped with stones for example. Is the cut out disk purchased on etsy raw material? Or is it the larger sheet it came from? Thinking this way you could go all the way to the copper ore. Did you smelt the ore yourself in your backyard to get a copper ingot and then roll it into a sheet? No? Well, then your work is not hand made. That’s ridiculous. Lady Mockingbird, I am appauled that you would be excluded from a show because you didn’t make the wire yourself. That’s just silly.

  • The FCC rule actually states that sheet is raw material and pre-cut blanks are not.

  • Aurora says:

    Agreed, the FTC definition of what constitutes ‘handmade’ leaves little room for argument. The fancy patterned wire or bezel stock we can now purchase would not be allowed under this definition because it is not made by hand-controlled methods.

  • Margaret says:

    Just to be the devil’s advocate, you could. I mean, someone has to put that wire into the machine for it to be stamped/textured, someone has to program the machine with their hands and brain, someone has to press the button to make the machine go and then has to take the finished product out and inspect it for quality. There IS a lot of human hand interaction there. Perhaps the stipulation should be mass produced as opposed to hand created?

  • Beverly Holman says:

    This has turned into a good informative discussion. I pose the same question to a jewelry group on facebook which I am a member of. The opinions are different but one person suggested this article to read
    articlecity.com/articles/marketing/articles_4789.shtml . Interesting reading.

  • Margaret says:

    Can’t find the article

  • Jane says:

    Couldn’t find the article either. After having followed this discussion for days, I can see the difference between hand-assembled and handmade, a distinction I hadn’t even considered. My personal conclusion is to define myself as making handmade jewelry even though I use bought components. I am not in this for fame or fortune, and I am definitely not a purist. Making jewelry gives me such satisfaction and happiness, and I want to share that with people. Those who have purchased my jewelry are thrilled to have a piece that they could not have made themselves. That connection is the greatest pleasure and gift about creating one-of-a-kind stunning pieces that make both my customer and me happy.

  • Beverly Holman says:

    You could google it.

  • Margaret says:

    Here is the link:


  • Maureen says:

    Great discussion on what can be a hot-button topic. Thanks Beverly and Margaret for the link to the Lou Radecki article. I too found it interesting reading, and it reminded me of all the discussions that occur as people wander around art museums. “What makes that art? My 3-year old could do it!” With both hand-made jewelry and art I’m very liberal in my definition – if the maker (jeweler or artist) puts the time, resources, effort and creativity into producing it and the user (buyer, wearer or viewer) believes it is worthy to be called hand-made or art, then that’s what it is.

  • Aurora says:

    As the creators of these arts and crafts we need only be concerned with one definition of ‘hand-made’ and that is the Legal definition.
    Dictionary definitions, nor learned opinions will stand up in court. Certainly the chance of our being taken to task for using the ‘hand-made’ term by any governing body is remote. So is the chance a small scale jewellery artist gets caught misrepresenting metals or a number of other minor transgressions surrounding our work. It all comes down to personal integrity.

  • Barbra Gougeon says:

    This has been a fascinating topic and I am thoroughly enjoying everyone’s comments. I think what irks me is when someone buys a prefabricated mass produced chain and pendant from Michael’s and take’s a minute to put it together, then represents themselves as a Jeweler, and sells it for 3x more! I know someone who does this. The public are uneducated and assume the whole piece was made buy her. I buy all the raw materials ( sheet, wire), make all my own components buy hand, then solder or wire weave it into a finished piece of jewelry. I’m sawing, hammering, annealing, texturing, bending, sanding, twisting wire, etching and polishing etc.. I am using all my skills not to mention the many hours I spend just designing the piece. There is no skill involved just hanging something on a chain or earwire. I have spent $100’s of dollars taking workshops, buying books and tutorials, and practicing. Therefore in my opinion it is not handmade and they should not be saying they are a Jeweler. What do you all think?

  • Aurora says:

    Barbara I’m in exactly the same situation, same expenditures, same thoughts so I do my best to educate the public when they buy from me. I only participate in the better juried Art Shows. Craft shows are not the venue for my work at all.
    What really hurts is when you sign up for a juried show – handmade and $300 fee for 1 or two days only to find yourself across from one of these people. Clearly according to the law these people are misrepresenting themselves yet feel what they are doing is harmless.

  • Aurora says:

    oh, I didn’t really answer your question. There is Art Jewellery, Costume Jewellery, fine Jewellery etc. Not sure what you’d properly call them… I call myself a Silversmith or Metalsmith and I’ve been referring to the ‘assemblers’ as “jewellery artists” because there are many very talented souls out there making this type of jewellery. Many of these people got to greater efforts to obtain good quality stones and findings, there is a whole group who recycle vintage jewellery into some pretty amazing pieces. I think of jewellery as a generic term for any shiny bling we adorn our bodies with. I like “Jewellery Artist” but I am possibly wrong in using that term – or am I?

  • I like ‘jewelry designer’ personally. And when I’m talking to others ‘in the trade’, the phrase ‘I’m a stringer’ 🙂 comes up frequently.

  • Barbra Gougeon says:

    Hi Aurora, I refer to myself as a Silversmith/ Jewelry Designer. I Agree that there are some fantastic Jewelry Designers out there who make the most fantastic and creative jewelry and yes they are definitely “Jewelry Artists”.
    Some of the Vintage and Recycled Jewelry is just stunning! My issue is with the ones that have no skill and just “hang” something on an earwire or chain and refer to themselves as a jeweler. Aurora, I’m surprised they even let someone like that at a Juried craft fair. Or is it pay your $300 and anyone can go? My friend who is also a Metalsmith goes to Juried craft fairs all the time and it sounds like they are quite strict.

  • Jane says:

    Until this discussion, I had no idea that there were so many descriptions of how one makes jewelry. At first I found the discussion informative, but by the end I was feeling depressed since I’m only a “stringer.” That’s what I know how to do, and I was having great fun making beautiful strung jewelry and selling it to people who also thought it was beautiful. I have packed up all my jewelry making supplies, put up my sewing machine and will quilt for a while. However, if I haven’t woven my own fabric and screen printed it–what does that make me?

  • Aurora says:

    I’m so very sorry Jane, I didn’t mean to make anyone feel badly about their creations and did state there are many very talented ‘jewellery artists’ [stringers] out there making amazing things.
    Clearly the public AND art jury panels need be educated on what ‘handmade’ means which leads to my complaint of spending thousands of dollars and hours to learn to do what I do and than having to compete in a juried show in a very unlevel playing field. There is a place for all of us, and customers for all kinds of arts and crafts.

    Don’t let us rain on your parade; bring out your beads and baubles and enjoy yourself creating lots of fun stuff for your customers.

  • Jane,
    I think choosing the phrase “Only a stringer,” to describe yourself is pretty darned depressing. Do you think less of yourself because you aren’t a carpenter and didn’t build your own home? Or perhaps you would say someone is only a secretary, rather than the boss. Never mind that without that administrative assistant the boss would be a whole lot less effective. Taking anything you do and making it “less than” is a self destructive mind set, not a universal truth. Each of us is drawn to doing different things. Different doesn’t mean lesser. Certainly a gold smith who starts with casting grain and ends up with a stunning brooch is going to have a ton of skills you and I may never learn or use in crafting our respective jewelry. That doesn’t make either of us lesser, though it does mean the goldsmith has spent years gaining and honing the skills needed to make jewelry.

    But, in the world of running a business, if you want to avoid later legal issues, it is good to know the legal definition of hand made. While you may be stringing, you are still as an artist choosing the color palette, deciding on the bead shapes, whether to use metal, glass, paper, clay or other media. If the end result is attractive and someone wants to buy it from you, then there’s reason for joy.

    What this discussion (I think) highlights most is what happens when you begin to reach out to a much broader market. How you label your product is important. I have no doubt you would be offended if you purchased an item you thought to be unique and hand made only to later find it was mass produced and hundreds of thousands of items identical to yours are being sold for one 10th the price you paid.

    The thing is we all (as customers) want truth in advertising. And as business owners we owe it to our clients to give them truth. Our own personal thoughts of what constitutes hand made doesn’t cut it in the business world. I would call most bead stringers and bead weavers, Assemblage Artists and Designers. Don’t let yourself get hung up on the words “hand made” as if that is the pinnacle of all things good.

    It wasn’t all that long ago after the start of the industrial revolution that hand-made was a pejorative term. For a long time, the pinnacle of quality and keeping up with the Jones meant buying the newest factory made item, from cars to kitchen appliances. Even machine made hosiery was held to be far better than hand knit stockings.

    Now in our age when so much is factory produced and hand crafted items are more rare, calling it hand made gives it a cache it wouldn’t have had in the 1950’s and 60’s.
    Lady M

  • Aurora says:

    Well said Lady M! I’ll second that one 🙂

  • Jane says:

    Thanks, Aurora for your empathetic response. My business cards refer to me as a “designer” which is what I think I am, and I chose that definition so I could not only make jewelry but also quilted items. While I appreciate having learned the legal definitions, the discussion did knock the wind out of my sails a bit. I am comfortable with putting jewelry making aside for a while and returning to my love of fabric.

  • Maureen says:

    Jane, I know what you mean about having the wind knocked out of your sails. I am just getting to where I’m willing to sell my creations rather than gifting them all away. I love making jewelry for myself and others, and I use all purchased or re-purposed materials in my designs – mainly stringing, wire-work and chain-mail, but I’m constantly learning new techniques. I don’t consider myself an artisan (yet), but I do consider myself a jeweler since I create jewelry that I and others enjoy wearing. And isn’t that what it’s all about – doing something that you love and sharing it with others who will love it as well. Enjoy your return to fabric, and know that your beads and customers will be waiting for your return when you’re ready.

  • Autumn says:

    What Lady M said! There is no “only” in art. No matter the venue–painting, music, poetry, jewelry–art is an expression of self and humanity. You are Jane; designing is a part of who you are. That means whatever you create is unique and to be treasured.

    I’m sorry this discussion became negative/discouraging for you. That wasn’t my/our intention.

  • Jean says:

    I am glad someone is asking this question besides me. I currently buy blank settings and glass cabochons to make jewelry. That is the end of the mass produced. I hand paint everything else, often including the setting. Items which are handmade is easily noticed as no two pieces are alike. Even using the same colors, they will be different. I am currently learning the art of wire wrapping so that I can take those basic blank settings and turn them into settings which are predominantly hand made, where the blank is simply the skeleton which holds the flesh. I’m also learning to make settings with clay and resin. At that point the pieces will be entirely handmade. What I do not consider handmade is taking a photo of something, printing out 10 copies of that photo and gluing them into a setting. Or peeling a sticker off a sheet and gluing that into a setting. To me, even though on a smaller scale, this is no better than the mass produced stuff. You can digitally manipulate colors and have 10 pieces identical except for color. It is easy to tell who put in the work to hand paint each piece and who went to Staples. I recently saw an artfully done piece of jewelry that was assembled from bits and pieces from Michael’s, but the maker then went the extra yardage to hand paint each tiny piece, to make each look rusty, someone moldy and blotchy.. It was the prettiest example of “steam punk” style jewelry I’ve ever seen. It was far more than just hand assembled. I have enough “work stations” around my house for resin pouring, painting large canvases and painting jewelry. I have oil paints, acrylic paints, enamel paints, brushes, awls, chisels, exacto knives, toothpicks, tweezers, magnifying lenses and and you get the idea, without adding welding equipment, soldering irons, a forge, equipment for melting metals, and fine metals to melt. One woman I saw post on another forum managed to rationalize her photocopies as hand made, in such a way that I know she was heartfelt in her believe that she was hand making jewelry and it was a-okay to advertise as such. I don’t doubt her sincerity, but I still must disagree. On the other hand, am I rationalizing my own use of mass produced settings as a base? I am lucky in that I can just advertise as “unique hand painted”. So, to me, handmade encompasses both making all the parts, and intricately remaking mass produced parts to make something unique according to your own vision and design. Although, I could be rationalizing the fact that if I spend 3 hours intricately wire wrapping a store bought setting to completely disguise the store bought piece, you betcha I’m calling that puppy handmade 😉

  • Jean, thanks so much for adding your experiences and insights to this conversation!

  • Marie says:

    Generally design is not necessarily handmade and often is mass produced but it involves a precise design process and concept and it’s not a simple\complexe assemblage of pre-made components, even if history of jewelry has some distinguished example of assemblage such as Coppola and Toppo or Miriam Haskell, but also in this case you can notice that findings and elements are a custom design
    For what concern pure metalsmith jewelry, it’s not necessarily a design, as often there is not a particular concept behind (concept is intended in a very philosophical way, which is basically what’s design) it’s more a pure artisanal work, but also in this case it has to be almost 100% handcrafted
    So basically hand assembled jewelry with pre-made elements could be very very pretty and nice, but it’s hard to promote this kind of jewelry as handmade as well as design or art

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