The buying and selling of artisan made craftwork has gotten popular over the years, with more and more so-called “artisan made craftwork” making its way onto mainstream e-commerce sites. But are these crafts truly artisan made?
Here are 4 things to look out for when shopping for artisan made craftwork so that you can make sure that your money is going into the right hands, and for the right cause:
Khushiram, our fifth generation block printing artisan, together with his entire stitching unit team
1. When a picture of the artisan is being used heavily for marketing material
While many artisan initiatives are based on community outreach and supporting artisan’s livelihoods, the focus of marketing materials should not only be on the artisan themselves, but also highlight the work that they create. More often than not, e-commerce sites that claim to be supporting artisanship feature pictures of artisans that were taken without permission, or even worse, feature generic artisan stock photos that have nothing to do with the product (or the person who made the product). These are both clear signs that the person selling these artisan products are taking advantage of these artisans.
That being said, there are trustworthy brands and websites who deliberately choose to put their artisan partners front and centre in order to emphasise their dedication to provenance and transparency. In this case, some “green flags” include the same artisan being featured numerous times in the brand’s media collateral and features of direct communications with artisan partners. The difference lies in consistency, accuracy, and above all, respect the sellers have for the artisans.
2. When the brand is not clear about working conditions/pay
Because oftentimes, there are cultural and language gaps, as well as racial and class power imbalances between the artisan communities and those who sell their work, artisans are extremely vulnerable to economic exploitation. As such, one of the most important things we need to do as customers of artisan work is to question and research thoroughly about the working conditions in which these artisan products are made. Before buying anything, inquire about wages and working environments of the artisans behind the product.
3. When the seller doesn’t know who the artisan is
On a similar note, one of the most obvious red flags when shopping for artisan craftwork is when the seller does not know who the artisan is. Lack of communication between artisans and the sellers are, after all, cause blatantly disrespectful actions by sellers such as them using pictures of artisans taken without their permission. If the seller of the craft doesn’t clarify upfront who made the craft being sold, that’s a sign that the artisan is probably not being remunerated properly for their time and work.
4. When there are obvious flaws in the craft
One of the reasons why website Ethical Fashion Guatemala was created was because the creators of the website realised how prevalent blatant rip-offs of artisan craftsmanship were circulating in e-commerce sites like Shopify and Etsy. For example, Guatemalan weavings do not contain the colour black, as dark black is not achievable with natural dyes, and the creators of Ethical Fashion Guatemala use such flaws to flag retailers selling fake artisan crafts. This definitely isn’t an easy task for the average customer, but there are websites out there that can help you distinguish genuine craft and fake ones.
What are some ways you distinguish genuinely ethically made artisan craft and those that are not?
Let us know down below.