The Advent of the Artisanal Economy

I wrote this post back in September of 2007. Today as the traditional market sheds more and more labor and Jobs are hard to get, people are being forced to make a living using their personal skills. It might be Toy making. Food Preparation. Music teaching. The web allows this to work. For on the other side, people are also starting to mistrust corporate products and services. They want access to real things that they can trust. The Artisanal Economy is starting to gather power. But back in 2007 it was tiny. 

Back in my old life, I was an SVP HR for a major bank. Even then, in the 1980’s and early 1990’s we could see that work/life was a huge issue. 65% of our staff were women and most had families. But I regret that nothing that we did back then had much of an impact.

But today technology is allowing more and more of us to work from home legitimately.

But I think that there is more than simply relocating the industrial world of work back home – I wonder if 2.0 is allowing a return to how humans always understood the idea of an “Economy”?

When most things that you want to buy – especially for some one else – seem to cost nothing and are all the same and made in China – what are you going to do? When an object is made with no love or care – what does it mean to own it or to give it? What is the energy invested in an object that is made only with cost saving in mind?

When it seems that all manufacturing is going to China and there are no manufacturing jobs left in the Western World – or much of the developing world either – what do you do? Do we give up? Do we try and make objects in an even more mercenary way?

What some people are doing is that they are going back to a preindustrial manufacturing approach. The web is empowering those who want to use real skills to make things because it can connect them directly to people who want to buy objects that are made with love and care.

The artisan is returning.

Jen Ham is one of these. As my son codes on his computer, so Jen sews on her sewing machine. Jen makes the kind of object that is always a one off, by her own hands and with love. She makes the kind of object that is a joy to give and to receive.


Etsy makes it easy to connect to you.

I can “see” a vast new economy emerging along these lines as we all get more familiar with how to do this and as we get tired of stuff and want to find again objects with meaning.

I can see a return to the real meaning of an economy (Thanks Fred):

ECONOMY: Middle English yconomye, management of a household, from Latin oeconomia, from Greek oikonomia-, from oikonomos, manager of a household : oikos, house + nemein, to allot, manage.

Where more and more work and all of life returns to one place – the home – and our experiment where all work left home winds down.

Oh you say – there will be still lots of work in other places – yes but the trend is in place.Here is some cool data from Joe here at Fast Forward –

At IBM, 42 percent of its workforce of 350,000 employees rarely comes into an IBM office.

Dan Pelino, general manager of IBM’s global health care and life sciences business, made this bursty comment: “We don’t care where and how you get your work done. We care that you get your work done.” IBM says it saves $100 million a year in real estate costs because it doesn’t need the offices…. There’s a direct cost savings attributable to burstyness.

At on-the-go Accenture, mobility rules. The company has no corporate headquarters, and not even the CEO has an office with his name on the door. Workspaces are reserved and used on a day-to-fay basis, like a hotel room. “Having a big desk as a sign of status with lots of family photos and you know, carpeting that’s fluffy and nice, that is a vision of the past,” said Janet Hoffman, executive vice president of Accenture. Well, in a bursty economy, all those nice accouterments can be part of your home office, if you like.