What is handmade?

In this morning's NY Times, there was an Op-Ed article by Elizabeth Wayland Barber about Etsy's recent policy change and the definition of 'handmade'. 

In my humble opinion, Barber misses the point. 

According to her, "the truth is that almost none of the objects that we think of as handmade truly are", as everyone uses some sort of a mechanical device in the production process. For example, people like me use sewing machines, card makers print their designs on store-bought paper, and knitters use ready-made yarn (and even if they spin their own yarn, they use a spinning wheel, which, of course, is a machine, despite having been invented in the Middle Ages). 

I've been grappling with the definition of handmade ever since I started my business, and came to the conclusion that it's not the tools we use or even the number of people involved that defines it. 

Etsy's recent policy change is problematic, not because handmade artists purport to create everything by hand without using any machinery, but because it allows for a complete disconnect between the artist and the production process.  

Merely demonstrating 'authorship, responsibility and transparency' does not qualify an item as handmade. Under the new policy, I, for example, could design a bag, commission a manufacturer in China or Bangladesh to produce this design, and have them drop-ship to my customers. 

Theoretically, I only need to prove that it is my own design and disclose that someone else made it in order to sell it as 'handmade' on Etsy. To me, the fact that the person holding authorship does not have to touch the 'handmade' product even once, makes no sense at all. According to the new policy, contrary to what Barber claims, EVERYTHING in the world is handmade, is it not? 

There is a designer behind every product - someone designed the vase from Crate & Barrel, the chair from West Elm, the card from Paper Source. How they produced them - whether or not they used a machine, or commissioned a factory in China - is irrelevant, as long as there is someone who claims ownership of the design, and they were produced in a 'responsible' and 'transparent' way.  

Barber closes her argument by stating that "just because an object includes manufactured parts doesn't mean it can't reflect the touch of an individual creator's hand". Of course not. The crux of the issue is not the use of machinery or manufactured parts - it is the connection between the individual artist and the finished product that is vital for the "happy unmechanical surprises of human quirkiness".