A question to ponder.....

A query from a potential client a week or so ago got me to thinking. The potential client's question was primarily about pricing ( and why my work is more expensive than a gift shop tallit). This Shabbat I had a lovely conversation with Ayelet's father about her tallit. He said, "We didn't realize that when you meet with a client, you have no idea of what that tallit will look like ahead of time."

My initial reaction was, " Of course I don't, the tallit is created for that particular client. I have no idea what we will design together, until after we have talked and figured it out together."

Both those conversations had me exploring  the internet to see what others mean when they advertise their work as  " One of a kind" or "hand crafted" in the world of tallitot.

I am not going to post photos of the work of other people's tallitot. But you can Google the phrases " one of a kind tallit " or "hand crafted tallit"  and see what appears on your screen.

Most of what is sold as "hand crafted" could be more aptly described as "manufactured to look like hand crafted". If you go into any Judaica store around the country you will see the identical walls of Jerusalem motif appearing in exactly the same way,  or the identical floral design in batik. I assume that the wax outline is  machine printed on hundreds of yards of China silk and is colored in by unskilled labor. calling that sort of work "hand crafted " is a bit of a stretch, at best. If there were actual variations in the designs I would feel differently, even if the designs were fairly similar.

These descriptions of essentially manufactured talllitot as hand made,one of a kind  made me realize why the potential client balked at my pricing. I was using the same words but meaning something entirely different.

Machine woven silk striped tallitot are touted as hand crafted. Are they small batch manufactured? Yes. Are they hand crafted, not really.

So now I want to explore what one of a kind actually means. I have assumed that it means exactly that.  A singular, a one off. Not another exists just like it.

I don't think that a manufactured dress shirt that is monogramed  and selected in a particular fabric counts as one of a kind.  If you chose an item out of a catalog and selected a fabic and a color and a monogram, I suppose that that counts as a custom shirt, not a one of a kind shirt.

What many tallit makers are selling as one of a kind, falls into that "custom" category. When you go on their sites you see tallitot that essentially all look alike and you can choose the colors of ribbons that are used to create the stripes.

I'm not saying that the tallitot other people sell aren't attractive. Some of them are quite beautiful. But I feel irked when their work is sold as one of a kind, when it is one of several hundred and is customized rather than actually being one of a kind.  I get annoyed when work is sold as hand crafted when it is really small batch manufactured.

Do I need to change how I describe my work if the terms I use, now mean something different than the words that I'm using? What would you call work that is designed and created individually for each client?  How ought to I describe what I do?

Comments

  1. I would consider it incorrect-and-fast-approaching-outright-dishonest to refer to something mass produced as "one of a kind," even if you get to choose some details.

    When I think "One of a kind" I think of stuff on Etsy-- handcrafted and unique, but not made for a particular person.

    Like I said on PR, I can't think of any other appropriate term besides "bespoke." I think traditionally it only applies to clothing, but industrial manufacturing is too recent for traditional terminology to hold up very well.
    Unless there's some other specifically-non-clothing equivalent to bespoke, that's the only term that seems decently descriptive.

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