Handmade? Handcrafted? What’s the difference?
Of course, every maker will have their own ideas about what these two words mean. Let me tell you what I’m saying when I use these terms.
When I say that something is handcrafted, that means that I am using a commercially available base product, and then adding my own personal touches to make it something unique. For example, if I am selling a handcrafted soap, that means that I am using a melt-and-pour glycerin soap base. From there, I choose what color and scent to add, what other additives to add, and what mold to pour it into. I am crafting the soap, but I did not make it from scratch.
When I say that something is handmade, however, I do mean that I made it from scratch. To continue with the soap example, that means that I carefully measured out a variety of oils, lye, and water, and carefully combined them in such a way to set off a chemical reaction called saponification. This creates soap where no soap previously existed. I am making soap from raw materials.
When I think of handcrafted vs handmade soap, I think of it like this: Handcrafting soap is much like going to the store, buying yarn and knitting a scarf. You took materials that someone else created and used them to make something beautiful and possibly even unique. Handmade soap is more like spinning the yarn yourself and knitting a pattern you created. Both are valid creative expressions; they are just different approaches.
So, if I know how to make soap from scratch, why do I occasionally use melt and pour bases to produce the soap? There are several reasons, actually, but the main reason is that it takes at least three weeks for my soap recipe to become fully cured and ready to share. Sometimes, I need soap in less time than that. Melt and pour soap is ready to use as soon as it comes out of the mold -- sometimes only hours after it is poured.
Another reason that I occasionally use melt and pour is that I can easily make a smaller batch of soap. Additionally, it is very easy to make transparent/translucent soap with melt and pour, and sometimes, that's the look I want.
Please know that handcrafted products are in no way inferior to handmade products. They are just different. I use quality ingredients either way, and follow Good Manufacturing Practices to ensure quality and consistency.
When you see these terms used from other vendors, don’t be afraid to ask them exactly what they mean. Educate yourself, so that you are buying what you intend to buy, regardless of what a maker calls their products.