Appreciating Quality

With any handmade product comes a touch of the hand of the person who created and designed it. There is always a certain energy and rawness to a handcrafted product which gives it it’s appeal. With that energy and rawness also comes the elements that define the level of quality of the work and the value of the piece.

The level of quality, or the definition thereof (and how easily it can be recognised) does vary from person to person and medium to medium, but here are some ways we distinguish this in the Streetwires context.

Before we dive into that, you may be curious to know how we monitor or control the quality of our work in order to continuously improve?

Samples – Absolutely every product in our catalogue has a sample. This is so we always have a reference for the artists to work from, and to compare when we do a quality check.

Quality control process – The original sample is used as a reference when work is handed in by the artists. Some (but not all) of the checks done, are to check that size is consistent, weight is consistent (for raw material usage), shapes are consistent, colours are correct, and beading is neat, and details and embellishments are all included.

Customer feedback – Another important criteria to consider is customer feedback. Any questions or concerns about the appearance of any products is carefully noted so that any improvements can be made where necessary. It must be said that we work with some very creative and helpful customers who very often engage with us with ideas for new product development too. This all ensures a constant evolution and growth of our quality.

Now, when it comes to our handmade bead and wire art-pieces and crafted smalls there are some things that our artists are fanatical about (and specially trained around). You may already have started to notice the difference after holding one of our products in your hands. Keep an eye out, and consider these factors when you shop around for pieces – be it at a gallery shop, a seller on the street, a market, or directly from an organisation such as ours:-

Originality – A good artist develops new designs without copying. Are the items you are seeing for sale all over the place, and the same things you have seen for years, or have you found something totally unique? In the craft space, copying is unfortunately rife. While it is a compliment when people feel inspired by your work, it is not deal to copy. Original work is probably one of the most important factors in determining the quality of a piece. By buying a knock-off, you are not uplifting anybody. Look for those hidden gems, even if they end up costing you more.

Unique style / signature – Like any good original artwork, even wire-art retains the signature of the artists’ hand. Train your eye to start seeing unique use of techniques, quirky attention to detail, distinctive shapes, styles and design. The originality and creativity is astounding when you can start to recognise it. Try and find those rare pieces when you decide to invest in some craft items. By doing this, you are encouraging innovation, and therefore truly uplifting this art form.

Consistency in shaping and size – Have a look to see if two items of the same design are consistent in size, and that their shaping is also pretty much the same as each-other. While a little bit of irregularity is quirky and part of the appeal, items should always be as alike as possible. This is especially important when selecting gifts for an event, or products for retail. Everything should look consistent and good on shelf. If one beaded animal looks like it still needs to grow into it’s head, is missing an eye, or is 5cm taller than it’s brother, then it may not be the best example of the work out there.

Uniformity in beading – Beading requires a very high level of skill, and many years to master. A good indicator of quality in beadwork is to check for uniformity – no gaps, or skew lines. The beads should also be tightly plastered on the product, with no movement or looseness. Keep an eye out that all the beads themselves are the same size.

Loose ends – Like anything in life, it’s important to tie up any loose ends. A good wire-artist will always finish off his or her work with no loose ends, and pokey pieces of wire sticking out. Everything should be neatly wrapped and finished off for as smooth a finish as possible.

Bead size – Recognising what size beads works best on what size piece takes a discerning eye and a bit of practice to recognise, but this is super important too. Beads that are too big for a small frame will make the piece look a bit lumpy, and will make for gaps in places where the areas are too small for the beads to be wrapped or plastered smoothly. An experienced artist will always use smaller beads. Keep in mind that the smaller the beads, the more work involved, so you will end up paying more – but it’s an investment after all!

With all things made by hand, there will always be small imperfections or variations, and that is part of the charm of buying a handmade product vs a mass-produced item. It all boils down to learning how to spot a quality piece, which will be an investment, rather than opting for a cheap and cheerful item just because price is dictating your decision. When it comes to craft, it’s best to budget a little higher because you do get what you pay for.