A handicraft, sometimes more precisely expressed as artisanal handicraft or handmade, is any of a wide variety of types of work where useful and decorative objects are made completely by one’s hand or by using only simple, non-automated related tools like scissors, carving implements, or hooks. It is a traditional main sector of craft making and applies to a wide range of creative and design activities that are related to making things with one’s hands and skill, including work with textiles, moldable and rigid materials, paper, plant fibers, clay, etc. One of the oldest handicrafts is Dhokra; this is a sort of metal casting that has been used in India for over 4,000 years and is still used. In Iranian Baluchistan, women still make redware hand-made pottery with dotted ornaments, much similar to the 5000-year-old pottery tradition of Kalpurgan, an archaeological site near the village. Usually, the term is applied to traditional techniques of creating items (whether for personal use or as products) that are both practical and aesthetic. Handicraft industries are those that produce things with their hands to meet the needs of the people in their locality without using machines.
Collective terms for handicrafts include artisanry, crafting, and handcrafting. The term arts and crafts are also applied, especially in the United States and mostly to hobbyists’ and children’s output rather than items crafted for daily use, but this distinction is not formal, and the term is easily confused with the Arts and Crafts design movement, which is in fact as practical as it is aesthetic.
Handicraft has its roots in the rural crafts—the material-goods necessities—of ancient civilizations, and many specific crafts have been practiced for centuries, while others are modern inventions or popularizations of crafts that were originally practiced in a limited geographic area.
Many handcrafters use natural, even entirely indigenous, materials while others may prefer modern, non-traditional materials, and even upcycle industrial materials. The individual artisanship of a handcrafted item is the paramount criterion; those made by mass production or machines are not handicraft goods.
Seen as developing the skills and creative interests of students, generally and sometimes towards a particular craft or trade, handicrafts are often integrated into educational systems, both informally and formally. Most crafts require the development of skill and the application of patience but can be learned by virtually anyone.
Like folk art, handicraft output often has cultural and/or religious significance and increasingly may have a political message as well, as in craftivism. Many crafts become very popular for brief periods of time (a few months, or a few years), spreading rapidly among the crafting population as everyone emulates the first examples, then their popularity wanes until a later resurgence.