The second set of test pieces - they survived!

What Does OOAK Mean?

What does OOAK mean in arts and crafts descriptions and titles? It means one of a kind (ooak), but this might not always be so clear cut as you might think. Pay close attention to item descriptions and ask questions of the seller if you want to be sure you’re getting truly unique items.

One Of A Kind (OOAK)

When I first started looking at crafts on Etsy, I thought my favorite seller was named OOAK because that acronym was everywhere in his listings. So I went to Google to search for more of his work and I couldn’t find that artist anywhere.

I did find other OOAK mentions though, and I thought, that’s odd. Maybe that isn’t his name or his shop’s name after all. And so that led me to searching for the definition of the “word”.

It means that the item is one of a kind. Usually this refers to a hand crafted item that isn’t mass produced, but is made one at a time. It doesn’t mean an assembly line process isn’t used, though. And it doesn’t mean that the artist is the only person who worked on it.

My crafts are OOAK.

I may have all of my twigs cut to the desired length, a bin of acorns handy and my botanicals all sorted into piles by texture and color. But each and every Forest Folk, Fairy House, or sculpture is created individually and by me.

Some items that are OOAK are designed by the artist but assembled by employees. I hope that I need to hire someone to help me eventually, because that would mean I am selling a lot of them. The sort of thing a helper could do for me would be to assemble the botanicals into ordered bins, or even gather and preserve botanicals.

But I don’t think I’d ever want anyone else to do the actual building of the piece. It doesn’t mean the piece is any less OOAK if someone else assembles it, but it just wouldn’t feel like my own signature should go on a piece that I didn’t build personally.

OOAK Forest Folk WoodworkerThere are OOAK Dolls, OOAK carvings and sculptures, and pretty much anything that is made from inspiration in the artist’s mind is OOAK.

What is Not OOAK

Most things made in large quantities are not one of a kind unless each individual thing has been customized by an artist.  For example, I may make a hundred clay beads by hand. I may make them using the same technique over and over and the beads will look pretty much the same. But they are not. Each bead is different from the next because each bead was made by hand. Not only that, once they’ve been fired, each bead will have a different reaction to that firing.

This was once the same color as the test pieces I just blew to smithereens in the test firing.
This was once the same color as the test pieces I just blew to smithereens in the test firing.

However, if I have a mold and poured a hundred beads into 100 identical molds, then that bead is not necessarily OOAK. It could be, if on firing it keeps its individual look and feel. Or if I hand-painted each bead. But if they all look alike, then they’re not one of a kind.

Most of the time, a thing that is OOAK is handmade, and made one at a time. Things made in a manufacturing facility are not ordinarily considered OOAK.

One thought on “What Does OOAK Mean?

  1. Just tried to comment on the website and got the security token message, so I’ll try it this way. I’d never heard of OOAK before, so that can be my “something new learned for today” bit of knowledge. Hope you two have a great weekend.


    1. Hi Janet, I don’t know how to fix the security token issue. I have a new security license and the little green “secure” indicator lock shows up in my browser bar. Does it show up in yours? I wonder if maybe the comment form itself is not on the SSL… will have to check.

      Anyway, thanks for finding a way to comment! OOAK was a new term for me, too, and I felt silly when I finally realized it wasn’t someone’s name or business name.

      Y’all have a great weekend, too – and hopefully your weather will be friendly!

Thoughts, info, or feedback to share?