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”. So, I had a good laugh at my ignorance and chalked it up to a good learning experience.
It isn’t a word but an acronym. It means that the item is one of a kind. Usually this refers to hand crafted item that aren’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 rocks sorted by color, pigments in batches large enough to make several pans of paint, and driftwood sanded and ready to go. But each set of paint, and each painting created are unique and will never be repeated in exactly the same way.
However, the prints, stationary, and stickers I make from the artwork are not unique in the way I think when I am thinking of something that is OOAK. The prints and derivatives may be be unique in the sense that you won’t find it at a department store, but not unique in the sense that there is only one in the world like it.
Some items that are OOAK are designed by the artist but assembled by employees. My artwork will always only be created by my hand. But I might eventually take an apprentice or hire help to make paint.
There 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.
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.