Every year around the holidays my artist friends start creating and sharing posts in support of buying handmade, supporting local retailers, and paying attention to the processes and materials that are used to create the many many items that fill our lives. Every year I click the like button. This year I decided to share why supporting handmade, local, small businesses and artists is important to me and why us artists and artisans are often so relentless in encouraging others to do the same.
|"Printed Today" Dick Taylor wrappers from Just My Type Letterpress|
Buying handmade means supporting small business which keeps money in the local economy, creates local jobs, and leads to a better quality of life all around. A perfect example from my community is Dick Taylor Craft Chocolates. These tasty treats are made locally from "bean to bar" using fair-trade cacoa, they can be found on the shelves of several local markets and shops (as well as across the nation), and the wrappers are printed in town on an antique printing press. Just My Type Letterpress is the maker behind that press and they are opening a letterpress and paperie downtown this month in the Carson Biulding, which has just been restored to its original 1892 grandeur. Even the addresses on the windows of this building were hand foiled by local master Chuck Ellsworth. If this isn't an example of building community through small business I don't know what is.
|Chuck Ellsworth at work. Photo courtesy Just My Type Letterpress|
Buying handmade and supporting small business means supporting our neighbors. It not only puts food on their tables and keeps them warm at night, it also allows them to live their dreams, which in turn sparks others to envision a world where that is a reality, not just a possibility or something that is only accessible for others. Makers like my friend Jillian of Telltale Trinkets, whose work focuses on creative reuse, are putting in long hours after their full time day jobs and on the weekends to take a step towards their ideal lives as creators and entrepreneurs. It's not easy, but it is so very worth it!
|Up-cycled Post Earrings from Telltale Trinkets|
Buying handmade provides a personal touch. The products of artists and artisans are influenced by years of study and life experience. You can't get much more personal than participating in the act of hearing, understanding, and telling the story of another by giving, or receiving something born from another's imagination, experience, and skill.
Buying handmade means buying something unique. When something is handmade it is often one of a kind. Even small runs of multiples will each have their own distinctive marks from the hand of the maker. Not only will the pieces be unique, the experience will most likely be unique as well because handmade items are generally purchased from the artisan themselves or in a shop whose owner has curated pieces based on the stories they tell and a personal connection to the creator or the work.
For instance, I know every time I walk into The Bodega, a local shop with just the right amount of attitude, I am bound to come across something new and incredible from one of the many makers shop owner H.A. Pearson has pulled together from her years on the west coast craft fair circuit. I also know that she'll take the time to tell me about the process behind the work, that she'll be able to find and stock unique requests, and that Olive (her furry sidekick) will be down for a snuggle.
|Olive is waiting for you at The Bodega|
Buying handmade also means supporting the arts. Purchasing work from artists and artisans not only adds value to our own lives, it also sends a message that art education and access to the arts is important to our communities. Research shows that art plays a valuable role in mental health, creative thinking and building work force skills. For a host of information on this topic visit the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies.
Putting our dollars behind the arts by participating in a facet of the economy that provides a high level of value, but receives a low level of support is a great start, but we can always take it a step further by supporting local organizations that work everyday to bring art into our communities and the lives of our youth. Two of our fantastic local organizations on the north coast, the Ink People Center For the Arts and Blue Ox School are working to preserve culture, to educate the community on the value of the arts, and to provide young people with the tools to build a successful future.
Am I biased? Of course I am. I'm an artist and a maker. I work part time at a university and I personally know several of the people mentioned above. But these are only a few of the stories from my small community and every community holds many varied and inspiring stories of their own.
Supporting creative entrepreneurs means making connections. Connections between businesses, neighbors and the economy, connections between the arts and education, creativity and critical thinking, individuals and experiences. For me making small connections in this way fosters empathy and generosity which in turn makes the world a much richer and more inviting place.
Thanks for reading!