Why Handmade Matters

The bat came back. He just couldn’t stay away, away, away. Feel free to sing along. Needless to say it’s an extra shot of espresso kind of morning. We will be back to hole blocking again today not that we could even find any more to fill. Dang he’s wiley! Speaking of wiley it feels as if the inmates are running the asylum this week. Child of the eldest variety has shirked his dish duties. He somehow managed to get to bed last night without doing them and then to sneak out for school this morning as well. That’ll teach me to get to distracted wrangling the littles. Or maybe it’s my sleep deprived state that has me off my game.

Even toddler child is in rare form, this child is the reason we have a padlock on the fridge, so I shouldn’t be surprised by his antics. What mom you have to change the baby’s third poopy diaper before 9am? Don’t mind me while I jump the baby gate and climb up the shelf and dump out as many board games as possible before you come to stop me. And then while it’s being cleaned up he returns to the living room and pees on the floor. He’s potty trained to the point where the only time he wears diapers is for bed. He knows when he needs to use the restroom and will tell you he has to go and usually goes on his own. However, his newest trick is to pee on the floor, not in his undies, just to busy too go to the bathroom apparently. I respect that being a boy he can pretty much pee where ever he may be, but my carpeted floor is just unacceptable. His dad says, “If I were there I’d show him to go outside with me.” Well, I think that’s half the problem several weeks ago he was shown to pee on the road side and out in the woods on various outings where there wasn’t a potty available.

But craziness aside I actually have something important to discuss today. Supporting small, local, and handmade businesses. If you’re active on Etsy you may be aware of the recent uproar. If you didn’t even know Etsy had forums I’m going to share a little with you. Last week Etsy published a featured seller piece like it does regularly. To which Regretsy published this. The scandal has become referred to as Baligate. Yes, Etsians have a good sense of humor in spite of feeling as though they have been sold out. The general consensus among businesses that are single person operations it is: 1-unfair to lump us in to compete with companies who outsource their production and sell mass manufactured items. 2-If Etsy has made a shift from being a handmade market place the customers deserve to know this. 3-The terms used to define how a shop can operate on Etsy are poorly defined and leave much to interpretation. 4-Etsy has yet to really address the concerns of its community and has taken the road of censorship.

Out of the hoopla several groups have stepped up to defend handmade. The Craft Star, which launches soon stands to be a strong competitor to Etsy. They have build a very interactive fan page on Facebook and seem to have learned from Etsy’s recent errors. They are defining handmade and are holding to what buyers and sellers alike expect from a handmade venue. I’m excited to see what the future holds for this company. Additionally, a new team has emerged on Etsy. Team Handmade is focusing on defining handmade and hoping to offer Etsy shoppers a way to be confident that their purchases are in fact handmade. You can find them on facebook here.

For me supporting handmade and small/local businesses is important. True, being a handcrafter myself it’s important for my household that people are supporting handmade, but it’s greater than just any single business. Given the current state of the economy it’s more important than ever to keep your money flowing where you live. I try not to talk politics, but I tend to agree with those who have concerns about the outsourcing of jobs to other countries where labor is available at slave wages. This could lead me to a discussion on fair trade and how even your electronics are “hand made” by someone, but that doesn’t fit my idea of handmade.

When you purchase handmade you are supporting a family, a college student, a recently laid off factory employee. You are putting your money towards some one’s mortgage, groceries, medical bills etc. You’re helping someone like you, your neighbor, family, friends. You are not buying a boat for a big CEO or funding the next bank bail out. When you contact a handmade business you are communicating with the person behind the product. The person providing you with individualized customer service is the same person drafting patterns, cutting materials, assembling items, and sending them to your home. They do these things while caring for children and elderly parents, while putting meals on the table and tending to laundry, they are more than just a part of the business they are the business and they wear a dozen other hats throughout their day.

I think every small business dreams of great success and hopes to grow to be the next Apple or Starbucks, etc. Afterall, even the biggest companies started in some one’s basement. But these businesses no longer claim to be small or handmade. They have grown and with it they have given up certain aspects of their business in trade for being a large company. I think it stands to reason that if you grow to be a mass marketed company you have outgrown venues such as Etsy or Artfire. The heart behind these venues has been to be a launching platform for the little guy. Shoppers come to Etsy expecting to find handmade, vintage, and supplies. Imagine the frustration of going to a handmade site and finding that the items you’re shopping through are in fact made in a large factory and available in hundreds of shops across the world.

Crafting is a part of your culture. Before the age of blogs, pinterest, and youtube people passed their skills down through the generations. Mothers taught their daughters to sew, knit, bake, etc. These skills were expected to help run a home. Nowadays these abilities are novelties and if you want to learn you have to seek out a class or someone with experience to teach you. Before chain stores we sought those who had perfected their skills, the local butcher, the corner metal smith, you knew the farmer who supplied your milk and the tailor who sold your suit. Supporting handcrafters keep these skill alive and helps to show we value these abilities and since many offer tutorials, classes, and share their know how we are keeping these skill sets in our culture. It would be a sad world to lose the creativity and practicality of being able to make things with your hands.

If you are looking for handmade items and supporting handmade business is important to you I encourage you to become educated on the business you are considering buying from. Look for the person behind the business, they are happy to build relationships with their customers. Do they have a blog, facebook, twitter, etc where they show their work and their products and the personality behind the shop? Ask questions if you’re unsure of something or if it seems suspicious. If it’s very low priced odds are it’s not truly handmade. True craftsmanship is a time investment and artisan deserve to be compensated for their time. You’re buying a usually unique product made with care and love. You’re getting a piece of the creator because they have put the blood, sweat, and tears into the work they produce. Crafters can often produce many of the same item, but if you do a search you shouldn’t be able to find the exact same item available in a dozen other shops. You may find similar items as many people can find the same inspiration and even small businesses sell their wares to other boutiques, but if every shop has the same pictures, descriptions, and is claiming they made it odds are at least one of them is reselling someone else’s work and in most cases that someone is a low wage earning employee in a dark factory.

Every purchase you make is a vote for the company. Let your money speak where it matters.

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