A Guide to Buying Handmade Part 1


A Guide to Buying Handmade Part 1

I think we all have a friend whose very being just screams, “STYLE”!  She isn’t trendy, but rather has a unique and put-together look that completely reflects her personality.  Her home and possessions are just… well… cool.  She has stuff, and this stuff is all original, fresh, and the perfect combination of mod-eclectic.  Not only that, but every time you visit with her, she has some amazing story about her newest find.  Her home, her possessions, her children – she looks like a million bucks, but you just know she isn’t shopping at designer stores or even at the big name department stores. To top it off, you know that she has barely a creative thread in her.  How is it possible?
I know her secret.  And I’m going to share it with you….

She buys handmade.
There are hundreds of reasons why choosing to buy handmade (as well as websites and blogs devoted entirely to expressing these reasons) is a good idea, but I’m going to share with you just three:
1) Make a Connection – buying handmade allows you to form a relationship with the source, thus building community by supporting community.  This “community” can be as broad or as tight as you make it.  You can support the general artisan community as a whole buy just buying a handmade item from anywhere on the planet (which is very fun to tell your friends about later), or you can support your local community by buying handmade from a neighborhood artisan (“I had no idea that just two houses down, there was a woman making the most beautiful boiled wool coin purses!”).
2) Celebrate Uniqueness – there is no way around it, the very nature of handmade makes each piece unique, regardless of whether it is a stand-alone piece (a mobile, a blanket, an illustration), or a part of a series (6 tea cups, crochet coasters, a set of 6 stacking rings).  Each item created by an artisan reflects a devotion of care and attention.  Artisans are a dedicated people, and by purchasing a handmade item, you are showing that you support this craftsmanship.
3) Go Green – whether or not your intention is to help the environment, buying handmade will do just that.  You will be supporting those with a smaller environmental footprint when compared to the chain stores with mass-produced wares.  You will do your part (even if it is only a teensy-weensy part) in cutting down on the environmental pollutants created by the production and transport of mass-produce wares.

Buying handmade doesn’t always mean less expensive, especially when compared to mass-produced prices (ex: a custom framed print of the Eiffel Tower from a Parisian photographer vs. a picture of the Eiffel Tower from Target); however a few simple strategies can help you buy handmade on a reasonable budget.
Attend a local craft show or fair – ranging in size from an acre lot to a city blog, craft shows and fairs are a great way to buy handmade.  The smaller ones are typically made up of local artists, where the larger ones include artists who spend months of the year traveling these events.  There are positives and negatives to both smaller and larger shows, but regardless of the size you are bound to find an array of unique and personalized items that meet a variety of budgets.  Additionally, you can usually find discounts on left-over stock from the previous year or collection.
Shop handmade in-store – small museums, arboretums/gardens, and artist spaces such as galleries almost always have a gift shop that sell items on consignment from local artists.  If you live in the city or suburbs, chances are there is a local storefront that acts as a glorified gift shop.  Chances are you could discover a beautiful handmade piece from any of these places.
Shop handmade online – there are quite a few online venues for purchasing handmade (including Bonanza [formally 1000Markets) and RedBubble), but Etsy seems to be the one that people return to. With its user-friendly interface and an extensive grouping of handmade artisans and vintage vendors, is should be your first stop for online handmade shopping. Etsy vendors are constantly having promotions to put keep their shops out in front including sales, giveaways, and  of course, free shipping.

Hope you enjoyed Part 1! Stay tuned for Part 2 where I give you some great tips on making the most of your Etsy experience!

Meg Fahrenbach
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