I believe a key part of growing any business in the handmade community is not only about gaining the support of fellow handmade artists, but convincing regular consumers that buying handmade is a smart, viable choice for their hard-earned dollars.
If you search for ‘reasons to buy handmade’ in your favorite search engine, you get a LOT of results. On one hand, that’s a good thing. It means people are talking and thinking and posting about why the world should buy more handmade goods. Being a handmade artist myself, I fully support this. But I found that many of the reasons were the same, and if I was just a regular consumer (not a member of the handmade community already), I’m not sure I’d be very convinced that handmade shopping is the easiest way to go.
Yes, I said the easiest way to go. Certainly handmade is the better way, and I’m not sure many people can argue with that. Look at all the ways it’s better:
1. You support local artisans, and therefore their local economy and community. Supporting local business has a huge list of benefits all to itself, far too many to list here, but it’s a good thing, trust me.
2. You get high-quality items that are built to last, not all the stuff that has the “How cheap can I produce this?” mentality. It’ll probably fall apart in a year or two, but handmade items have longevity. Artisans have pride in their work, and want it to last. Even the materials are hand-picked by an individual, and what big manufacturing company can say that?
3. Your gifts are the best on the block. Cool, trendy, unique, and usually one-of-a kind, you can find some really awesome handmade stuff that’ll make everyone ask “Where can I get one?”
4. Customization! Since each and every item is made by hand, and you are usually talking directly to the person making it, you can tweak the color or size of something you are interested in, or even get a fully commissioned custom order done. This avoids you having the excuse of “it was all the store had left.” Want a cool case for your new gadget, but maybe you have some weird size the store doesn’t offer? Get is custom made to your exact dimensions! Doggie sweaters from the store never quite fit your beloved pooch? Customization to the rescue! The possibilities are endless really.
5. You’re helping the environment. It’s always a nice feeling to ‘go green’ isn’t it? Handmade items aren’t made in a waste-producing factory and shipped halfway around the world using fuel and energy. Buying handmade (especially really locally) can greatly reduce your carbon footprint on the world.
6. You gain a unique connection with an artisan. You can be in direct contact with the person who made the item with their own hands. For some reason this is just really cool. I mean, think about how awesome it’d be to meet your favorite clothing designer, artist, author, or chef. It’s kinda like that feeling, but on a much smaller and more intimate scale.
7. Let’s not forget the warm fuzzy feeling of knowing you helped support someone very directly. For example, when you purchase something from my shop, you just helped put food on the table for another meal (and I thank you deeply for that). You don’t have to pay the shop’s cashier and the various levels of management and the supplier and the designer and the manufacturer, because just one person is all those things!
See, that’s at least 7 really strong reasons why buying handmade is better. But let’s be honest, when the holiday rush hits, a lot of buyers may not be looking for better as much as they are looking for easy. The holidays can really sneak up on us, and we all just want to have the gift shopping DONE and the gifts wrapped with plenty of time to bake those cookies and relax a little bit before running to 100 different holiday parties and dinner. So today I offer you reasons why buying handmade can be the easiest holiday shopping choice you make:
1. Avoid crowded stores. How annoying is it to maneuver yourself (and your cart, and possibly kids) through packed store aisles only to fight with someone for the last thing on the shelf then wait in a line for hours with a cart full of stuff and realize you still need to get something for your mother-in-law or coworker or neighbor? Talk about stressful. Buy handmade items at local craft fairs, markets, and boutiques, or shop online to avoid people altogether.
2. Get it gift wrapped. This may not apply to all handmade goods, but a large number of sellers do offer a gift wrapping service (sometimes even free). Even if it’s not free, the few dollars it costs you may be well worth it, especially if you can’t find the gift wrap you bought last year so you have to go out to another crowded store to buy more, then find a free afternoon to clear space on the crowded dining room table for all the wrapping paper, tape, scissors, gift bags, tissue paper, and gifts. Save time and energy!
3. Get it all done at once. Find a large craft show in your area and get all that holiday shopping done at once. Craft shows usually offer a much wider range of goods than your typical store, so you don’t need to run to a bunch of different places to get everything you need. This is even easier if you shop online. Online marketplaces have goods from thousands of handmade artists all over the country, and from around the world, so you’ll have no excuse not to find that perfect gift for everyone on your list.
What can be easier? And if you start to protest that maybe you are more into the high-tech gadget-y stuff, no problem, but you’ll probably need a case to protect that new expensive item, so consider a handmade one before you run to the store. And if you object that handmade is so expensive, then I refer you back to the reasons why handmade is better. You have to pay for quality my friends, and be smart shoppers.
I encourage each and every one of you to buy more handmade this year and every year, not just for the holidays but for all special occasions, or maybe just because you want a new throw pillow for the couch or a beautiful new necklace for yourself. The sky is the limit!
Need help finding handmade gifts? Besides looking at my shop 🙂 you can check out the artisans featured here on Homegrown Joy every Friday for ideas, or visit online marketplaces like Etsy or Artfire. Happy shopping!