The motto around here at Try Handmade is “people not factories.” A corollary to that might be: “craft shows not malls.” You might love the idea of shopping for handmade goods online, but have you ever made the effort to support artists and craftspersons in their natural habitat? There are lots of reasons to buy handmade, to shop local, and to support your local craft show. Here are just a few.
Connect with the artists. There is nothing quite like actually meeting the person who made that thing you love (not just exchanging an email). Hearing what influenced them, what inspired them. Learning why they do what they do, and how they got started. That kind of personal connection to the item you buy is impossible to achieve with factory-made goods at the mall, and it’s also pretty difficult to do online. For me, one of the best parts of being a vendor at craft shows is seeing real people respond to the things I make. That connection gives a new dimension of meaning to my creations, and it makes what my customers buy from me more than just another thing they own.
Appreciate the quality of handmade. Unfortunately, many people are still afraid to shop outside their comfort zone of “reliable” brand names that they recognize. They can’t imagine that a dress, scarf, or bar of soap will be as nice, as durable, and as high quality as what they are used to getting from their favorite chain store. The best way to dispel this myth is to visit a quality craft show with a great reputation, and prepare to have your socks knocked off! Once you see what an artist in love with their craft can do, you’ll never put up with another skirt with an unraveling seam, or plush toy with toxic stuffing. You’ll find that what’s “standard” at big box stores is actually quite often sub-standard.
Expand your horizons. Let’s say you love wool and all things made with wool. While you are scouring the internet for alpaca-related handcrafted goods, what is the likelihood you’ll stumble upon an jeweler who is a genius with hammered silver? Or an artist who has a gift for stained glass, or a designer who makes clothes out of recycled parachute silk from World War II? Well guess what, it’s actually very likely at a craft show, because they probably have a table right next to your favorite knitter.
The last reason is really what “shopping local” is all about. When you support your local craft show, you’re not just supporting the artists and crafters you buy from. The venue where the show is located, those that hosted the event (often artists themselves), and the surrounding community all benefit.