Handmade, one-of-a-kind jewelry, handbags, accessories, even garments, are in a renaissance. Not only are more and more artists selling individual pieces instead of mass producing them, the whole culture of artists, shops, and DIY is on fire. Mixing an item made by an artist and not in a factory into one’s wardrobe is not just a trendy thing to do right now; if you select a piece with quality construction that you genuinely love, you’ll be getting comments and “OMG, where did you get that??” on that same item when you’re ninety.
Buying wearable art is not a trend. It is a statement that no one outgrows, leaves behind, or looks back at with embarrassed anguish (tight-rolled jeans, the ‘Flashdance’ look, fabrics that catch fire if stared at for too long, you get the idea). It can, however, be intimidating or confusing to purchase.
Much of this comes from the concept of “crafting” as “lifestyle.” Sorry, lots of quotes going on here. I have a distaste for activities promoted as how to attain a desirable lifestyle one lacks, and an even stronger distaste for the term ‘craft.’ There are no crafters; only artists. Just because an item is practical doesn’t mean it can’t be art. In fact, in our world of disposable goods, practical art can be an antidote to the dull, endless cycle of buying and replacing the same old designs. Don’t be discouraged by the ‘too-cool-for-school’ counter-culture of crafting, and don’t blame the artists, either. Any trend attracts its share of posers. The truth is, however, the actual artists do have a vested interest in what they do. Otherwise, they wouldn’t finish any projects and instead just loiter around hipster hideouts carrying a record in one hand and a laptop in the other.
If you want to try your hand at making something yourself, DO IT! Women today are busy. We work. We have mile-long lists of things to keep track of: meetings, appointments, relatives, sleep. So don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t turn your entire life into owning an Etsy shop. Don’t think you must dedicate more time than you have, either. The whole point of making something is to enjoy it. Lord knows, there are enough things in life we must put up with. Style, clothes, make-up, a craft kit: these are the fun bits. If you don’t care for any aspect, you can and should just walk away. It’s your time, your life, and your look.
Now, on a slightly separate note, how do you find other artists’ hand made items to purchase? Although I realize that the online shops are convenient, I am personally asking you, from the bottom of my Fash reMash heart, to see if you can buy local before turning to the global marketplace. Is there a boutique in your area that sells hand crafted items? Are there any art galleries that sell home furnishings or other cool stuff that’s a departure from the expected paintings and sculptures? Coffee houses, beauty salons, and local food markets frequently have some accessories available. Any flea market or a neighborhood fair is another great place to look for one-of-a-kind wearable art. Don’t be afraid to go into a ‘gallery’ if you are not the artsy type; many of these are your basic specialty store offering stylish, off-beat items akin to something in Anthropologie, but without the Anthropologie price tag. If all else fails, ask your friends or co-workers if they or someone they know well makes what you are looking for, and buy directly from the artist. You may be surprised how many people have a creative altar-ego, or an artist family member.
Finally, and most importantly, there is a special opportunity in this point and time to buy this art at prices affordable to everyone. Most of us will never own a Van Gogh, but can purchase a work of wearable art of equal or even greater cultural importance (old Vincent, after all, was in his day living off his brother and is rumored to have stared at the sun to get high). So, invest in a unique piece, and revel in the fact that although anyone with enough funds can order a Kenneth Jay Lane statement necklace, the only way to get the necklace YOU are wearing is to beg. And you’d still say ‘no.’