Buying Handmade: Go Local

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We’ve all learned the importance of buying local produce.  It is more nutritious, benefits the community we live in, and eliminates waste and pollution.  Paying for locally grown food is win-win-win.  So why are you shopping for quirky, artsy pieces at Anthropologie?

When people grow up in a small to mid sized city, myths abound.  Myth #1:  there are no good artists in your area.  Myth #2:  it is too hard to find merchandise by artists in your area.

Myth #1 is never true.  Repeat this to yourself one hundred times each day if you have to:  there are always good artists anywhere there are people.  You live in your city or town because it ISN’T New York or Chicago or Los Angeles, so why are you buying into the myth that all good art comes from these three cities?  You chose your place of residence for a reason, so stand up for it!  The truth is, most of what is available in large metro areas may be designed in the US but is actually manufactured in China.  That’s the price designers pay for mass produced merchandise.  I’m not pointing the finger here, but know that the bigger the name the more likely it is that the actual making of the designs is outsourced.

Myth #2 has been rendered obsolete by the internet.  You can find local artists on  In fact, you don’t even have to buy from them through the site.  Why not contact the artist yourself?  Email is a wonderful thing.  It’s quick and easy, and if the artist snubs your interest just delete and move on.  The good ones, however, won’t (or if they do, shame on them).  Don’t dismiss someone who takes a while to get back to you.  It’s making contact that really counts.

Then, there is the retail option.  Everyone should frequent their locally owned retail shops as much as is reasonable (emphasis on “reasonable”).  At the very least go see what they have to offer.  It is completely appropriate to ask the clerk at a local shop if any of the merchandise is made locally.  The owner will certainly know, but employees may not.  If you are a persistent type, you can always ask if there is an email address or time the owner will be in so you can ask him or her personally.

Why go to all this trouble, you may ask.  Truthfully, buying local art is relationship building.  The best way to purchase an authentic, one of a kind, handmade item is to make contact with an artist directly.  Maybe you have purchased an item in a local shop that is branded but not signed by the artist (I am guilty of this one).  There is a 99.9% chance that any artist selling in a store will be easy to find online, or by word of mouth in your community.  If you have purchased something you love, reach out to the artist and extend the compliment.  They will love you for it, and you will have made a valuable connection.  Asking an artist to sign or authenticate something you have purchased is a great way to break the ice.

If you have any remaining doubt that this is worth the trouble, think about the program ‘Antiques Roadshow.’  An item that was commonplace in one time becomes a precious object when the exact person, place, and date it was created can be verified.  While trends come and go, a handcrafted item remains priceless.  In a society of disposable goods, I can only see this becoming more important in the future.  So the next time you want to buy a new piece of jewelry, art, or pottery, why not take those extra steps to find something that is truly special?  Why just own stuff when you can have treasure?

Gazing upon, wearing, or holding something I know is truly unique in the world makes me smile even on the worst day.  Art is a reminder of who we are:  singular, special, and irreplaceable.

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