Sunday, 14 October 2012

Buying handmade this Christmas campaign

Photo by Teodora Totorean

I used to be one of those Christmas buyers to get their presents for family and friends form supermarkets and high street shops, being more interested in spending less money than in the product itself. “If they don’t like it, they can get the money back and buy something else instead”, I used to say to myself, along with more than three quarters of the UK population. There's nothing wrong with this, of course, but since having my own small business I started to appreciate more the handmade products created with love and passion for crafts. Artists and artisans are everywhere if you know where to look and starting this year I decided to buy exclusively handmade items as Christmas gifts.

So why not join me in the “Buying handmade this Christmas” campaign and surprise your family and friends with a present they will truly enjoy? This means that you know them well enough to hit the spot with something that won’t find its way back to the shop it came from. I am sure they will appreciate your thoughtful effort.

Let’s start by making a list (there’s always a list involved) with the people that will get presents from you. Think about your relationship with them, what they like, what their hobbies and passions are? Once you identified all of the above, make some notes for each person. Eg: husband – he likes taking photos, Formula 1, gadgets, and cider. Then, you can write down a few gift possibilities: phone case, photo album, glass for the cider, etc.

Once you have an idea of what people like and what you could get them, the next step is to find the art and crafts shops in your area. From original paintings, sculptures and pottery, to wood and glass work, knitted items and jewellery, there must be a present, waiting for you to grab it. You will be surprised what a creative mind can do with buttons, zips, scrap metal or unwanted fabric. Some artisans offer personalised items, like writing or painting something on a glass (eg, your mom’s favourite flower) or custom made jewellery and buttons for both men and women.

If you prefer to buy on line, there are alternatives for you too. Just type in Google search “handmade” and see what websites are coming up. There are lots of on line shops hosting artists and crafters. One of the most popular one in the UK is Folksy. You can find original artwork, cards, jewellery, decorative items for home and garden, or wedding accessories. It is easy to navigate through so you won’t spend hours looking for the perfect gift unless you get hooked. You have the option to select your target market first: men, women, babies and children. Some artisans offer custom products so you can contact the seller with your requirements prior to placing an order.

Buying handmade could be a rewarding feeling. Not only would you support local small businesses and artisans, but it could be a journey through which you’ll get to know your family and friend better and re-define your relationship with them. You won’t buy just to tick someone off your Charismas list but to make them happy.

If you are worried about the budget, think again. When you’re buying handmade, you aquire something that last a lifetime not just a season. The products are unique, on-offs or limited series. Your wife, girlfriend, mother or sister will appreciate a piece of jewellery that no one else in their workplace has. Your husband, boyfriend, father or brother will appreciate a funky tie for a distinctive look. A pottery collection will add a cosy feel to someone’s kitchen. A painting with your loved one’s favourite landscape will brighten up their room forever. They will always remember where they got it from. It is all about accessories that give individuality to a person and a place.

As for me, I am lucky to live in Tiverton where there are several galleries and shops that sell art and handmade goods and where the owners are more than happy to help their customers choose the right gift for the right person. I have a feeling they will see a lot of me from now on.

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