Educating the Handmade Consumer
Educating the Handmade Consumer
By: Janet (aka Curator Violet!)
I’ve been writing Etsy Stalker (http://etsystalker.com) for three years and people often voice surprise that I’m not a shop owner myself. Why would I spend so much time promoting handmade if I didn’t have my own creations to champion? Sellers of handmade are rock stars when it comes to discovering and promoting other sellers of handmade. They pull together in the trenches to get the word out and rightly so. But sometimes it feels like the same $25 is being passed around from seller to seller to seller as artists support their fellow creative types.
While sellers supporting sellers is a vital and thriving part of the handmade world, it doesn’t solve a fundamental problem. A handmade transaction necessarily involves two parties: the seller and the buyer.
What’s missing? The educated handmade buyer. We are a nation of consumers. They urge to amass is strong in our culture. Getting people to buy is not an issue. Getting people to buy handmade is. While this is already second nature to us, it’s a reminder that to promote the sale of a single item, we must promote the idea of handmade as whole. This happens by educating the consumer of the advantages of buying handmade.
Here are just a few:
1. Directly support an individual. Sick of corporate greed? Stop contributing to it by purchasing from corporations. A little bit of browsing around and you’ll discover that your handmade purchase enables a mother to stay home with her children, a college student to fund her studies, or assists a family in covering medical bills.
2. Put the meaning back into gift giving. We go to the mall, we browse around, we choose something that may or may not speak to us because we need a “thing”…a birthday present, a hostess gift, etc. As consumers, we’re blind to the fact that there is more available to us than what we see in a store. For Valentine’s Day last year, an Etsy artist custom made a series of ceramic plates depicting each of the five states my husband and I have lived in together. He considers them one of the best gifts he’s ever gotten and they hang in a place of honor in our kitchen.
3. Individuals are where the trends start. By the time you’ve come across those “new” jewelry designs or fashion accessories, they are already old news in handmade land. If you want to be on the cutting edge, look to see what individuals are creating. They don’t have the mass market in mind as they design; they’re working from their hearts.
4. Handmade and vintage are the best ways to “go green”. My mind is regularly blown by the way people recycle, reuse, and repurpose things. I live so firmly inside the box, that I can’t even conceive of turning old magazines into trendy frames
or computer parts into striking jewelry.
And what could be greener than giving vintage jewelry or clothing a brand new home? (Not to mention the fact that I’ve never had to spend time wrestling a handmade purchase out of a ridiculously wasteful plastic enclosure.)
As an educated handmade consumer, I find myself looking at the world differently. There are entire categories of things I have stopped buying in mass retails markets. Things like jewelry, greeting cards, purses, and soap. The mall has become a soulless place for me. The benefit I get from buying handmade is infinitely greater than the item I receive in the mail.
Janet Sahni writes as Curator Violet at Etsy Stalker (http://etsystalker.com)