Why you should support local craftsmen and artisans
By Jillian McMullen, Staff Writer
I work in customer service and the holidays are our busiest time, so I’ve been thinking about how to prepare for the upcoming Christmas season for weeks now.
Although it may seem early for most, now that we are past Halloween, retail stores will be pulling out all their garlands and their fake snow to try to get their unsuspecting shoppers into the holiday spirit. Spirit for them usually just means “please spend your money here” and, while I would hate to reduce the importance of the holidays down to gift exchanging, beginning to think about who and what you are shopping for now might be wise seeing as it does make up a large part of the festivities. Despite the fact those aforementioned “big box” retailers will be the loudest voices this upcoming holiday season, spending your money at local craftsmen and artisans makes the act of gift-giving much more rewarding.
I have many people I would have normally shopped for in previous years—siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles. But, as I walked in and out of stores this time last year trying to tick off names from my shopping list, I realized I wasn’t buying out of necessity. None of those people I normally gifted things to really needed the things I had been looking for. Did my cousins really need another Lego set? Did my aunt really need another gift card to some random clothing store I only think she might shop at? The answer was a resounding no. Students are normally pretty strapped for cash as it is, so buying countless unnecessary gifts isn’t exactly feasible.
I decided instead to only buy gifts for people I really wanted to, which meant I could spend more on each gift than I would have otherwise. There were several holiday markets open throughout the city every weekend, but I had avoided them knowing my budget wasn’t big enough to get all the gifts on my original lists there. My new shortened list allowed me to likewise commit to only buy gifts that were made locally. For my mother, I got a framed print; For a close friend, I got a necklace, and for my grandmother, I got organic jam. She cried when I gave it to her—she really loves jam.
Although each item cost me more than something similar at a conventional retail store would have, I ended up spending significantly less money than I have in previous years. The money that I did spend didn’t go to some international corporation, but instead went to the actual people making the products. According to a Time report, twice as much money stays in the community when people shop local, which means you spend your money twice as efficiently.
Ultimately, the gifts I got for my loved ones were meaningful not only because they supported my community, but because they were unique for the people I gave them to. My mother isn’t going to walk into someone’s Ikea-furnished home and see the print I got her hanging on their wall, because the artist I got it from doesn’t mass produce their artwork. My girlfriend isn’t going to walk into a Forever21 and see the necklace I got her tangled in the clearance section, because the stone that the craftsperson used is hard to work with on a more commercial level, and requires special handling that people that mass produce wares just can’t afford to invest the time into. My grandmother isn’t going find the same jam at Superstore, because the one I got her was a really obscure combination.
If you’re going to spend your hard-earned money buying a gift, have it mean something more than just a gift.