Today's post comes from Isaac Watson. He is a Portland-based community organizer, event planner, and founder of Maker’s Nation—a nonprofit providing business education and support for the maker community, and a strategic programming partner with AHAS. He’s passionate about finding your people, building lasting relationships, and thinking about the big picture for your small business. He also designs and produces world-class conference and community experiences for small business champions including author Chris Guillebeau and business strategist Tara Gentile.
This is part of a series on why shopping handmade and local is important. You can also read the whole series here.
I like to think I've always been a thoughtful giver (right down to how things are wrapped—design is, after all, in my bones), but in recent years I've taken pride in the attention and consideration I've put into the gifts that I give to the people that I love. And in most cases, those gifts have been locally or independently sourced, and often handmade. For me, each gift has depth in character, a story to share, or some sentimental reason that needs explaining. For me, Christmas morning turns into a time to delight and surprise, a time for storytelling. The unexpected becomes heartfelt, and the gifts tend to be cherished.
But our possession-based culture works to the contrary. For decades, it's been more about the quantity of gifts than the quality, and in a lot of cases we find ourselves ticking items off lengthy wish lists. This becomes manipulative to a relationship, leaving the recipient at the end of the year to gauge how much they are loved by the number of items they received that cater to their desires.
You can redefine your personal gift culture by shifting your thinking from meeting the material wants of your loved ones into the core philosophy of gift-giving—because you care and because you love them. It truly is the thought that counts! The exchange of gifts can be a powerful experience in deepening your relationships with others through a heartfelt reciprocal deed.
COMMIT TO GIVING LOCAL, GIVING HANDMADE
Mass production equals mass satisfaction, and the more we buy the more we help the holiday economy. But what happens to those seasonal employees when January rolls around? What happens when all the weird, unwanted gifts from the in-laws or Great Aunt Dorothy are returned for an item more wanted? Retail revenues plummet and the minimum wage stock boys, shop girls, and customer-service-lacking cashiers hit the job-seeking pavement again. I think at this point we all acknowledge that supporting a large store who imports most of their products from China isn't a truly effective way of stimulating the U.S. economy.
So what if the money you spent was more calculated and focused on those whose lives are more directly affected by your dollars? What if the gifts you give are thoughtful enough that they aren't likely to be returned? What if you were making conscious spending decisions that helped creative entrepreneurs make solid earnings that perpetuate them into the next year with the capital they need to continue to grow their business and making a living—a good living—for themselves?
The handcrafted gift becomes part of a chain of events that enhances both community and creativity. Your purchase of a handmade gift tells the maker that you appreciate their work, that you honor their artistry—their own gifts and talents. It encourages them [both financially and emotionally] to continue making and fuels the rejuvenation of their own creativity.
The handcrafted gift bestowed upon the recipient does more than strengthen your relationship. It manifests the value you hold in the thought of the gift, underlines your appreciation for and recognition of the gifts of the maker, and encourages the recipient to turn around and pass the same commitment to others.
STAND UP FOR YOUR LOCAL ECONOMY
If you've committed to sustaining a local economy, stand up and shout it from the rooftops! There are still a lot of people that don't believe or understand that it's critical to our success as neighborhoods, as communities, and as cities and regions. Get out and attend your local craft fairs, indie shopping events, and plan your route to hit up as many locally owned businesses as possible. You might be surprised at how much you can find to substitute in for a new Blu-Ray or XBOX game.
This year more than ever I'm committed to supporting a local, living economy. I want my fellow creatives to be successful, and while I may not have a huge budget to contribute to their holiday revenues, I will do my part to give local and give handmade.
Have you committed to giving local or giving handmade? How has it made a difference in your holiday and your relationships with others?
Members of AHAS with BRICK AND MORTAR SHOPS AND SPACES
Introducing the Why Shop Local and Handmade Series
For the next 4 weeks on the blog we'll be meeting makers, taking a look at what they do, and sharing their stories about the impact of shopping local on their businesses, their communities, and their lives. We'll be looking at businesses across the U.S. and Canada working in a variety of categories from jewelry to home décor, bath and body, children's products, and stationery/paper.