We all want to connect with our fellow humans, don't we?
I came to this conclusion (ok, it's a long-standing belief) while doing a little reading over my Sunday morning coffee, and came across a great blog post from Handshake.
The posting, which took a look at the gift industry, remarked on the explosion of interest in hand-crafted good over the last couple of years. The ability to buy through the web has opened the door to small shops, artisans and remote marketplaces in a way not conceived of even ten years before.
So, yes, I couldn't agree more with all of the things making access to artisan craft possible and desirable. I also think there's a couple more to add to the list.
History: I believe we all crave a connection to our past; it helps us understand we we came from, what makes us unique, and what unites us with other cultures. The hand-crafted movement brings this to our lives. Each and every piece made by an artisan somewhere is a reflection of talent, true, but also cultural influences and a deep understanding of history. That history, whether honored literally or transformed into something new, connects us all. The story of Mexico's Talavera, is the story of Mexico and the evolution of its art - with rich moments from Spain, Italy, even the 12th Century Moors woven in. To understand this is to even more deeply appreciate the appeal of artisan craft.
Slow Art: In our hurricane-paced world, isn't there something deep in all of us that treasures the hand-made anything that simply can't be rushed in its journey to perfection? The aged bottle of wine, the slow cooked meal, or the centuries of one-at-a-time slow creation of our beloved Talavera pottery - these are things that will never be on an assembly line. Or, if they are, they become something else. Certainly pleasing, but not the heirlooms we feel privileged to own and savor.
The One & Only: In buying something hand made, we are connecting with the maker (witness the rise of Etsy), and helping to support the maker craft industry. But, there is something else. We human cherish our individuality, the fact that, like snowflakes, no two of us are alike.
How wonderful then, how marvelous, to become custodian to something that is unique to the world? A handmade item is a one & only in a world of mass production. Certainly there is no slight to Pottery Barn, Target and the large-scale retailers - they bring us colorful, amazing products at affordable prices. But they bring these things in bulk.
An artisan gift item, whether it's decor for home, used for the table or an adornment on your body, is truly the only one of it's kind. What a pleasure and privilege to own.
Making a Difference: Finally, purchasing these items does more than move the wheels of commerce along. Many times, it enables a family to thrive, a mother to provide, or a culture to be sustained.
It can also be as simple as allowing a gratifying creative outlet to someone who makes their living in other, traditional ways. For our Talavera pottery here at Rustica Gift & Pottery, purchases of these fine pieces help support a Mexican craft tradition that is centuries old, and almost completely vanished in the 1980's due to lack of access to market.
Finally, many small creative boutiques, such as ours, a portion of proceeds goes back to the artisan community. Our customers help support the child mentoring and shelter mission of Mexico's IPODERAC.org, and we couldn't do it without your help.
So, yes, it's wonderful to see the growth in popularity of maker-made, artisan goods. It's even more wonderful to understand that these items deliver powerful human connection, emotional gratification, and social good with every purchase.
With that in mind, I think I'll have a second cup of coffee - so I can toast the talented artisans of this world, and the creative, committed and uniquely-minded individuals who suppport them.
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Fall is approaching. There's a tinge in the morning air and the leaves will be arrayed in vibrant color soon. All of this seasonal change calls for delicious comfort food and equally delectable artisan handcrafted dinnerware.