The economy remains depressed, and the media frenzy warning that the worst is yet to come continues. But the financial worries of consumers are making them more discriminating in their shopping habits, which might just be good news for local artists and artisans. Instead of buying generic goods, mass produced continents away under who knows what kind of working conditions, shoppers are shifting towards more responsible consumption. Added awareness about sustainability only creates a stronger market for recycled, reclaimed and repurposed goods, from cufflinks made of computer keys to laptop cases made of men’s ties. But what also clearly matters to consumers with a pressing need (real or imagined) to scrimp and save, is to select items with “soul”.

Handmade objects tell a story. There is the story of what it’s made of, and how and where it’s made. In the case of some art pieces, there is the question of what it means, which is, of course, open to interpretation and therefore invites the viewer to participate in the story. Then there is the personal story of the individual artist. Some of the people who create handmade merchandise have day jobs and use art as a creative or therapeutic outlet after hours. Others are having a go at making at living at their craft, or do a combination of more and less commercial work to help pay the bills. The resulting ingenuity and creativity is incredible – there truly is a renaissance of handmade skill, which means unique quality goods.

Frequently, the object’s story elicits a story in response – many handicraft customers share information with the artisans whose work they are buying. Aunt Eunice the sock monkey was an 80th birthday present for someone; the blue necklace flew to England for a Bat Mitzvah; the IT guy decorated his cubicle with a Super Mario painting; Heidi Hoo the stuffed owl comforted somebody in hospital. It’s wonderful to know not only where merchandise comes from, but where it ends up.

Mary Breen
Wise Daughters Craft Market