I have been trying not to get on my soap box for over a week. Besides, I can start to sound like a zealot when I get too focused. Not anyone’s best trait.
I’ve spent 15 years building a business with my sister that – at its core - is dedicated to hand-crafted items by local artists. When we started, we didn’t allow people to take photographs of pieces in the store, because we were so overly protective of the artists and their labors. We had convinced ourselves that anyone wanting a picture was just being devious and was going to run home to their studio – where they hadn’t had a fresh idea in months – and incorporate someone else’s talent into their work.
Then the advent of the internet hit, and we loosened our collars. We let photos and uploads happen right on the floor of our store while we watched. We argued with ourselves that sharing artistic endeavors and ideas is good and that we would all rise from the swell of creativity.
At the same time, we watched friends have their ideas lifted and twisted into art by someone else. We sat dumbfounded as a friend in the design trade had whole designs for his furniture “stolen” by a large company and manufactured without a “how do you do” to the parent.
Nine years ago, I stopped shopping at Walmart because I had watched it wreak havoc in small towns all around Missouri. I had seen bucolic towns decimated by a lack of trade on their Main Streets. I also watched as that massive company signed licensing deals with small companies and, when the party was over, leave that company stripped bare of its ability to do business on a smaller scale for many reasons.
Over 3 years ago, I stopped going to Target for not quite the same reasons. Although they embrace design and the artist’s touch, they also bastardize all that is good about hand craft. They have made it their business to push American artists into licensing deals that insist on overseas production.
We must all be wary of these large companies that continue to ruin what is great about hand-crafted work. I think purchasing handmade items is essential. You can see and feel the artist’s “touch”. You can carry home the great feeling that you made a difference in the life of an artist by buying their work. You can rest assured that you are continuing to fortify the experience of making a living while making things with your hands and your mind.
I have two friends, Patricia Shackelford and Shelly DeMotte Kramer, that I follow on Facebook and their personal blogs, and in the past month they both posted concerns – either that they authored or shared in the ether – in and around this very issue. You can see the articles they featured here and here. After reading them, I knew I wasn’t alone in my battle and in my beliefs. I felt my blood rise. I felt my ire beating in my veins.
I felt myself getting ready to jump on my high horse. But for all the right reasons.