New Year’s Resolution: Buy Handmade

Have you resolved to buy more handmade or local items this year? Here’s re-visiting a video with a few others sharing why they buy handmade

Outdoor Art Show Preparation (or peril)

So I was beginning to think I was getting pretty good about preparing for most things at an outdoor art show. I came with my full trunk of necessary materials. 50 pound pvc weights and rope-check. Modern, interesting but HEAVY displays that won’t blow away in most wind-check. Sidewalls in the event of rain-check. Earring cards in neat boxes to be put away quickly in the case of an emergency-check.

I thought I had seen it all before. I’d hung on to my tent as a gust of wind and rain came in sideways out of nowhere like a freight train almost. I’d learned from that experience to get those tents down to the ground as quick as you can.

I’d seen my earring cards fly all over the street and gone chasing after them. I learned from that to always have them clipped down in neat boxes.

I’ve seen my jewelry busts go flopping over on a perfectly sunny day just because a breeze got a little too heavy (multiple annoying times a day) and created weightier and probably even more interesting displays.

We’d learned how to watch the weather reports on the blackberry and being to pack up even before the sky turned gray.

I’ve been drenched, baked in 90 degree heat, hung unto a flying sail of a tent, packed up as tornado sirens roared….but this one took the cake:
Guess what’s under this tree?

Yeah, it’s our car. Now fini’ The unibody damage probably makes it a goner.

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The 3/50 Project

Meaningful Holiday Giving

As the holidays are fast approaching I’d like to take the opportunity to I’d like to give you ideas on how to find gifts that will be meaningful to both the recipient, but also meaningful in a much larger sense.

When purchasing gifts this year consider three different possibilities other than just chain stores.

1. Shop Local
2. Shop Handmade.
3. Shop Charity

Using these three criteria you should be able to find the perfect gift for just about anyone one your list that will also give back to more than just the recipient.

Here’s a few things to consider:

Shopping Locally
In a nutshell, when you shop locally your hard earned dollars stay in your own community. The taxes you pay on items go back into your community, and often a larger percentage of the cost of the item stays in your community as well, as the seller usually spends their profits on local goods. Not only that, expensive transportation costs and environmental impacts are lessened as well. If you want to read more check out an article I wrote last year about shopping locally as well.

Shopping Handmade
When you shop handmade you are purchasing items made with care and concern. Often you will find that sellers of handmade goods give extra attention to detail, offer excellent customer service and package their items with care. When you buy handmade you are helping people support artistic lifestyles, helping them to support their families. Buying handmade helps small businesses grow, which in turn are also very beneficial for the economy. If your community is short on independent storefronts visit Etsy Shop Local to connect with home based artisans near you.

Shop Charity
There are also many gifts you can give that help improve the lives of people around the world in need. Some charities offer programs where you can donate in a gift recipients name. Others have store programs where portions of their proceeds from the sales of gift items goes to help the needy. One of my favorites is World Vision. World vision has a catalog in which you can purchase things like cows or chickens, donate to small business loans, or give a water well to someone in need in the name of your gift recipient. Visit http://www.worldvisiongifts.org to find out more. I am also a huge fan of unicef, which is one of the places I love to buy my Christmas cards each year, as the money goes to help children around the world.

Today is Etsy Day!

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In today’s crazy economy,  a lot of people are pretty careful about where they put their money.  More and more people are turning to Etsy to find goods that are handmade, quality and where the purchase of these items supports the individuals who make them versus corporations, thus making it more likely that the money goes right back into the economy.

To help spread the word a group of Etsy Sellers banded together and designated TODAY as Etsy Day, and the day spread throughout the entire community.  What is Etsy?  You can visit one of my very first posts on Etsy to find out more of just visit http://www.etsy.com yourself and have a look around. There’s much to discover.

There’s lots of nifty ways to shop shuch as Shop Local and Pounce and customer service from most Etsy sellers is top notch!

Another Etsy Insider Tip: ‘Pounce’ on Great Deals

Etsy is getting pretty popular these days as an excellent alternative to malls, to big box stores, and to mass produced goods.  I’ve introduced Etsy in the past, but if you’re new to this blog why not read my past post on just what the heck Etsy is. You can also see how shopping locally on Etsy can benefit your local economy.

Today I just want to tell you about a feature on Etsy for buyers that’s simply FUN!

There are  lots of nifty features to Etsy that buyers and sellers can spend hours exploring but one of the most addictive perhaps is the feature known as “Pounce”.  Pounce allows visitors to check out shops on Etsy in two different ways.

To begin, scroll down to the bottom right corner of the Etsy Front page and look for the word “Pounce” under the Explore section:

pounce2Click on that and you’ll be led to a screen that looks like this:

pounce-copyYou’ll notice you now have two options of ways to discover some interesting Etsy shops.  Click on the left and you can discover some brand new shops.  Think of this as like going to the grand opening of a brand new store or art gallery premier.  Often you’ll find great deals, goregeous new items and be introduced to new up and coming artists!  You’ll have the option of clicking how many new shops you want to see at any given time, and can refresh the page to discover even more.

Click on the right and you can discover shops that have just had a sale.  If you’re looking to spot the latest trends or find out what’s selling, this is a great way to do so.  It’s an excellent way to check out lots of hot shops at one time.

Be carfeul though, because Pounce has been known to be addictive!   Enjoy!

Shop Local on Etsy and Save Gas! (You can find Cleveland Etsy Artists and more Easily)

I thought I’d make another post in my series explaining the ins and outs of the site “Etsy”.  This time I’m going to delve into the explaining the site a little further, by explaining one of it’s features called “shop local”

For those of you who have been intrigued by the handmade art and goods that can be found on Etsy, consider that it is also a more eco-friendly way to shop.  You can surf the web from your very own home, visit shops from all over the world, and not waste a penny driving anywhere to find items.

Though you probably realize that goods to have to be shipped if you don’t go pick them up, and resources are necessary to ship those items.  However, as has been mentioned on this blog, another way to be very ecologically and economically responsible is to shop in our local communities.

Etsy gives us the opportunity to connect with local artisans through it’s SHOP LOCAL feature.  You can find goods made by artists right from your own local community, and cut down on gas, shipping costs and more as the items you purchase do not have long to travel.

Basically, when you visit Etsy look on the left of the main page.  There in the left column are various ways to search the site.  Look for the shop local button as pictured below. When you click it you will then be able to type in any location you want to look for artists from that area (you can choose Cleveland, you can choose Akron, I bet you could even choose timbuktu if you wanted and find an artist)

Once you search, you will be given a listing of the shops with the most recent listings as shown in the next picture:

It’s a simple, quick and easy way to connect with artists in your local community as well as help out Mother Earth and your local economy!

Just What the Heck is Etsy

I’ve realized that so often I’ve blogged about sellers on Etsy, and treasuries on Etsy and have assumed that everyone just knows what Etsy is. However, that may not be the case. So if you were one of those people who has read this blog and scratched your head with question I thought I’d fill you in a bit.

Etsy was launched in 2005 as a web-site for the buying and selling of handmade items. In addition, it also includes some vintage and commercial craft and art supplies. It’s somewhat of an alternative to Ebay. Today the site includes thousands of sellers and even far more buyers. For those looking for goods made by individuals and not corporations it’s a fabulous place to search for something unique. Handmade items that can be found on Etsy include jewelry, clothing, handbags, toys, accessories, home decor, furniture, art, paper goods, linens, pottery and even edibles and some plants.

On Etsy, individual sellers maintain their own little (and some not so little) storefronts. They list items for sale, include descriptions and photographs. Buyers may then select the items they’d like for purchase. Paypal is most commonly used, though some sellers will occasionally accept other forms of payment.

There’s lots of other features on the site including treasuries in which etsy members showcase items of sellers they like, gift guides of items picked by the etsy admin, and pounce which will show items that have been sold or new items, and ways to search such as by color and location.

Those of you reading this from my local Cleveland may wish to check out the Shop Local feature and see what sellers in your area are creating. Anyone throughout the world may use this feature simply by typing in their location and finding the last 100 listings in their area.

I consider it to be part art gallery, part shopping mall, and partly a place to chat with other local artists (Cleveland Handmade, which I belong to participates in what is known as an Etsy Team and frequently chit chats on a forum)

(p.s. If you’re looking for my personal shop visit http://www.valerietyler.etsy.com)

If you’re a fan at all of unique items, independent artists or wish to support small businesses check it out and discover the thousands of people who are members of Etsy.

Why I write about “stuff” you can buy and Lessons from WALL E

So we went to watch WALL E the other day. I’m not sure I knew what to expect. The previews looked cute, and that little robot looked so darn funny. Never knew the flick would have this whole “message” to it about big box stores taking over world. I won’t ruin the movie, but let’s just say WALL E was created to clean up the waste humans made of buying and leaving too much stuff everywhere, and there was a simplistic overlying cautionary theme to watch the amount of unnecessary stuff we buy and consume.

So what I am I doing writing about this when in addition to telling you about great artists and events, I basically write about a lot of “STUFF”. I must admit, at times I have to think hard about some of the the things I post about. I do not want this blog to simply be one more in a long stream of internet blog commercials. We’re more bombarded on the internet today to look at stuff and buy stuff then we ever were before. And yet, here I am still writing about STUFF, when even in my own life I’ve been taking a long hard look at trying to buy less, to buy only what my family needs and to make more educated and responsible buying decisions. Sounds hypocritical perhaps??

But ACTUALLY, not so much. When I write about STUFF, I’m writing about goods and services offered by individuals and small businesses. Granted you could argue that there is no difference from buying lots of stuff you don’t need from say a Target or a Wal-Mart and still buying lots of stuff from independent business owners. However if you look at past posts about Shopping Locally you”ll see that my discussions on this blog about stuff are meant to make you think more critically about the items you purchase. Visit the site Buy Handmade, and you may learn that there is indeed an actual difference between a product purchased at a big store, and a purchase you make from an individual.

When I showcase products on this blog I do not want you to grab your credit card and immediately buy the featured item. I’ll actually admit I don’t even want you to buy my own products on a whim….seriously! That is not unless you’ve thought about your purchase and have decided that it is something you REALLY need or want. Products are showcased on this blog to introduce you to and give you alternative sources of places to buy the things you have decided you need in your life. These sources are all small business owners, most of whom daily make decisions to run their businesses with the least amount of waste possible, and in turn also try to spend their profits wisely and buy responsibly themselves. When you support these independent businesses you are often buying items in which little resources were wasted in the production and shipment of the items. They were not made in sweat shops. The profits (however meager sometimes) go to the individuals who make the item who in turn spend the money in their local communities. The money does not go to a corporate executive who is already making far more than some of us may ever see in our lifetime. Believe it or not it actually cuts down waste, pollution and urban sprawl to make your purchases from small businesses while also providing an opportunity to support individuals instead of corporations and give new life to the shrinking middle class.

So what does this mean? It means next time I’ve got the urge to run up to the nearest Target and possibly get sucked into buying a bunch of crap from the $1 bins I hadn’t planned on buying, a cute top cause’ hey it’s only $9.99, a new bedding set since it looked so darling on the end cap, and the 1.99 tube of toothpaste that was all I really ran up there for, after wasting half a tank of gas to get there…..well I might sit back and do a little more reflection. Will you?

Put your Money Where Your Mouth Lives

You may have heard the idiom, put your money where your mouth is. Well, more and more people are saying put your money where YOU live. Recently I posted a blog about shopping locally and supporting the community. As part of the blog, I mentioned that shopping locally is a way to boost your local economy. A visitor posed the question about why there would be any difference between the economic impact of shopping at big box (aka chain) stores versus locally owned stores. I thought that it was pretty evident that more dollars will be put back into the community if they are being made by local merchants who have ties to the very economy that supports them. However, I knew I’ve seen actual statistics before so I decided to do a little more research to find some more facts and figures. I was not surprised to see that the numbers did indeed show that money put toward local sellers does get put back into the local economy. What was somewhat surprising was the rather large percentage that actually went back to the regional community in comparison to chain stores!

In a nutshell, local businesses tend to pay their employees more, support other local businesses, and tend to spend their profits in their own communities. This may not sound like much, but it really adds up. In one research study I discovered that when a consumer shifts some of their spending from a chain to a local business the same amount of money spent has three times more economic impact when it’s spent locally. Check out this Civic Economics study for liveable city.

Do you really want to take an active stance on supporting your local community?
Visit the Big Box Tool Kit for fact sheets you can download and distribute, speaker recommendations and even a slide slow presentation you can request.

In researching more about this I came across all sorts of great related links.
The Big Box Toolkit was indeed one of the more comprehensive and informative resources.
On a more regional level Midwest Environmental Advocates also looks like a good resource.
Cities for Progress has a bit of an reformist angle, but nonetheless is worth a read.
Check out a blog of a Seattle Resident, called Local in Seattle who is trying to live at least three months by shopping primarily from only local merchants. Hmmm…perhaps it should be tried in Cleveland (I’m not sure I could give up Target though, as I’m a bit of a shop-a-holic there–any other store, no problem!)

When it all comes down to it, I think I’d love to walk along more tree-lined shops, tuck my head into some interesting local shops and businesses, and see a community that is somehow friendlier, more unique, and more like home.