don’t write them off

beloved bowl - handmade ceramics

After an experience like BlogHer – or really any trip to Target or jaunt to the shopping mall – it’s easy to write off most of America as caring little about individuality or originality. It’s easy to see mainstream society as caring more about cheap stuff, brand names, and the status quo.

I do my very best to build up walls, barricading myself into a windowless house filled with like-minded people and ironic indie art prints. I’m very good at shutting people out who aren’t in the club. I often don’t even try to explain what I do for a living anymore.

And so I miss out.

I miss out on the opportunity to evangelize for big dreams, creativity, and passion-filled lives.

It’s easy for me to stay comfortable. To let you as readers pat me on the back as I preach to the choir. It’s easy to sing along to my Melody Gardot Pandora station and glance up at vintage cups sitting above my desk and think about all the warm fuzzies I get from my community.

But to do this is to ignore a huge trend in popular culture. Women like Oprah, TV networks like the Food Network & HGTV, and books like Eat Pray Love or The Happiness Project are empowering people to get in touch with their inner creativity and take the driver’s seat in their own lives.

People all over America are reinventing themselves. They’re becoming active participants in their health, their families, and their consumption. They’re plugging back into a culture that promises to give as much as it gets.

What are we doing as a creative community to meet these people where they’re at?

They’ve never heard of Etsy. AC Moore & Joann’s might be like foreign lands. Craft shows make them think of crocheted pot holders and plastic flower door wreaths.

We assume people like shopping at Walmart or Target and so don’t offer an alternative. We assume people like showing up at a party wearing the same thing as three other people and so we don’t offer to help them shop for some vintage clothes. We assume people don’t mind having the same coffee table from Ikea as 20,000 other people and so we don’t tell them about the woman down the street who makes coffee tables from recycled wood.

But – could it be that we haven’t done our job to make it easier to buy handmade or independently produced alternatives?

Could it be that the burden is on us to not take the easy way out when shopping with friends and family?

Have we done enough to reach out to the millions of people who don’t know about alternative ways of buying yet?

It’s much much too easy to write off people who don’t understand.

{image credit: beloved bowl by paisleymarie}

PS If you need some help to get moving on this or any other goal, check out my free mini course of creating more action in your life.

17 thoughts on “don’t write them off

  1. I think that is so true Tara. I catch myself doing it too from time to time. It’s one of my aims to open up the handmade world to people who don’t know about it.
    I really try to convince people to just re-think for a minute. And it’s a great feeling when they do. When I opened my etsy shop 18 months ago almost all of my customers were first time etsy buyers. A lot of them were friends and acquaintances that I had told about my shop and about handmade.
    Almost all of them now shop for handmade more regularly.
    I see it as empowering people to make a different decision by showing them the options. If they don’t know it exists then they will never be able to make that choice :)

  2. As usual you are right on Tara! Living in the midst of big box convenience, I am surrounded by Malls and all the chain stores in every direction. I have the choice of 4 Target stores within less than 30 minutes drive. It can easily feel like my neighbors don’t have a clue, nor do they want one. But I too have wondered how many just don’t know? I have a plan to reach out in my community and see. Still in the seedling stages, but I need to believe that I have customers closer that I might think. Thanks for reinforcing my thoughts. You rock!

  3. Yes! I definitely think unawareness is more often the issue—where people don’t know they have the choice, they take what they have. Granted, even when they have a choice, there’s always the easier route, but there’s a growing interest in handmade and homegrown. I agree that not talking about it with others is to our detriment at times … we waste too much opportunity anticipating a rejection that may never come from this person or that person.

    Even if things don’t go our way in that moment, we’ll never know what may grow in a person’s thoughts in the future if we don’t make efforts to plant the seeds.

  4. Yes, it is easier to write them off rather than to try to get them involved. I think the handmade movement is a slow getting off the ground here in France, maybe because there is also a long tradition of master artisans, people who apprenticed with and then worked for the best haute couture design houses, so handmade or craft is seen as lower on the scale of quality, just a hobby, or something to do in one’s spare time, or else something people did in the olden days when they didn’t have a choice. I often feel like I’m banging my head against a wall trying to get people to listen and change the way they think, so that they can change the way they consume.

  5. As usual, I totally agree!

    I think that people want to be different. They want items that are unique and cutting edge, but they don’t want to pay a lot for them. They don’t mind paying a little more for style (so they shop Target instead of Wal-Mart) but they think a handmade or small business price is crazy.

    That is where the thinking needs to shift. You talk about it all the time here, the mindful spending shift needs to happen and it isn’t going to “just happen.”

    We need to promote this way of life and the amazing products that you can buy if you are a little more wise in the way you spend your money.

    I assume that most people want to save money, but you are right that many people don’t know what else is out there.

  6. I just made purchases on Etsy and told some friends about it. ONLY ONE other person knew what it was. I was like WHAT??!! Are you for real? And one of them was an artist! I loved the back and forth convos with the artists and with individuality you get from them.

    I would KILL to have more CLOTHING available in person around here. I can’t sew for crap and I love clothes. I hate the crap at Target (threadbare t-shirts for $20??) and would love to have really beautiful clothes made by real people.

    Thanks for this post Tara..I love the way you make things always so positive. I seem to do the opposite. Why?

  7. got me thinking, I do make it a point to tell most people about Etsy and handmade options but there are definitely others with whom I just don’t bother. I guess I pick and choose who I open the handmade community up to based on who I think would embrace it and really who am I to decided who would or wouldn’t be interested. Thanks for getting me thinking!

  8. It can be easy (and self defeating) to fall into that perspective. And there are plenty of people who would rather shop at Walmart or Saks and do not even like the sound of “handmade”. However…I tend to believe that most would buy local and handmade if they only knew where to go to get it – and didn’t feel that they had to give up too much grocery money along the way.

    I recently started a blog for my community that is all about this connection. It has been interesting to see how varied the reactions to this project are!

  9. More excellent thoughts! I love introducing new people to Etsy & the many other handmade/vintage sites available. I think that while we have a cheering section, great advice & friendships within the handmade movement, we are far more likely to be successful in gaining customers & fans by informing & educating those who are currently outside the movement. Many are just uniformed, not uninterested.

  10. This is so true, and I am totally guilty! I tend to create my own world unto itself…although I’d like to think I let people into that world and maybe they learn a bit. But I know I’ve missed plenty of these opportunities too. Thanks for the post :)

  11. This post really hit home with me. I am fairly new to the blog world and very new to Etsy. (I made my very first purchases a couple of weeks ago.) I am that person you are talking about and I DO want to know what else is out there. I get so tired of the monotony of the Targets and Ikeas, but really didn’t know what my other options were until I found Etsy.

    Please share your talents with those you know and those you meet, especially the women in your life. The blogs that I frequent and the amazing things I see on Etsy inspire me every day and I tell everyone I know about them!

  12. I also agree that people are just unaware of what is out there and available from handmade artisans. This weekend was the perfect example of that:

    My parents came in for the day and we spent the afternoon perusing local shops and went out to eat. My stepmom began talking about Etsy – She has known for a while now about it because I opened shop this past March. She talked about how she was getting a few custom items made for a newborn in our family and bought a sign for my stepbrother’s basement. She marvelled at how many items and options were available on Etsy, saying that you really could find whatever you needed on there! I then told her that my goal this holiday season was to give 100% homemade and handmade gifts and she thought that was a great idea!

    We won’t change everyone’s mind but I was happy to know that I had at least opened one person’s eyes to the wonder of handmade.

  13. It is easier to hide and keep it to yourself rather than explaining to other people why you do things or look the way they do. I am guilty of the eye roll and thinking they just don’t get it. Next time, I will remember your post and share a part of my world with that person instead.

  14. Such an important discussion to begin. I struggle with this, because even though many of my family members do enjoy sewing and buying vintage furniture, they still buy gifts at Macy’s and similar stores. I’m at a point where I don’t need or want “more stuff” but with an entire extended family very invested in the idea of giving (and anti gift cards and the like), I don’t know how to bridge the gap with them. And these are people close to me!

    Don’t even get me started on my 15 year old sister, who is obsessed with brand names…sigh.

  15. Yup, agreed with the boredom of mass produced, strip-mall generic products. Wish more arts and crafters would open up their own shops. I’m not a “maker” myself, but I do enjoy browsing through the shops with original and unique stuff for sale!

  16. You make a very good point. I confess I often stoop to Wal-Mart or Target shopping at times because it’s easy – it’s there and on the shelf and I can walk away with it now. But I also know it isn’t the best choice. As a photographer I want others to want to buy my fine art once I make it available. But the truth is, I personally need to challenge my own thinking before I can challenge others! Thanks for helping me think through this some more.

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