we scout wednesday: do you have a relationship with your stuff?

On Saturday, I was procuring my second iced latte of the day at the mall and, as I reached across the counter to hand the barista my card, she squealed “I love your bracelet!”

“Oh, thanks!” I exclaimed. “A friend of mine made it.”

We can’t say that about most things you buy. We don’t have a personal relationship with your stuff or the people who make it.

They don’t look like us, talk like us, or live like us. That’s not necessarily a bag thing but it does mean we don’t feel a personal connection to it either. In general, you don’t treat that stuff with nearly as much reverence as when you can say:

A friend of mine made it.

A lot of people would say that we shouldn’t have a relationship with the things we buy, that we should concentrate on buying less, that consumption is a disease that infects modern society. And I understand where they’re coming from. But I also know how it feels to surround yourself with beautiful things. Your stuff can give you self-confidence and inspire you. Your stuff can bring out your edge or remind your of family & friends.

Stuff has a big impact on our lives.

It’s hard to ignore that. So I don’t, I choose to embrace the special impact that some stuff has.

When I put on a pair of earrings that Megan made or a shirt that Amy printed, I smile. I think of them. I think about just how lucky I am to be wearing something that a friend loved before I did.

The lesson here is simple but twofold.

1.) I think it’s great to be able to say “a friend of mind made that” on a daily basis. So make sure you take your handmade items for a spin more often. Don’t save them for special occasions or play it safe with known labels. Your handmade goodies are for everyday display no matter how special they are.

Eat on the dishes, wear the hat, adorn yourself with the jewelry, string the garland. Use & love the stuff that loves you back.

2.) Make friends with your favorite makers. Check out who lives in your area. Attend trunk shows, send friendly emails, and leave comments on their blogs. Makers are people too. And they appreciate when you say:

A friend of mine made it!

For this week’s We Scout Wednesday post about a special maker friend or item that makes you say “a friend of mine made it!” Post on your blog, your Twitter stream, on Facebook, on Flickr… tell us why it’s special and what it means to you. Please include a link back here to this post (http://www.scoutiegirl.com/2010/09/relationship-with-stuff.html).

Then post your link in the Mister Linky below. When you’re through, be sure to check out other special friends & goodies from WSW participants.

[ stuffed dolls by littleclouds ]

17 thoughts on “we scout wednesday: do you have a relationship with your stuff?

  1. I’m not quite sure how your linky thing works but I just tweeted a whole bunch of artists whose works are all handmade here in the USA. I got inspired by the CBS special last night about Fashion Night Out it and it’s so true. So many people hand make things, I have received hand made gifts, I have given hand made gifts. And just like you said, so important to support these people. Go to the fairs and shows. Wear it with Made in America Pride, your friend made that! We have to show them we LOVE them and we want them to keep going, make a living at it, employ like minded kindred spirits and drive this economy here and not in China and Mexico! A timely post!

    I’m going to blog about the show and try and figure out your link connection…

  2. Tara, thanks for the nice question. :)
    Yes, I love when my customers want to know more about jewelry they are buying. A lot of them tell me that they love my items because they can connect. That there is a person behind it. That is the reason why I make things only with the inspiration that comes from my own personal experiences, and why I tell the story of how the item came to be. You can’t really get more personal than the relationship and memories you have with your loved ones transformed in objects that you make. People tell me that that is why they purchase my rings.

    When I started my business I promised myself I will not succumb to the lure of trends. For example, I love owls, and now days so many sellers on Etsy are making every possible permutation of owl there is. Which is wonderful, but I am not finding the inspiration in my life to make one. They don’t mean anything to my son, and he is my main guide on this path.

    As for trends it’s sharks, fish, and all kinds of toothy creatures on our repertoire these days. Maybe that is not bad for Halloween? 😉

  3. I started to realized just how much handmade stuff I was buying when suddenly the answer I give most times is — “A friend made it” or “I got it on Etsy.” It’s nice. I’ve even started walking around with stacks of other people’s business cards because there are a couple of things that – whenever I wear them – people stop me and ask where I got it. Now I have a business card handy so I can send them to my friends.

  4. Great post. I walked into the kitchen and saw some tea towels that I love, so I wrote about those. They are just the kind of funky tea towels that are made for a person like me, but probably don’t exist in many stores, and seeing them always makes me smile :)


  5. Who says you can’t have both? You can own less & still have a relationship with the things you own – in fact, I find it to be much easier to have stronger connections to the things I have if I choose to shop consciously.

  6. I couldn’t agree more. Even if I don’t know the maker that well, I love when someone asks me about a necklace or something I have and I can say, “I got it from this artist/crafter, isn’t it lovely? So talented!”

    It’s a conversation starter and really a business opportunity as well – it leads into, “well, I make…”

    And not only that, but as Kerin mentioned, I cannot tell you how exciting it is when someone sends me one of my cards :-)

  7. I agree – you can have less & have a relationship with your stuffs. It makes everything so much more meaningful.

    It is the most thrilling moment to share with that random stranger (or friend!) that whatever you are wearing/carrying/showing off was handmade by another person. And if it’s your friend? Squeeee!

    Share the love, people!

  8. I am nearly 50 years old and I still love when I wear certain dresses to be able to say “my mom made it for me.” I also have a few quilts she has made. And my father has made a hammered dulcimer that I have yet to learn how to play – and he also made a cradle – and a skittles game for my sons. I love knowing that I have things made by my parents that hopefully will be appreciated by my sons, and their sons….not only a relationship but a history.

  9. Perfect question today! I have been grappling with the conflict between selling my art and opposing consumer culture. Now I must reconcile my thoughts. Stuff does matter, it is being selective that makes the difference.

  10. Fantastic post! Wearing something made especially for you makes you so much more aware of that particular item – and how lucky you are to own it. Something that comes from an actual person is so much more meaningful than something that comes from a factory somewhere.

    I don’t have too many “my friend made it” pieces, but I have a lot of “I bought it in _____ (some place I traveled to).” Those things are almost always handmade or sold independently, and mean a lot to me because they are tokens of the place I visited!

  11. I love handmade things!

    Since I started making jewelry 3 years ago my eyes have really been opened up to the wonderful world of handmade items! I appreciate handmade items more, and always look for what I need (want?) on Etsy before shopping at more traditional venues.

    I am making more and more of my own items, too, as my own creativity blossoms in this “culture of handmade”.

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