you say you want a revolution

rusted truck photograph by mollysmuses

you say you want a revolution? okay, well, molly did. here’s what she wrote in my formspring:
I am a photographer, Do you think we could start a revolution of people setting aside tax refund money to invest in a piece of artwork?

well, molly, i’m not sure if you had something specific in mind. but i’m all for starting revolutions! i think everything i do, on some level, is geared towards inciting revolution or heightening an existing revolution. there is something very exciting about watching a movement begin, solidify, and then take on a life of its own.

tire photograph by mollysmuses

the handmade movement is just such a revolution.

last week, nick – our blogger in residence – challenged everyone to consider how branding the handmade movement could contribute to the overall impact & marketing of buying handmade. there is a lot of great conversation going on in that post with readers considering how buying locally, interacting with makers, and valuing hard work heightens the experience of consuming.

i’m curious how you incorporate the branding & promotion of handmade*craft*independent design in your daily life. is it something that you [literally] wear proudly for all the world to see or something that you support more privately through conscious buying decisions and underground efforts.

hand painted photograph by mollysmuses

personally, i do quite a bit of both. i try to leave the house every day wearing or carrying something that is independently designed & made – which is quite easy when your laptop bag, diaper bag, and clutch are handmade. i also *try* to make conscious buying decisions. for instance, i picked up a shirt at the gap the other day that i had had my eye on for about 2 months. my mother-in-law asked me how i was done shopping so quickly – simple: each item i spend my hard earned dollars on is carefully considered in my mind. i had no interest in impulse purchases, the item i was selecting might not have been handmade but it was something i put a lot of thought into and it was something that would complement the rest of my wardrobe.

i didn’t wax poetic about the benefits of buying handmade just then. i didn’t need to – i let my actions speak for themselves.

so, in your daily life – away from the computer & the online creative community – what are you doing to promote handmade? i know you do a lot. but what specifically are doing? is it working? how does that contribute to the overall branding of handmade?

are you inciting revolution?

{images: all photographs by mollysmuses}

14 thoughts on “you say you want a revolution

  1. I promote, use, buy and sell handmade in my daily life. In the morning, I wake up and wash my face with natural, handmade face wash and my moisturizer is too. I try to buy everything I need (sans groceries) on Etsy and if I can’t find what I need or afford it, I do try to find everything at the thrift store. More than 90% of my closet is thrifted, Etsied or swapped between me and girlfriends. I try to support the handmade movement in all aspects of my life and when I can’t buy directly from the artist, I choose to also not buy from chain stores and bigger companies whose morals I don’t entirely agree with, vintage, thrifting, and trading with friends helps me to do this :)

  2. Hmm… I’d have to say I do a lot of things you do. My favorite purses and clutches are all handmade by fabulous Etsy sellers. I try to leave the house wearing at least one piece of jewelry I’ve made. My friends all know what I do and support me in it, so they are at least familiar with handmade through me, and quite a few of them have signed up for Etsy accounts. I’ve bought gifts for friends and family from Etsy, and I make sure they know it was handmade (and the reactions are always fantastic – “Really? Someone made this?? I love it!”). Whenever the opportunity arises (like for a party, say), I try to make as much of the decorations and goodies as I can, rather than buying them (the results are always cuter, I think). And when I’m out shopping, I do what you do – buy consciously and with intent.

  3. My desire to promote handmade as a viable alternative to mass manufactured consumerism is exactly why I’ve been working so hard for so long to build my business. I started off first with my blog, telling people about all of the amazing handmade alternatives out there. I’ve written for both local and national publications about indie artists, and I just opened my new online shop to highlight handmade goods. My long term goal is a brick and mortar store in the French Quarter of New Orleans… I’d love to introduce the random tourists to cool stuff and explain to them, “oh by the way… this is handmade”. I want that personal connection, and I want to let people touch handmade products. I’m talking about people who may or may not be the type of folks who would normally frequent craft shows or art markets, but love fashion and good design and maybe don’t realize how high quality so much handmade work can be. I want to continue to get the word out to people who traditionally love to shop at the mall or from boutiques but haven’t yet been turned on to the wonderful world of handmade.

    1. Mallory – you ARE the poster child (lady) of the revolution! Kudos to you and all your success. And thank you for everything you’ve done for the movement!

  4. I’ve worn, used and given things made from by own hands for years now! This is something I’ve done for as long as I can remember. Things given to people just (in my mind) mean more when it was made specifically for them! I think one of the reasons I am a quilter is when folks started having babies back when I was in my early 20’s – I wanted to give them THE gift – that precious thing that was used, loved and kept…which of course is a baby quilt! I even married a man who believes along with me in the power of the handmade gift – for bridesmaid/groomsmen gifts we made each person a mirror, where the frame reflected their personality (I WISH we had pix of those around somewhere). Together we’ve made some amazing pieces of furniture to give our siblings at significant moments in their lives (a couple of hope chests and beds being the most significant).

    As we age, I get busier with my business and my husband gets more busy with his job, we’ve grown away from being able to make gifts each Christmas, and we’ve now begun to buy handmade, to support fellow artists and also show the receiver that a lot of thought was put into the gift, to show how much we value the receiver – because yet another sweater from the mall or a gift card to some random place says (in my mind) “here, I had to buy you a gift”. Of course, if it’s the PERFECT sweater or a gift card that will help someone out in a meaningful way, then it’s the right thing to do.

    As I’ve progressed from a maker of gifts to a buyer of hand made gifts (using money made by me making gifts for other folks to give) there is an incredible sense of full circle -> we make to show we care: about people, our surroundings, our planet. This is an incredible feeling, and I’m so glad to be able to do this!

    1. Isn’t it funny that we love handmade for all those *slightly* selfish reasons too? The best gift or the coolest earrings or the have to have very awesome one of a kind shirt… I love that little thrill and can totally relate.

      And then there’s the added bonus of having done something good for society and the environment and another creative person. Giving and getting handmade is the complete and total package. I find now that I’m just not satisified with anything else!

  5. brilliant post tara. i completely agree. i’ve really, really been trying to no buy as much in retail shops and instead, spend my money on handmade or vintage items. makes me so much happier when someone pays a compliment on a bag, piece of jewelry, or clothing, to be able to tell them that it’s handmade by someone i know.

    1. Thanks, Lori! I agree – I’m always so proud and excited to tell someone my fabulous (blank) is handmade.

      I’m pretty hardcore but I think all these comments have me inspired to take further steps in my own life!

  6. WOW I am so flattered that you took the time to answer my questions AND add some of my photography. THANK YOU THANK YOU! I am a reader of your blog and fellow PENNSYLVANIA girl!
    I love when someone has taken the time to get me something handmade, it shows thought really went into the gift.
    And like Candy from Candied Fabrics said, I started making baby quilts when I was pregnant with my first. The newest way I have enjoyed promoting handmade were the two treasuries I scored and got to put together (patiently waiting and timing) and I got to pick some of my favorite ETSY items and then post that treasury to my readers, followers, family and friends.
    I also LOVE the community and passion of people who both create and buy handmade:)

    1. You’re quite welcome! I find a lot of joy in running with an idea so thanks for sparking the thought. Just what the doctor ordered!

  7. One of my favorite things to do is promote items that I come across on Etsy to my friends via Facebook. I know a lot of people having kids right now so I am especially trying to show how many cute, unique, handmade items there are as an alternative to the mass-market big-box store wares for baby shower gifts and kids’ birthday presents.

    I think the idea of buying handmade is still kind of new to my non-crafty friends. I’m working on them though!

  8. This is a great Tara! I enjoyed the point about buying from a brand-name store. It’s like our grocery list. We try to buy everything from the local farms or central market in Lancaster. Everything left on the list we get at the larger chain grocer. It makes for more stops, less convenience and costs more but it works better into our personal goals of supporting local businesses. That same thinking translates for buying from makers.

  9. Such a great post Tara – it really made me stop and think about how I’m supporting handmade away from the computer. I have such a desire to promote handmade and support small biz owners which is part of the reason I started my blog. But you’re right, this also needs to be supported away from the computer, in every day life. I’m a big fan of supporting local businesses. If I’m looking for a gift for someone, I always frequent my fave local stores – so I’m not only supporting them, I’m getting cool, unique gifts too! What I’m working towards right now (or should I say dreaming about!!) is opening an online store that would work with artists and sell handmade items. I think there is such power in people working together. That’s why I love posts like these!!

  10. This is a great post! I too buy practically all of my gifts from Etsy or small crafty businesses. I try to wear my own jewelry and clothing that I’ve bought from indie designers when I go out, even if it’s just to run to the grocery store. Whenever I get compliments on what I’m wearing, I make sure to tell people where I got it from since there are still many out there that have never heard of Etsy or the handmade movement.

    Occasionally I hear, “Oh I love Etsy, but it’s so expensive,” a notion that I try to change by letting folks know that not everything is pricey, but also what you pay for is what you get. I recently saw a short documentary on the true costs behind consumerism called The Story of Stuff (, which really got me thinking about where and on what I spend my money. I hope there’s a way to get people to see that much more good is done by paying an indie designer $60 to make them a shirt from organic cotton than buying a $10 cotton shirt from Walmart.

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