Merry and Bright: Why Buying Handmade/Indie Matters

photo by quantis

Inspired by Dani’s reprise of her “Buy Indie” post, I’m reposting mine from last year again–it still holds true. ❤

I’m a minimalist by necessity, and by choice. This means that I hardly buy anything, try my best to reuse and think creatively when it comes to things we already have, and downsize what we have now. But, if we do buy anything, it comes from a hand made source.

I keep hearing that the economy is tight, and we all don’t have a lot of money. I sympathize and empathize with this. When buying (and systematically destroying and regretting it XD) a Starbucks drink is considered a deep luxury, things aren’t easy. I can understand that every penny is precious, and we all have to stretch them as far as they can possibly go…

But here’s the reality of things, very simple: I realize that Grandma Frannie is impossible to shop for, and a Starbucks gift card is the only thing that excites her besides Grandpa Andrew. I realize that Cousin Ned only accepts small, unmarked bills as gifts, and anything else will be thrown out in a week. But, for everyone else on your list–please, please, please consider buying handmade.

I know I’m preaching to the choir. Many people have a very vast knowledge of places like Etsy or Kiva or any number of really valid and wonderful not-for-profits and handmade bazaars. But maybe you’re going to go to Target and buy that scarf anyway. It’s easier, you think–and it’s your right to think that. The holiday season is filled with joy and light, but it can also be tiring. I get that.

But think about this:

The $15 you pay to Target will be swallowed up by a giant. He won’t even notice it. It’ll fall into the endless pit of millions and millions of dollars that would have kept on churning with or without you. That $15 is nothing to it, but something to you, and though you have a scarf–and it may be a very nice scarf–it was manufactured by the thousands, and will take a jaunt once or twice about the neck of your intended–and then get buried in the closet.

That $15? What if you’d spent it elsewhere? That $15 can make or break an Etsy seller. That $15 can make it or break it to that woman who knits scarves for a living, who has left her corporate job. She believes in her work with all her heart, but maybe she’s having a bad day. The bills are coming in. Life keeps going, and sometimes it sucks, and she’s miserable, and her kids aren’t getting along…suddenly, you hand her that $15 (in this hypothetical craft bazaar you’re both at), and suddenly she’s smiling, because you gave her money for something she made with her own two hands. You walk away with something beautifully crafted that the gift-ee will love, story and all–and she keeps doing what she’s doing, supported by your $15…which means quite a bit to her.

I’m a minimalist, and I still make and give gifts. I don’t believe that gift giving is this heartless monstrosity of obligation (and if you think that–I’m sorry. I wish I could change your mind. Any ritual has the power of whatever you want it to have.). I believe that when we give someone we love something–either something that we made, or something that we found, or something that we purchased, with the gift-ee in mind–that’s magical. That says “I think about you. I was out, and when I saw this thing, you crossed my mind, and that made me smile. You make me smile, and I love you. I know this physical object can’t show my love for you…but I thought you’d like it. I thought it’d make you smile. I miss you. I love you. I hope you like it.”

Every dollar that is exchanged between you–a human being–and another human being has power. That dollar changes things. That dollar creates and conjures things. Intangible things–like courage and hope and belief and good, glad tidings. Tangible things, like a bill paid and a meal on the table. Spiritual things–like a belief in something better.

Every. Single. Dollar.

You’re already shopping, and exchanging those dollars. You’re already thinking about what would make your sister smile or your father laugh. You’re buying or making or finding things you think they’ll love. Because you love them.

That love extends farther than you can ever know.

In this bright holiday season, I ask a little favor–if you’ve never bought hand made, consider it. If you’re already buying hand made–have you thought about going totally hand made? You’re magic, and you can spread it with simple, single choices.

And if you’re one of those great alchemists and magical people who build things with your hands, and believe in your work with all your heart–I salute you, I honor you. You’re magic, too.

Together, we create something great and beautiful. This community extends beyond you and I, us and them…it could be the whole world, if we kept going. But it starts here. It starts with you.

What are you going to do with this one, mad, precious season of light? It’s up to you.


Comfort and Joy — Sarah’s Gift Giving Guide of 2011 — please add to it!

Here are some wonderful people who are doing wonderful things, and creating extraordinary love through physical objects…which would all make perfect, precious gifts (and we included our shops this year in the mix, too).

Aerial Melodies — Beautiful jewelry and handmade cards.

Faerie Garden Fancies — lovingly hand sculpted polymer clay jewelry and art!

Fairy Magik — beautiful handmade fairy wings and original fairy art!

The Fable Tribe — Our shop: handmade charms and pendants, created from old, unloved fairy tale books and original spells and poetry, and other sparkly things.

Fateful Fiber — Hand spun and dyed yarns and adorable knit creations!

Helix Chainmaille — Gorgeous woven pieces, including Pride inspired ones!

Moonlit Creations — Lovely Pagan and magical jewelry.

The Misery/Love Co. — Amazing/glorious/beautiful perfume oils based on geek culture and classic literature. Highly recommended!

Parrish Relics — Divinely beautiful, medieval inspired jewelry.

Quiet Memento — Handcrafted pendants made with spunk and magic!

Sacred Suds — Really, really amazing handmade soaps. I’m in love with her stuff!

Sihaya Designs — Stunning, magical handmade jewelry.


Do you have a friend who makes amazing things? Do you know of a shop that makes you smile, or that you’d love to share (including yours?)? Post about it in the comments, and help spread the magic even farther~ ❤


About Sarah Diemer

I write about heroic, magical girls who love girls. I drink a lot of coffee. Follow me at or find out more about my work at
This entry was posted in Muse 101 and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Merry and Bright: Why Buying Handmade/Indie Matters

  1. J. Koyanagi says:

    Thank you so, so much for writing this, and for linking to my shop!


  2. Arielle says: – Hair accessories, jewelry, and fun home decor items hand stitched from original designs.


  3. Katharine Tarkulich says:

    I’m linking to our store! – we have handmade fairy wings and original art along with prints of digital art. And my friend Shing makes amazing creatures: 🙂


  4. Shel says:

    First off, this entry = AWESOME. ❤ Now for my long-winded speech about why it's awesome. lol

    Ooo, new shops to dig around in! Thank you for including me and all the other wonderful people I already know and shop from. Handmade is unique, it's different, it's personal… I tend to be stuck buying some things from the mall to appease, but the past few years I've tried to include something I've made or someone else has made. A small treasure to go along with the corporate stuff. Knowing people like you who depend on sales as well as knowing people who simply love spreading their talents to others as a side job… the results are the same. A smile and joy on both sides of the table. 🙂

    At least I'm going as handmade as I can for my wedding… and supporting my friends and fellow crafty artists at large in the process!


  5. Christina says:

    Excellent post. And thank you so much for pimping Sihaya Designs! I concur, every sale makes a difference in my life. It is the difference between food in my fridge or not. I can’t state that enough.

    I recently posted something very similar to my LJ. I have been soooo creeped out by the Black Friday / retail-focused culture pushed by big box stores and chains in recent years.

    I am totally warmed by how many people are committing to buy handmade this holiday season. I know there’s been a lot said about how ridiculous people are acting at mall sales (but pepper spray is “a food product, essentially!” sayeth FOX), how the creep of Black Friday into Thanksgiving is keeping retail workers from their own families on Thanksgiving, and how our cultural obsession with cheap imported goods that rely on poverty or slave-wage labor is screwing our economy– so I won’t rehash it here. I find the whole Black Friday thing in practice to be pretty gross, and have been much more satisfied with the cyber variants.

    I myself have participated in several cyber sales for independent stores and artisans. It does cost more than something mass-produced at a big box store, but that’s the cost of skilled craftsmanship. It’s not always possible for me to buy handmade or locally, but I do so whenever I can because that’s the message I want to send about how I want our economy to recover. And to add to that, I know first-hand how buying from a small business or artisan makes a tangible difference in that seller’s life. The money isn’t going into some corporate exec’s pocket– a corporate exec, I might add, that didn’t have to go to sleep at noon and miss out on Thanksgiving dinner with his family in order to work a sale that opens at midnight or earlier. A corporate exec who isn’t making minimum wage. A corporate exec who isn’t working multiple minimum wage jobs to support his family because our whole economic structure is hopelessly fucked. No, that money goes straight into someone’s fridge. Or back into the business that supports local economy. Or back into the oils, or beads, or paints, or what ever other medium that allows that artist to create unique, skillfully-crafted art that beats mass-produced junk any day of the week.

    So, I am thankful every day for the customers who support me and my shop, and proud to return the favor by buying handmade.

    To add to your list-

    Villainess – – Brooke makes some of the most bad-ass soaps and scrubs around. If you like gingersnaps, you NEED GingerSnapped in your life. TRUST ME.

    Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab – – They’ve become such indie darlings that I think a lot of times, we forget that they are actually a small, woman-run company. Beth and her crew donate a LOT to worthy charities and defense funds, and Beth has structured her company so that she is able to pay her employees a living wage with benefits. Aside from the awesome smellies, this is the kind of business I want to support.

    Wyrding Studios – – Kythryne makes awesome wire jewelry with lots of whimsy. She’s also been a huge support for me ever since I started my own jewelry business. She’s good people.



  6. Christina says:

    Oh! And!

    Heirloom: Modern Classic – – Whitney is a co-worker of mine at the bead shop, and she has such a classy aesthetic. Right now, the most popular thing in her Etsy shop is her temporary tattoos made from vintage illustrations. They are so adorable, and inexpensive. And they come gift packaged! Perfect for the nature lover in your life.

    Magickal Cupboard / Luna Enchantments – – most amazingly witchy pillar candles EVER. These are a mainstay on my altar. Plus the shopkeep & her coven have awesome customer service. I was totally sad when I had to stop buying from W.hitemagic on Etsy, because even though /that/ shopkeep is an unethical, dishonest person (in our dealings, anyway), she did make nice candles. When I found Magickal Cupboard and tested out the candles firsthand, I was in HEAVEN. Plus they run awesome weekend deals!

    Deconstructing Eden – – Toni is a lovely lady who makes awesome perfumes (alcohol based). She’s worked with Jacqueline Carey to create Kushiel’s series perfumes with official blessing. She’s also a pretty awesome lady!

    Paintbox Soapworks – – Another artisan soaper, these bars last forever and have bright scents and colors. I love Gingermilk & Man In The Moon for comfort scents. Plus her seasonal LE’s are great!

    Panopoly – – Artisan pottery & stamped ceramic jewelry. Great for poets and writers, run by a long-term friend, Lynae.


  7. Sia says:

    This is such a beautiful, inspiring post. I just wanted to say that. I’ve always preferred handmade items to corporate, they’re just so much more real, like they have little souls of their own.

    I’m really sad that I can’t buy handmade this year – there are no craft fairs near me, and I’ve yet to get a new credit card after moving to Finland, which means no paypal and no gorgeous Etsy treasures. Maybe next year.

    But here are some of my favourite Etsy stores, in the hopes that other people can:

    Elven Elysium, amazingly magical polymer dragon/faerie jewellery.

    Coryographies – Check out the bookshelf necklaces! Perfect for bookworms!

    SixAstray makes gorgeous whimsical jewellery, with a lot of beautiful Harry Potter themed accesories, including personalised Hogwarts-letter necklaces.

    I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday 🙂


  8. Lisa says:

    First-time commenter just popping in to say… I am super happy about this post, because I decided to check out your list and discovered PRETTY GUARDIAN SAILOR MOON PERFUME OMG at the Misery/Love Co. I snagged a bottle of Sailor Venus for my sister and she is going to flip out. This is so much better than anything I could have got for her at a retail store! Thank you for this post!


    • Sarah says:

      Awww, that’s wonderful, Lisa! Thank you so much for letting me know. 🙂 Rhi makes kick ASS perfumes–I’m sure she’ll love it! ❤


  9. Rubiee says:

    Love this post… and might I add in: – hand blended tea and photography.

    Also, I make lampwork beads:

    and some Jewelry too:


  10. Pingback: The Annual Fable Tribe Cyber Monday Sale~ | The Fable Tribe

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s