Your Buying Habits CAN and DO make a difference

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As someone who makes art of any kind, you can appreciate how frustrating it is for other artists to see their work knocked off, made oversees and sold for much less than the original..
Whether you bake, sew, throw pots or blow glass, your buying habits can make a difference.
Wherever I travel, I always try to identifying indigenous craft and support local artists. On a recent trip to New England, I scoured the shops for a handmade birthday gift to bring back to a friend. With the rich heritage in the Northeastern US, I felt confident that it wouldn’t be hard to find some unique local pieces. From my years shopping the Buyers Market of Contemporary Craft in Philadelphia, sourcing for my own gallery and others, I knew that the buyers on the east coast were discriminating and valued Made In America.

So, imagine my disappointment when all I could find in the local shops were imports. I shouldn’t have been surprised, since in so many areas of the country, the shops feature gift items imported from China, imprinted with the names of local destinations.  I finally found one shop that had exclusively American made items. I purchased a pair of earrings made by a New England metal smith and a couple of small prints by a local artist. There was only one other shop in the seaside village that carried hand-made work but as I read labels, I learned that much of the inventory was imported.

I do understand the reasoning behind the shop keepers decision to carry imports. The mark-up is huge compared with the small profit margin on products made in the US. I also understand that most buyers don’t read labels and even if they do, they don’t want to pay the higher price for something that is made locally, when something that looks similar costs less. I think there is also a common misconception that if something is in a pricey boutique, it is not made in China. (If you believe that, check the labels on designer pieces in Nordstroms.)

If you want the American public to continue supporting you, it’s your duty to make it a point to buy hand made in America and to educate your friends and family because chances are, they are buying the cheapest items unaware that they are supporting companies that will eventually put you and your artist buddies out of business. MOST PEOPLE JUST DON’T THINK ABOUT IT. But you, as an artist yourself, want others to support your work so PLEASE don’t rationalize abut buying imports because they are cheaper.

How can you tell? First, check items for a label. If you don’t see anything identifying where it is made, ask the shop keeper for the name of the artist. If it’s in fact handmade, they will have that info. Don’t assume that everything at a craft fair is made domestically, either. Only juried shows control where the items come from and you’d be surprised how many mass produced pieces show up at craft fairs.   If you have difficulty finding locally made gifts, seek out an artists’ co-p. These are generally owned and operated by a group of artist and you can frequently meet the artists and even watch them at work.

Remember, if you want the public to buy your work and support you, commit to buying handmade when you have the choice.

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