a pledge to buy handmade
The handmade toy alliance is asking people to make a pledge to buy handmade this holiday season. And as an artist and crafts person of course I'd like to encourage you to do the same. Here is a link to the pledge.
Buying handmade goods from local makers is an easy and fun way to support small businesses and help improve our economy but I'd also like to encourage you to make your own gifts to give to your loved ones. The joy of making and receiving handmade gifts cannot be matched but It seems like there are a couple major deterrents that keep people from making gifts. The fist is the time involved. Making gifts does take a lot of time and when your working tons of hours or taking care of kids (or both) that can make taking the time to make something seem impossible or at the very least impractical. But think of it this way: How many hours did you have to work to make the money you are about to spend? How much time will it take to drive all over town, find a parking place, wait in lines etc? If you started early enough, you could probably knit a hat or make a sock monkey right? And if you fear you are not crafty enough to knit or sew, what about taking an evening to can some preserves or make soaps?
The other fear when making gifts, especially gifts for kids is that they won't like it or they with think it's lame (the bunny suit from the Christmas Story comes to mind). This year more than ever I'm feeling the pressure already to make my boys happy by buying them Star Wars stuff... etc etc. etc. This is hard. Of course I want to make them happy but I also don't believe that stuff has any real value and I know that these toys will break or fall out of favor almost immediately. Then nobody is happy. I know I certainly wont feel good about spending our money that way.
People have been making toys for kids forever but that joyous tradition has been tainted lately by toy safety fears. We are being told now that homemade toys are unsafe for kids. Instead we are supposed to buy sanctioned, age appropriate plastic junk and then go to the recall website every day and hope the toys we chose to spend our money on don't suddenly become death traps! This makes me insane! Use good materials, use common sense, repair or replace toys if they don't look safe anymore. It's easy.
Honestly, the toys I make my kids never create any major fireworks. They seem to like them but they certainly don't go crazy over them. Anything with wheels, wings, jets, lights etc are the most exciting, but those things have no staying power. Meanwhile the handmade toys are there in bed every knight getting sweeter and more rumpled with love as the years go by. They know I made them, and they know that those toys are an expression of my love. Every time they put on the soft wool sweaters my mom knit them they remember, often aloud, "My Nonna made me this sweater". These things really mean something to them even at the ages of two and four.
When I do buy presents, and I know I will buy some, I'll look for well made things made by individuals or companies I feel good about supporting. Going to local craft fairs or shopping on Etsy is an easy way to directly support crafts people. If I shop at a toy store I'll shop at stores that seem to share my values. The toys at these stores are more expensive than at a huge box store....and they should be. Somebody made those toys with care and was paid decently for it. just don't buy as much. Too many toys are bad for kids anyway.
I'll leave you with one final thought: If I'm feeling pressure to buy a bunch of flashy toys for my kids this holiday season I'm going to think of Laura Ingalls Wilder. She had a corn cob wrapped in a handkerchief for a baby doll and was very happy! A corn cob!
For more about toy safety legislation buying handmade visit the Handmade Toy Alliance website.