Friday 30 November 2012

Why Handmade?

~ by Emi

I love December. It is such a wonderful time of year, with a beautiful and strong focus on family. This emphasis on something so important is also expressed when we give gifts to those we love.

In our home, we don't give many gifts to one another. We use the following saying to guide our choices;

Something you want
Something you need
Something to wear
And something to read
On top of this, Ru and Pixie are given a larger joint gift, which last year was a wooden gnome house with little gnomes I had made, and this year is a dressing up trunk filled with handmade costumes. They also get a stocking each with a few little trivial things that we'll have picked up during the year and stored away.

Whilst some gifts are bought, we do love handmade.

There are a myriad of reasons that we do this, and not just because of my own fledgling business, MamaPixie. I know many, many brilliantly creative people who spend time, effort and money in making bespoke items that any one with a modicum of sense would be proud to gift to someone they love.

There are a million reasons why we should give handmade, and I'd like to share a few of mine and Stephen's.

Firstly, you are often supporting work-at-home-Mamas and Papas, like myself, like Kendal. You are providing a vital supplemental income that clothes our children, pays our bills, or in Kendal's case, save up to buy a much-needed car! Not only that, when you buy handmade, it gives the sellers the opportunity to then spend that money on handmade items from others, and the chain continues! This makes great sense from an economic point of view, supporting small, and often local, businesses.

Secondly, quality. How often have you bought something from a large chain store and the item simply falls apart within days, much to the frustration of parent and child alike? Artisan crafters have spent hours designing, perfecting and tweaking their products. They've handpicked the materials. They've made each item with love and care, something that certainly can't be said for all larger businesses.

Tied into this is the fact that as Melissa from Holmes-made says "As an artisan, I take loads of care to produce exactly what the customer wants and to go beyond in terms of customer service. You just don't get that on the high street." I take great pride in my work, and will go that extra mile to make something just right.

You know what else is brilliant? We actually LIKE our jobs! We don't turn up to work and complain the whole day with a face like spilt gruel. We enjoy what we do.

Our third point is the wonderful fact that custom items are exactly that. Custom. You can adapt the item in question until it is perfect. You as a customer often become one of the designers, and it makes us feel good to know that our input is value, something very often lost in modern retail. For example, I worked very closely with a lovely woman to create a unique Hobbit-style wool cloak, even down to tiny details like the drape of the hood. Collaboration is a wonderful thing.

You are also honouring the creative in others, something I personally strive to encourage in my children and value in myself. To quote Sarah at Felt so good, you are "supporting individuals and individuality, not corporations who often dodge their social responsibilities."

Number four, handmade items can often have a lower impact on the environment and have greater levels of sustainability. Handmade items aren't from a large waste-producing factory and shipped round the globe using fossil fuels.  Buying handmade items with a smaller carbon footprint benefits everyone. Not only that, many crafters reuse, repurpose and upcycle items that may otherwise end up in landfill.

Number 5. You don't have to deal with the hell that shopping in a city in December. You know, that time of year where normally sane people think nothing of shoulder-barging you out of the way in order to get their sweaty grasping hands on the last must-have plastic crap on the shelf? The fractious children who want to go see the lights and not be dragged and crushed in department stores? The harried mothers? The bored, impatient fathers?

Surely this is reason alone?!

And lastly, my favourite and I think the most important.

Number 6.

It helps us teach our children the value of something, not the price.

It tells the ones we love that we care enough, that we know them well enough, to choose something as individual as they are. I know that I would feel more thrilled with an item that someone has taken time to pick or make themselves, knowing it will be cherished, than something grabbed off a shop shelf at the last minute.

In a world where our children are becoming more and more focused on the 'need' to Have ALL The Things, handmade is an even more vital part of the festive season. You are sharing, giving, something special to others. Not in order to get something in return, but simply for the joy of letting someone know you appreciate and cherish them, which surely is the point of the season, no matter what religion you are part of.

At this time of year especially, children can become over-whelmed with well-intentioned but ultimately pointless gifts, swamped, drowning in a mess of mass-produced sparkly tat that rapidly loses its polish and attraction.

I refuse to let our home be a part of that.

“That's the thing with handmade items.
They still have the person's mark on them,
and when you hold them,
you feel less alone."
Aimee Bender

So, I share with you some of my most favourite artisan, British crafters. These are all people whom I have done business with and know that their work is of the greatest quality with the highest customer service.

I hope hope hope that you'll 'like' them on Facebook, peruse their Etsy stores and maybe buy the person you love something unique and special, something that will be cherished... just like they are.

My own shop
MamaPixie on Etsy
MamaPixie on Facebook
 - bespoke children's clothing, costumes and playcloaks, felt Waldorf crowns, wooden trees and more

Kendal's shop
Mama Make on Etsy
Mama Make on Facebook
 - beautiful childrens clothes, hand-knitted elf hats, family hearts, and the most gorgeous bloomers you've ever seen!

Washed-Up Family
 - unique sea-glass jewellery

 - stunning papercuts and Christmas cards

 - speciality custom-dyed wool, knitted goods and jewellery

Button Pocket
 - the coolest custom, handmade bags you'll EVER find!

 - bespoke bunting, woollen goods and tie dye

 - handcarved and perfectly pyrographed wooden boxes, fairie doors and more

Felt so good
 - imaginative felted playmats and items

Earthworks Journals
 - handcrafted, hand-tooled journals (quite honestly, the best I've ever owned!)


  1. Given that you love and make handmade yourself, I'm a bit surprised you buy any gifts at all. What kind of things do you buy, rather than make?

    I don't think my kids would like only four or five gifts but they could easily do with less!

    1. Good question!

      This year, we've bought some My Little Pony figures for Ru's stocking, a teaset for Pixie, a couple of things for Stephen are bought rather than made (and I can't tell you what they are in case he sees this!). I know that one of my gifts is a bottle of my favourite perfume, as well as fabric.

      We've asked for family to gift good-quality art supplies as we are going through them at a fair pace!

      E, x

  2. I can't believe I didn't see this post before! I'm getting lax at checking. Again, this is another thing Ron and I have already modified in terms of having Niamh up with us, and ideas about how our own children's gifts will be arranged. I hate the "ripping-through-presents-so-quickly-they-don't-even-know-what-they-just-opened-was".

    Totally get the "value" over "price". Definitely something I feel very strongly about in terms of instilling values into my children. My mum and dad (in good faith) would spend a lot of money on presents for my sister and I for Christmas, and often the toys would end up sitting in our Christmas sacks for months and months because there was simply too much stuff everywhere. Not something I want in my home. Nine times out of ten we wanted to be outside on a bike or scooter anyway, not sat in a stuffy house surrounded by too many toys to even breathe!

    Thank you for this post!

  3. Just re-reading...

    "At this time of year especially, children can become over-whelmed with well-intentioned but ultimately pointless gifts, swamped, drowning in a mess of mass-produced sparkly tat that rapidly loses its polish and attraction.

    I refuse to let our home be a part of that."

    I'm just copying and pasting that here because that is the crux of how I feel and I want to show Ron later!