I’m taking a short breather this week from interviews while I work on going through the new folks and pick the pretties that I want to feature. I can tell you that it’s not always easy, by any means! Everyone I have featured thus far has had so many, or such a variety, of things I’d love to put up that it’s very hard to choose!
So this week, I would like you all to look back at the people, the shops, the pretty things, and reflect on the message I spoke so firmly before, and during, the holiday shopping season.
Look back at the stories you’ve read, or, if this is your first time visiting my humble snippet of the cyber world, the stories I ask you to read. Look at them, read them, and realize that they are human beings. Their hands produce things that are beautiful, useful, decorative, or all of the above. Their hands produce things that you might just want or need for your own. Their hands produced these things. Not a machine programmed to produce hundreds or thousands. Their hands made each one, and even the things that are “the same product” are each unique, because our hands can’t produce down to the micrometer precision. Some are made to order by color or size, and some are altered or custom made.
Each item you have purchased through them has helped them pay bills, make their holidays more special, and of course, enabled them to continue to create things like the thing you purchased from them. It has not gone to line the pockets of an already rich CEO, it has not cause a Large Company to outsource things to another country.
Feel proud, if you did make purchases from hand-crafters. Feel proud that you supported someone local, or if you bought something from a hand-crafter in another country, pat yourself on the back; you have made their hobby/business go international, and that item you bought may well be one-of-a-kind where you live now. You have made them smile, made them a little more proud to do what they are doing, and as I mentioned before, might have helped them pay that overdue bill, helped them get that gift for their children, put some extra food on their table, and helped them get that one supply that had previously been out of reach to take their craft to the next level.
I keep hoping that this blog opens people’s eyes. I keep hoping that the results of reading this are to think before purchasing something. Something this weekend made me think:
Over this past weekend, my niece watched me work while the girls of the family gathered for what we call “Girls’ Night” – Once a month on a Saturday, we gather, have food, watch movies, play games, and just hang out for the day, and have what equates to a giant sleep-over – no boys allowed, other than text messaging and the occasional phone call, until Sunday, or until bedtime (Good-night calls are always allowed). She mentioned to me that she can’t wear earrings, other than the titanium piercing studs she had in. I asked her why. It turns out that, from the deductions I made from the questions she answered for me, she’s allergic to nickel, as so many are.
BUT, she said she can’t wear gold or “gold plate”, can’t wear “silver plate”, or “hypo-allergenic” earrings. I stared at her, and my sister asked her “So you haven’t been able to wear the jewelry Geri made you a few years ago?” Chrissi shook her head. I thought back to when I made that jewelry. Back then I used store-bought ear-wires by a company that said they were nickel-free, and the silver-plating on the wires (that they said was steel, without nickel) was nickel-free.
Imagine my face, my mood, when I realized that … well… that was a lie. I made her a quick ear-wire from the new plated wire I now use, and one from the sterling silver wire I use, and told her to put them in and tell me if they bugged her or made her ear swell like the others do (often within ten minutes, she told me). She did, and didn’t have any trouble, after having them in for several hours.
Needless to say, I am quite livid at the company that I checked with through email and phone calls to be sure their products were nickel-free.
It also brought me back to my post that I mentioned that anything that has to proclaim “GENUINE!!!!!!” … probably is NOT, and I mentioned it. The earrings she had been trying to wear, other than the ones I had made her, were all from discount stores, or places like “Claire’s” at the mall – places that have “Hypo-allergenic” earrings, or “Genuine silver” or “Genuine silver plated” earrings. Funny, she can wear sterling silver and silver plated copper just fine, but she can’t wear any of the “Hypo-allergenic” stuff she bought. Shame she can’t wear the “Genuine” sterling silver stuff she bought. It really made me angry, since I know what I have is standard 92.5 sterling silver, and she can wear that just fine.
It makes me angry that these companies can proclaim all they want that they are offering “GENIUINE” silver or gold at such discount prices, but when the allergic reactions happen because it is NOT genuine ANYTHING, they can sit back and shrug with a huge grin at your gullibility, and the hand-crafters are told “I’m not paying that exorbitant price for cheap crap!” when they see the price tag on handmade sterling silver or gold jewelry that IS genuine.
I would suggest to you all that if you have pieces that were “GENUINE!!!!!!” marked as such from a Big Store (like Target or Wal-Mart – those kinds of places), have them tested… but getting jewelry tested or appraised can cost, and unless you wear that piece often enough for the shiny coating to wear off and the greenish-blob of cheap metal shows through, or you have an allergic reaction, it’s not really worth the price of the appraisal.
One good thing did come out of finding out that Chrissi is allergic to nickel – she offered to be my tester. Any wire or finding sample I can get into her ears that I use, she will have a sampling of so we can see if it makes her ear swell or itch. If it does, I will proclaim that it has at least traces of nickel, and that it may cause an allergic reaction to those with allergies. My customers may be few and far between, but I won’t risk their health like Big Companies seem to have no problem doing.
Hand-crafters like me DO have a problem with it. Go back to those I interviewed. Look at their item descriptions, and the materials they used in their work. Notice they’re not afraid to tell you what they use? Notice how some actually put in alerts or notes if there might be hazards or allergy information? You won’t find that kind of transparency from Big Stores. In fact, when you ask, you probably won’t even get an answer. Ask a hand-crafter a question about them, or their products. You’ll get an answer.
So I’ll end here with another generic “Buy Handmade!!!” statement, and a summary of so much of what I’ve said, and things those wonderful people I’ve interviewed have said:
When you buy handmade, you get better quality, better customer service, and an overall better product.
When you look at the price tag on a handmade item, remember there is more than just materials to think about – there is time, design, and many other factors that go into it. Don’t expect Big Store prices – you’re getting what you pay for, and not cheap junk.
When you buy handmade, you support local, or international, small sellers or small businesses, not an already over-privileged CEO.
When you buy handmade, you are getting a product that will last – some may become family keepsakes or even heirlooms.
When you buy handmade, ask questions if you’re not sure about something, or are worried about allergies and such. We answer, unlike Big Stores, some of which don’t even KNOW what their products are made of.
When you buy handmade, you’re getting a better product all around that is well worth the price. Keep that in mind when you shop – for any occasion.
On my Facebook page today, I mentioned something about “Alpaca Silver, which, after some research, I think might be that “GENUINE!!!!!” product base with the shiny coating. And some of the information I found out about it makes me even MORE angry with Big Stores for advertising the way they do. I found a fantastic site with a lot of information on Sterling Silver, and a little more information on how to shop for it, and what imposters to look out for.
It includes information on aforementioned Alpaca Silver, and also information on allergies and also how to find test kits so you can see for yourself exactly what you have – Real silver, or NOT silver.