The upcoming Shop Small Saturday on 11/28/15 has me pondering the current trends in the Arts & Crafts Movement and, shopping small. When I began this journey (sounding very LOTR Frodo-like here) of creating screenprinted textiles and prints, I assumed I would transition into the licensing world; creating designs that would be licensed to large companies who would then apply them to various products and sell them in stores. I started researching the art licensing section of the art/business world and the more I dipped into it, the less certain I was about that model. Yes, in my profession as an illustrator I am accustomed to my work being printed on to everything from books to billboards. But the more I learned about where and how licensed goods were manufactured, the less I liked that model: outsourced manufacturing of a gabillion units (helloooo landfills!) created by cheap labor in countries that often abuse their environments for the sake of productivity. I read about container ships full of cheap mass-produced goods flooding our marketplace. I heard about jewelers on a certain *handmade* site being unable to compete against this flood of low-wage jewelry.
So I decided to structure my business as a small-batch creator of handmade goods. My working definition of *small batch* is much like someone making artisanal cheese (see The Life of Cheese: Crafting Food and Value in America By Heather Paxson):
1. Creating my products by hand in small batches that are custom fit to the needs of my stockists/customers in order to avoid wasting precious resources.
2. Printing in a just-in-time mode to avoid excess inventory/landfill usage.
3. Buying my towels from a U.S. based company and my shop supplies from a mom and pop vendor.
Am I being too idealistic? Maybe. But this method fits with my overall world view: I’m a steward of this planet and while I’m here I need to do what I can (little things add up!) while producing a product that adds beauty and is functional (towels are reusable!) and doesn’t drive down the wages of my fellow artists, who, are just trying to earn an honest living. Yes, I cringe when I see kitchen tea towels (only $2!!!) at big box stores. I know what a towel costs before you print on it and believe me, the person that printed on that towel most likely only made fifty-cents that day.…sigh.
And then I made small changes in my own buying habits:
I try (when possible) to purchase small batch goods from artisans/shops who honor small-batch practices. I try to purchase handmade gifts from local shops and artists. So the next time you set out to purchase holiday gifts/homegoods, I encourage you to look for labels that indicate a product was made in the U.S.A. and even better: by a handmade artisan. You’ll be supporting an artist/shop while also most likely helping your local/state/federal economy not only survive but to thrive. It’s a win-win for everyone.
I hope this posting doesn’t come across as preachy. I’m just offering up another way to look at shopping that helps the small shop/artist out here. (Ask anyone and they’ll tell you I always enthusiastically root for the little gal/guy! 😉 And lastly, thanks to all of you for purchasing my goods for yourselves and for sending them out to friends and family. You are helping my small cottage business thrive and I truly appreciate it.
Here are some great shops/artisans right off the top of my head that would very much welcome your business! (scroll down)
Stockist (mine) * Special thanks to these fine folks for carrying my goods!
Barn Happy | Cedar Falls
Mohair Pear | Cedar Falls
Hatchling & Hens | Cedar Falls
Fancy Pants | Decorah
Plaid Peacock | Waterloo
Stew’s | Kalona
White Rabbit | Iowa City
Vintage 35 | Valley Junction in Des Moines
First Avenue Collective | Winterset (opening Nov 2015)
Pinder Pottery | Galena
Homespun | Indianapolis
Ugly Glass & Company | Kansas City
Wedge Community Co-op | Minneapolis
Swag | Northfield
Highway North/Groundswell | St. Paul
MADE on Mass | Lawrence
Salty Not Sweet | Cleveland
Made: Indie Emporium | Tulsa
The Anchor | Fayetteville
State + Pride Provisions | Hot Springs
Stitches in Time via Hurd Mercantile and Company | Rockford
Artists/Small Batch Folk:
(email me kate (at) katebrennanhall.com if you want to be added to this list. I get *lazy* when it comes to typing so don’t take offense if I failed to list your name in the original list…;)