Why you should be buying handmade and five ways you can support it

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By Jon Hopper

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BUYING HANDMADE - I have to admit, like many others, I’ve always tended to rely on well known brands when it comes to buying gifts or products for myself.

Recently though I’ve had my eyes opened to the many advantages of buying handmade and for me there’s no looking back. The penny really dropped when I bought a loved one a delightful handmade wooden shaped moon complete with a beautiful hanging crystal from the good people at ArtwoodIreland.

Originally I was planning on doing what I always do and revisit my usual online shopping destinations, but my girlfriend said to me ‘what about this as a present idea?’ Despite initially thinking it’s not sold by anyone I’ve heard of, I liked what I saw and thought I’d give it a go. And do you know what, I’m so glad I did.

My order arrived in good time and was packaged attractively in a branded box. As for the product itself, it was beautifully made and the crystal was of the highest quality. And to make things even better it went down a treat as a gift and now hangs happily whilst generating stunning rainbows on the wall when the sun is shining.

The whole process of ordering to giving really made a lasting impression on me and I now see and feel the real benefits of buying handmade.

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The wooden shaped moon with hanging crystal I bought from ArtwoodIreland

The benefits of buying handmade...

So just what makes buying handmade the better option? Well, now I’m part of my girlfriend's handmade jewellery business, Vikki Hall Jewellery, I feel I’ve got valuable experience of what makes this industry so special.

Uniqueness - When you buy a handmade product you are investing in your very own, one of a kind item, lovingly made just for you. How cool is that? You’re the only person in the whole world, consisting of practically eight billion people that only possesses what you’ve bought! Surely that’s got to be more worthwhile than owning a mass produced item that’s owned by thousands?

Quality - In most cases when you buy a handmade product you can be pretty sure it’s going to be made up of the best quality materials available. The person making your order really cares about what they’re making and they will always make sure they’ve used the best quality materials they can get their hands on. In today's world, where mass produced items are so often not built to last, knowing your handmade order is made of top quality materials really is a major plus for you the customer.

Attention to detail - It's a competitive market out there and small businesses need to stand out and make an impression. To a small business the customer is everything and they will go that extra mile to ensure the utmost satisfaction is guaranteed. This means making sure every little detail of your order is just right, including throwing in a few personal touches like freebies or discounts on your next order, ensuring that your order is beautifully presented and packaged or just communicating with you in a friendly and valued way. You gotta love being truly appreciated!

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Craftspeople really care about what they are making for you

Support - When you complete an order with a handmade business you’re doing two things - you’re supporting a real person who’s making a go of running their own business and in turn you’re helping to support the local and national economy. This means the money involved in your purchase stays in the country and will help grow the economy which can only be a good thing for all parties involved.

History - Most of today’s industries got to where they are now because of skilled craftspeople who took time to learn their craft and produce great quality products. Unfortunately, due to the rise of the machines/computers and clever marketing and branding, these industries have been affected greatly over the past decades leaving several of them fighting to keep their craft alive. Thankfully, the recent rise of handmade has brought about a newfound awareness of these crafts and by buying handmade your are playing your part in keeping these industries' heritage alive.

Five ways you can help support handmade...

Hopefully you might now be slightly more convinced that buying handmade is worth a go, but just how can you support it and get involved? There are many ways you can help support this movement, but here are five methods that will certainly help you get the ball rolling.

Etsy - Probably one of the best known places for handmade businesses, Etsy is an e-commerce marketplace website which is home to over 1 million sellers and has over 50 million registered members. Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson describes the website as "a platform that provides meaning to people, and an opportunity to validate their art, their craft. At the end of every transaction, you get something real from a real person. There is an existential satisfaction to that.” The choice on Etsy is vast, but spend time looking for what you really want and you will undoubtedly find many great options (tip: be as specific as you can when searching Etsy. It’s all about the keywords and sellers particularly rely on these to help customers find their unique products).

Notonthehighstreet - Similar to Etsy but with a focus on small creative UK businesses or ‘Partners’ as they prefer to call them. Notonthehighstreet boasts over 5,000 ‘Partners’ which they handpick themselves, meaning you’ll be presented with the most "unique, inspiring and surprising of products” to quote Notonthehighstreet themselves. The business was founded by Holly Lee Tucker, MBE, who is UK Ambassador for Creative Small Businesses and an all round shining light for all things handmade. Tucker is also founder of Holly & Co, a small business advice and inspiration platform, which does an amazing job in showcasing the UK’s creative talent.

Handmade Organisations/Businesses - There are many individuals and businesses out there who specialise in promoting and creating awareness for the handmade industry. A couple of stand out businesses are Handmade in Britain and UK Handmade Magazine. Handmade in Britain provide a platform to help support and promote British design and craft talent through fairs, events and pop-ups. Established over a decade by Piyush Suri, the business also provides workshops and business mentoring and is at the forefront of supporting British designer-makers. Events put on by Handmade in Britain have seen annual visitor figures of over 15,000 and are certainly a highlight in the handmade industry calendar. UK Handmade Magazine is an online magazine/community whose mission is to showcase some of the best creative talent within the UK. Launched in 2008 by web designer/artist Karen Jinks and her pool of designers and makers, UK Handmade Magazine has grown into a large creative community of artists, designers and makers and is a sure fire way to discover what talent this country has to offer.

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One of the articles from UK Handmade Magazine's Spring 2018 issue

Social Media - The rise and rise of social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have helped provide handmade businesses with the perfect way to showcase their talents and connect with the world. Spend some time looking through your favourite social media platform and you can’t fail to find an avenue of talented crafters with beautifully presented profiles. On top of that, there are several ways within these platforms to help you branch out further. Facebook’s ‘Groups’ section is a great way to get involved with the handmade community with multiple types of handmade groups available for you to join. This blog post titled "30 Facebook Groups That Will Help You Increase Your Sales" by Gary Capps showcases several great handmade related groups. Hashtags are another great way to narrow down what you're looking for and they provide a great way for businesses to showcase their products. Twitter and Instagram both make great use of hashtags. One of the most popular hashtags on Twitter for handmade is #handmadehour (@HandmadeHour) which is hosted by handmade-nation.com (@HMNation) and is run for an hour every Wednesday from 7.30pm and every Sunday from 8pm, as well as #crafthour (@Craft_Hour) which is every Sunday for an hour from 7pm. Both hashtags showcase hundreds of handmade products and provide an ideal way to get inspired when looking for gift ideas. Social media also provides the perfect way to connect with the person your buying from, so be sure to follow, comment and network with as many businesses and individuals as you can - it will mean a great deal to them.

Your Local Community - There’s no better way of supporting handmade businesses than by getting involved in your local community. The handmade industry is a nationwide movement and you can guarantee there’s several talented crafters living and trading right on your door step. One of the best ways to find out is to support any local craft fairs that are taking place in your region, which will be operating throughout the year. Buying from local businesses can provide a real sense of pride and helps the local economy along the way. Additionally, it presents a great opportunity to form a personal relationship with the talented crafts people in your area which is something you just can’t do with big businesses and brands.

And finally...

The next time you fancy treating yourself or buying something for a loved one, take a minute to think "is this something I could buy handmade?" - and if you do, good on you, you won’t regret it.

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