1. Find Something Unique
Why be a fashion sheep when you can be the shepherd? I for one, have never liked to base my wardrobe around what everybody else it wearing. The stuff I like is usually unusual and hard to find in a department store. When I wanted a warm knit scarf in a particular shade of curry-power yellow, where do you think I found it? Etsy. Even if you like keeping up with the current trends, why not change it up with a one of a kind accent piece? Be a trendsetter and watch people notice. As a bonus, when someone asks you where you got that gorgeous new knit scarf you are wearing, you can proudly tell them is it a one of a kind piece from an emerging new indie artist. Très chic.
2. Superior Craftsmanship
When products are not made by Chinese 8-year-olds it shows. Handmade items receive individual care, attention, and quality control. When a single person or partnership develops a project from beginning to end, the result is often a well planned product that achieves an artist's vision. This is certainly not the case on an assembly line, where items are put together by unskilled workers that often don't even know exactly what they are making or how it works.
3. Put Money in Good Hands
Would you rather line the pockets of a CEO, or an independent artist working their way through college? Buying from independent artists and craftsmen is one way to guarantee that the people actually doing the work are receiving all of the profit. Occupy Wall Street? One of the reasons the 1% is on top is because we keep giving them our money. Please realize that you vote with your wallet in this country. The industries that grow are the ones generating income. Would you rather watch a community of independent artists grow and flourish, or watch another Walmart open up in that shopping center down the street? You can actually improve the economy and make a real difference in the world by shopping responsibly.
4. Better Customer Service
I love shopping handmade for the individual attention from seller. I love the hand-written thank you notes and little freebies tucked into the atheistic packaging, but it goes beyond that. If there is ever a problem - lost or damaged in shipping, product mix-up, spontaneous combustion - it is almost always taken care of promptly and effectively. There is a better chance of getting a refund, replacement, or return when necessary when dealing with real human beings. It cuts out the all the icky bureaucracy of retail. I have also noticed that with handmade sellers, these issues happen less frequently to begin with. Why is this? Indie crafters actually care whether or not you are happy with your purchase. They actually need your business. Do you think Wally World actually cares if you are unsatisfied with their products? Not likely. They have ten million other shoppers buying from Walmart that day. If one customer never shops there again, it doesn't really dent their business model.
5. End Slavery
Every time you spend your money on sweatshop or child labor products, you are feeding that industry. Remember that 8-year-old in China I mentioned? What would happen if people stopping buying from the companies enslaving these children? The companies would lose profits. They would be forced to face that their business model no longer works because people are refusing to buy from companies with shady business practices. Maybe they would clean up their sweatshops. I can hear that whiny voice in the back: "But then the children would have no jobs and their families would plunge deeper into poverty! We are supporting the children by buying from them!" I call bullshit. What would really happen? Companies might learn that it is in their best interests to treat their workers well because the consumers will boycott them otherwise. Maybe the jobs their parents work at will start paying them more for the same reason. Maybe the children can go back to school and get real jobs one day, where they aren't risking life and limb in a factory.
6. Go Green
Manufactured items are notorious for generating massive amounts of pollution. Vast quantities of fossil fuels are burned every year powering the machines that stamp out the mass produced crap sold at retailers around the world. Small scale operations produce far less waste and have much lower rates of energy consumption. Also, many crafters in the handmade community work with recycled materials. I myself use a wide variety of found objects, industrial salvage, and repurposed jewelry parts-- items that would have likely wound up in a landfill otherwise.
7. Get Custom Items and Alterations
There is something really neat about getting things made especially for you. It's not even just about the thrill of getting a one of a kind item. What if you have a vision for something that doesn't exist yet, and don't have the skills to make it yourself? There is someone out there that will work with you to achieve your vision! How cool is that? Maybe you are a weird size like I am. I'm super petite, and it is almost impossible to find things that fit. I don't even have to get something made from scratch to remedy that. I can just find a bracelet, for example, on Etsy, and it is a simple matter to ask the merchant to size it for me.
8. Make Somebody's Dream Come True
Perhaps you are a crafter yourself. Maybe you dream about quitting your day job, becoming your own boss, and doing what you love all day every day. If so, you can easily imagine the joy it would bring to be able to work with passion and creativity. You can help make that dream come true for someone else! And when you do so, you are fueling the indie artist community. People will become inspired by successful artists around them and grow the courage to follow their own dreams as well. Save a talented artist from wasting away at the late night shift at Dunkin Donuts. You make it possible.