In a time when we seem to rely on technology for everything there remains great value in giving something crafted individually by the hand of an artisan. Everything around us presses us to conform to unreachable ideals held tantalizingly beyond our reach. If we buy that car we will have the perfect mate, the perfect job, the perfect life. Like Wimpy in the old Popeye cartoons, we float helplessly towards the scent of success and ultimate happiness.
So why would we want something made individually and out the great mainstream of consumer goods?
• It says something about us. Our heart is truly where our treasures are, which is to say that we spend our hard earned cash on that which is important to us. When we invest in handcrafted goods, we are saying things of beauty and permanence matter.
• It says that we cared enough to find something real. Gift giving has become so buried in pragmatism that many people now give cash or open gift certificates instead of something meaningful to both the recipient and the gift giver. It is precisely the time and effort spent on finding something of substance to give that makes the gift an expression of our love.
• It makes you one who will not be drawn by the siren song to seek affirmation by conformity. We all imagine ourselves as the maverick, the one who lives just outside the rules. The truth is that life in that position is not always comfortable. It is, however, real and real beats virtual every time.
• The gift will come directly from the hands of an artisan. Believe it or not, most artisans' I have known care more about sharing the beauty of their creations than amassing wealth from them. I have witnessed craftsmen worry about how the customer might care for their product after they take it home. Buying for a true artisan is nearly an adoption process! They care – and that care is carried into their creation. There is an ethereal element in the connection between the artisan and his work. Those who buy their products connect to this in a real way.
• It is unique and meant for the recipient alone. The value of this is lost in our mass marketed world. But in our souls, we all want to be seen as unique – we want to matter. What better way to say that someone matters than to give them something unique as they are.
Things of beauty have an intrinsic value all their own. Products made with love and care live and breath – they add beauty and life to us. Buy what you must from the great consumer machine and live within the bounds of puffery as we all must. One in a while, however, we can all slip outside the fence and find something of substance and beauty to give to those we love. We can create heirlooms instead of filling trash dumps. We can explain to our grandchildren where that beautiful toy came from or how long that chair has been in the family. It's worth the effort.
Akylina Lee is a mother to three adult children and an observer of life.