OK, I'm about worn out with all the TV and newspaper ads telling me what I can buy where for what price. So I'm here to tell you some ways you can support your local artisans, shops and community instead of mass merchants. It's easy, it's fun, and you can feel good about your purchases.
Here are a few of the places you might find locally-made, high quality gifts for your loved ones.
1) Your local farmer's market. Ok, I will be writing a separate blog about this sometime soon, but markets in a lot of areas stay open until Christmas. Though many of the farmers no longer have produce for sale, the local artisans and food producers are still hard at work making amazing things, and will be at the market. A few I know of-
*** Baton Rouge, LA. has a wonderful arts market associated with their farmer's market once a month, and in December the artisans are there every Saturday.
*** Little Rock, AR. has a variety of vendors who set up all winter long. You can find lampwork glass ( that's me!), fused glass, jewelry, candles and paintings among other things.
*** Ithaca, N.Y.- yep, believe it or not, many of the regular artisans will put on the old electric socks and sell at this open-air market til Christmas.
So if there is a farmer's market in your area, be sure to check and see if it keeps going into the winter.
2) Local galleries. A somewhat obvious choice, many galleries specialize in local art. And they have more than paintings for your walls. There's jewelry, glass, and loads of other wonderful work for sale. Here in Little Rock, I must recommend Gallery 26. Not just becase I have some work there, but because it's a great place to find interesting, unusual, handmade things.
3) Gift shops. Not sure if your neighborhood gift shop supports local artisans? Call and ask!
4) Museum stores. These can be incredible treasure troves. The Historic Arkansas Museum gift shop, for instance, has all kinds of handmade gifts like soap, candles, pottery, jewelry (yes, mine is there) and woodwork. All of it is locally made, and there is a special section for each artisan- a nice way of showcasing each person.
5) Craft shows. A great way to meet the makers of the items, and find out a bit more about them. Take your time and look around. These can be a bit overwhelming. If you live in Arkansas, don't miss the Arkansas Craft Guild's Christmas Showcase on December 4,5 and 6 at the Statehouse Convention Center.
6) Don't want to leave your house? You can shop locally online easily. Etsy, for instance has a feature called 'shop local'. Just enter your hometown, and etsy will find sellers who live right in your area. Here's a link to that: http://www.etsy.com/shop_local.php
No matter what you might need for the holidays, think local first. Support your local farmers and food producers, local artisans, small local shops, and your local economy, for a more friendly, less frenzied holiday season.