If there's such a thing! It's difficult to unravel the concepts of materialism and consumerism from the act of acquiring something. Even with the best of intentions filling your home with decorative items is in a lot of ways at odds with the notion of minimalism. So maybe it's good to take a path down the middle and take pause and make thought based choices when deciding on a purchase.
I believe not only in supporting small businesses, but also in focusing consumer-based decisions around thoughtfully made items with a story - an origin that you can actually know; a face you can see. Many artists today struggle to stay small. They struggle against the temptations of doing things easier, like instead of hand-making they might buy a laser cutting machine or start casting all of their jewelry. They might stop painting and go digital because prints are easier. It's always great to grow and think outside the box and to consider how to be efficient with how you work so in the end your profits are enough to sustain you. And of course it's also more difficult to be authentic and unique in your style in a world where your materials are online, made available to the world to see and unfortunately to copy. Increasingly I'm seeing big shops like Pottery Barn, Anthropologie, and Target blatantly copying the work of small but successful Etsy sellers. If it's trendy and unique - someone will copy it, even a big Corporate store. And what's worse, they'll have it produced in a factory in China and the entire notion of hand-made or vintage-sourced or tradition is completely lost. What saddens me is that as a culture accustomed to buying on the cheap, consumers don't notice or care that they're buying these knock-off items. They probably don't even realize it. But I strongly feel that it's possible to make a difference by changing our own purchasing habits on an individual level and in turn, contributing to the movement towards shopping small business and shopping hand-made.
With that in mind, I would like to put forward a few products that I really like, and that might fit the bill of what I just wrote.
MUDRENKO - primitive handmade ceramics from the Ukraine
One of my favorites is "African Bird Guinea Fowl" - the artist's collection is very much inspired by nature, which is apparent throughout. It's really beautiful.
MBUNDY - handmade pottery from the US
I took a ceramics course in college and I loved it. I've always been a fan of vintage pottery, mottled glaze techniques, and that crazy richness you can achieve... pottery truly is an art and it's a very tactile experience. The gratification you get at each stage of the process is immeasurable.
What I like so much about Meg's style is the marriage of vintage, ethnic, and modern. Some of her pottery is very tribal in nature with black on neutral clay with crisp yet organic lines. I've always been a huge fan of West German vases and that "drippy" earthy glaze from my childhood memories. I collect pieces from various thrift shops and inter-disperse them among my standard tableware. I'm seeing a lot of mass produced replicas trending in "concept stores" here in the Netherlands and I just can't help but think that the real deal or a hand made set speaks volumes more than these store-bought brands.
So I've studied A LOT of different things in school - one of my longer jaunts was spent at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Textile Development. I had no idea textiles were so scientific but yes! textiles today are designed to withstand fire, liquid, extreme cold, wind, you name it. Of course we're speaking of performance fibers. But for as long as humans have worn cloth, weaving has existed. We're very lucky today to have the opportunity and access to learn about and enjoy traditionally made fabrics from all over the globe. In fact once might say that it's very trendy at the moment to own re-purposed pillows, blankets, bags, etc... as well as to buy via collectives which manage production and ensure that rural villages who make these new yet traditional products are treated fairly and receive the monetary benefits of their hard work. Importantly, collectives like these help to sustain these traditions which might otherwise be lost. With lesser demand, it's no longer appealing to hand the trade down generation by generation so we need to consider these things when we look for globally handmade textiles.
Fairly Worn - based in Switzerland
This small company is owned by Valerie & Bettina. They travel the globe insearch of vintage textiles and African products. They also work with a collective in Bangeldesh that makes their stunning kantha quilts. These are products that I can get behind and I really respect the extra effort that these two women take to ensure that their passion is combined with local activism in support of traditional tradespeople.
COM ART - based in Portugal
Christina makes beautiful, crisp, richly textural art. Maybe that's a mouthful but there's something so primitive and tactile about her work and I dream of buying a piece or two for my home. Fortunately she also sells smaller format originals and prints which are quite affordable and they make GREAT GIFTS!
70 x 100 abstract on paper - this would be my first choice.
So that's it for today.
It's not like buying from these shops is cheap and unless your disposable income is admirable you probably won't be buying these products as quickly and as frequently as you would if you found them in a traditional box store or concept shop but isn't it more interesting to buy less, but buy more at the same time. Instead of an empty, manufactured print from IKEA or pottery from Anthropologie, why not small production - story-based - hand crafted - non-sell out commercialism driven art?
Think about it.