Saturday, December 01, 2007

Beware the sanctimonious shoppers

The hot thing in the online communities these days is proclaiming that you've taking the "Buy Handmade" pledge and then heavy-handedly suggesting that other people take it too.

Well, this is my (handmade) blog saying "Bleh." I also have a handmade gesture that goes with the remark.

Let's start at the beginning: My basic premise—and do let me know if I'm way out of date on this—is that gift giving (usually) starts with the idea of giving a person something they'd like to receive.

But deciding to buy gifts primarily on the basis that they are handmade (whether by you, or by some trendy indigenous culture) starts with the idea You'll feel good about yourself. (And maybe you'll make the recipient feel guilty because their gifts weren't as politically correct as your gifts. Yep, that's the good old holiday spirit!)

Now, I'm not against handmade gifts in principle. I have a friend who knits who I'm always hoping will give me one of his stunning handmade scarves. And I have friends who cook from whom I love getting cakes, candies, and canned goods. And I'm not against giving handmade gifts: Some of the best gifts I've ever given my mother (and my late father) were things I made by hand.

But, quite frankly, the best gifts I receive from other adults are ones that clearly show that the person thought about me: What I like to listen to, what I like to read, what I like to eat, what I like to wear, what I like to do. These things might be handmade—or they might be from a good chef supply store. Or they might be tickets to something, or gift certificates. Recently a neighbor whose pets I been caring for gave me a gift certificate for my favorite garden center: Brilliant!

Finally, I have to ask: Just what do you mean by "handmade?" Are the beautiful Denby dishes from England that I like so much being extruded from machines run by robots? I could have sworn they were being made by working class people who earn a living firing and painting china. Why are those people any less deserving of making a living than people who make irregularly shaped bowls out of rough clay? I'm sure the black velvet blouse I'd love from J. Jill was stitched by someone at a factory who has a family to support, so why is a garish orange-and-purple handwoven skirt I'll never wear so much more politically correct? And how about this: Is a book handmade and therefore eligible to be a holiday purchase? Say "no," and I have a few struggling authors I'd like to introduce you to.

This is something to mull over in the 24 shopping days before Christmas.

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