Why Should I Buy Handmade?

Why buy handmade, you ask? What is it that makes handcrafted items unique? Why bother going the extraLive Handmade mile when it’s so much more convenient to purchase something from your local shopping mall? In this post, i’d like to highlight some of the best reasons as to why all of us should at least consider buying items that handmade. Adapted from ‘101 Reasons to Buy Handmade’, here are some of my favorite quotes from artists, designers and shop keepers that explain why they think that handmade goods are worth every penny:

“Buying from craftspeople is a conscious decision. people need to be more conscious of spending of where their hard-earned money is going, changing hands etc. this contributes to the bigger picture.” – Sonja Ahlers

“Handmade products are more than just a product. There is love, creativity and uniqueness. And that shows.” – Karin

“Love. You give gifts with love. When you buy handmade you can be sure that your gift is also made with love. You can think of love as a fairy dust that has been sprinkled over your gift throughout the making and gift giving process. And that fairy dust will make your loved one feel so much better than formaldehyde residue…When you give a handmade gift it’s more like writing a letter to someone than giving them a newspaper gift-certificate.”

“Human rights & ecological aspects. Buy handmade and you support a true artist. You can be sure that human rights are respected in the making of your gift. Handmade gifts are for many reasons often more ecological than mass produced: indie artists are superb recyclers (and we mustn’t forget upcycling, upcycled gifts are a big hit this year!) and of course handmade in most cases outlasts mass produced.”

“Price vs. value. If you buy your best friend a handmade journal instead of a mass produced one and spend twice the money, it’ll be worth every penny. Treasures are handmade with love and thought, not mass produced.” – Kaija

“I love knowing I’m supporting someone’s passion. And even though I buy from handmade artisan’s in states and countries I’ve never visited, I feel a sense of community when receiving an item that travels from their hand to mine. I like that I know who to contact to say “it’s here! I love it!” – one person to another.” – Manny

“Giving handmade is truly the essence of gift-giving. When you give a friend or loved one a gift, you are really saying “I care about you.” A handmade gift conveys so much more than something pulled off the end-cap display of a mega store. Of course there are the obvious economic benefits of supporting independent makers and artists, but buying and giving handmade is, at heart, a loving act.” – Cassie


Eradicating Poverty with Beads

If you have read one of my previous posts on how socially-minded business 31 Bits empowers the women of Northern Uganda, you might find this organisation to be quite similar in its aim. The bonus, however, is that BeadforLife is a non-profit organisation, as well as a member of the Fair Trade Federation that strives to eradicate poverty in Uganda.Screen Shot 2013-11-03 at 5.39.22 AM

Our Mission: BeadforLife creates sustainable opportunities for women to lift their families out of extreme poverty by connecting people worldwide in a circle of exchange that enriches everyone.

We teach women how to provide for themselves, their families and even their communities. The goal of our model is to put money into the hands of our members, and to create sustainable income streams that they can depend on for years to come. We provide entrepreneurial or agri-business training, help our members open savings accounts and award business grants. We even adapt our core model to fit the needs of each of our regions: Kampala, Iganga and Otuke.

Visit their website here to see how you can help to eradicate poverty in Uganda today.

Marketplaces for Handmade Items

There are numerous platforms that are catered towards the sale and purchase of handmade items, but there are really only a few of them which stand out. The following is a list of recommendations of a few of the most well-recognised online marketplaces that both sellers and buyers are using today.

1. Etsy

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At Etsy, you will be able to find a range of items that are vintage, handmade, as well as supplies for art and crafts. The site is managed by a team that is spread across different regions, including Brooklyn, Hudson, San Francisco, Berlin, Dublin, London, and Toronto. It is also a certified B Corporation, “a new kind of company that uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems”.


2. iCraft

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iCraft is yet another platform for the selling and buying of handmade goods. The Toronto-based website aims to enable easy and convenient commercial transactions, while at the same time also showcasing their sellers’ work in the best possible way.




3. Zibbet

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Similar to Etsy, Zibbet is a global marketplace showcasing handmade goods, vintage items, fine art, and art and crafting supplies. The website’s concept stemmed from the “desire to create an eBay alternative for Artisans”.





4. Made It

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Made It is one of Australia’s widely-used platforms for the purchase and sale of handmade and independently-created items. It strives to “only promote quality local independaet Australian talent”. Sellers must reside in Australia.





5. DaWanda

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DaWanda is a marketplace for unique, customized, handmade and vintage items. Handcrafting supplies are also available for sale. DaWanda also enables users to “find out about the creative minds behind the items for sale, compare notes with other members, comment on products, be inspired by great design and share ideas and experiences in the blogs and forum.”



6. Bonanza

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With more than four million items for browsing in their inventory, Bonanza provides an extensive range of choices for buyers. Apart from the United States, the website operates in many other parts of the world including Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Mexico and Spain.

Jewelry line faced with criticisms

Walmart’s existing jewelry line, ‘Love, Earth’, claims that its production processes meet the corporation’s standards and criteria for ethical sourcing. However, an article published by Broward Palm Beach New Times reveals otherwise. Written by Jean Friedman-Rudovsky, her article refutes the multinational retail corporation’s claims of its jewelry line being “affordable, quality jewelry made from gold and silver that are traceable and from mines that maintain leading environmental and social standards”.

Extract from “Walmart’s ‘Love, Earth’ Jewelry Line Doesn’t Live Up to Green Promises”:

A few blocks from the jewelry factory’s entrance in La PazBolivia, Julia and Maria look over their shoulders to see if the night guards are watching. The two young Aymara Indian women shiver in the cold night air and lower their heads as they speak.

“It’s a horrible experience, but it’s what I have to do to feed my kids,” says Julia, a 20-something mother of two. “Supervisors yell at us constantly, and if we don’t finish our work quickly enough, we are told: ‘The doors are open for you to go.’ ”

Says Maria: “There isn’t even soap or adequate masks to protect from the dust.” Their list goes on — insufficient pay, strip searches upon exiting, discouragement from attending night school because it would interfere with work.

Barely a few moments have gone by and they are nervously shifting in place. After another over-the-shoulder glance, Julia’s slightly widened eyes say, “We’ve got to go.” Courage spent, they pull their jackets tighter against the chilly wind and walk off toward their homes in the impoverished neighboring city of El Alto.

The two women don’t know it, but thousands of miles away, their daily labor is sold by South Florida-based jewelry manufacturer Aurafin under the guise of “responsible sourcing.” (Names of current and former Aurafin factory workers have been changed to avoid retribution.) In 2008, Aurafin teamed up with Walmart, and the largest retailer on Earth sells this so-called responsibly sourced jewelry under a product line named Love, Earth. Aurafin and Walmart say the jewelry is made in conditions that favor the workers and the environment, a claim contradicted by tales from current and former workers.

Love, Earth’s gold comes from U.S. mines no more environmentally friendly than other mining operations, which critics say are responsible for widespread pollution. The precious metal’s journey then goes to Bolivia, where Maria and Julia and thousands of other workers toil — many in conditions much worse than the two women’s — for the benefit of the U.S. companies. While Love, Earth may shine like gold, that’s only varnish. Underneath, its anatomy is greenwash: The product is no better for the environment — or the people who manufacture it — than a standard piece of jewelry.

Read the rest of the five-page article here.


Often, large multi-national companies own factories overseas in order to meet large consumer demands. Most of such factories are situated in third-world countries, and therefore low production costs are the main incentives for such companies. Although many of these factories may appear to abide by labor laws, those who work for their subcontractors face poor working conditions, child labor, low wages, and the overall breach of workers’ rights. Such an environment is commonly referred to as a ‘sweatshop’. The following is an extract from Ian Dixon’s website, ‘The Apparel Truth’, which explains the short film that he had produced based on his travels to sweatshops in Cambodia and India:

In spite of my suspicions, what I unearthed still surprised me. At first, I had only a rough idea of what I was doing, but through discussions with locals (at hotels, airports, in the street, with cab drives, anyone and everyone, in fact) I began to hear some unpleasant facts from factory workers and their relatives…From a combination of filming (both openly and under cover) and interviews with workers, their supervisors, rights campaigners and union members, I built up a disturbing sense of the inhumanity ordinary people are made to endure.

You can watch his film here:

You can join Ian in his campaign at ‘The Apparel Truth’ here.

If you have more time to spare, here is a longer documentary that similarly reveals the true nature of sweatshops in developing countries. In addition, H&M and several other Swedish multi-national companies also make their responses to this issue.

You can watch it here:

Empowering Women Through Jewelry

Women. Empowerment. Sustainability.

These are some of the themes that are being enforced by socially-minded jewelry business 31 Bits. Through cooperative efforts with women in Northern Uganda, 31 Bits unfolds a marketing plan that helps them to better take charge of their lives and future.

Based on a video from their official website, 31 Bits believes that “business is a powerful force behind bringing change in women’s lives”.

“We realized we had a market and they had a skill. Together, we made a business.”

On its core purpose, 31 Bits is said to “empower the most vulnerable women so that in the future they can sustain themselves.” 31 Bits has also provided many of these women from Uganda with new opportunities: “When a woman enters our program, she enters a community where she can earn an income, be educated and dream for her future.”

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the organization has also recently teamed up with The Breast Cancer Society. You can check out their special edition collection here.

You can watch the full video from 31 Bits here:

Give Handmade

Although there are still two more months to Christmas, I think it’s never too early to start planning! Christmasgift is a wonderful time of joy and celebration with family and friends. But thinking of what to get for everyone you have on your list, and going through the actual process can be a big headache for some of us.

What do they like? Is there anything that they are in need of? Would this be appropriate as a gift? Would they already have something like this? These are some of the questions that i’m sure most of us have in our minds while we’re buying our gifts. Often, we may also feel as if we’ve actually run out of all possible gift ideas, which may result in a desperate search attempt for popular suggestions on Google.

Preparing a gift for someone should be a meaningful gesture of what that person means to you, and not a frustrating task that we simply want to accomplish as soon as possible.

Handmade items make great gifts, especially since there is always something for everyone! By buying something that is handmade, you don’t have to worry about whether the gift recipient already owns the exact same thing since each item is unique.

Amanda Akers gives us a list of great reasons why we should all get handmade gifts this year:

1. You support local artisans, and therefore their local economy and community.  Supporting local business has a huge list of benefits all to itself, far too many to list here, but it’s a good thing, trust me.

2. You get high-quality items that are built to last, not all the stuff that has the “How cheap can I produce this?” mentality.  It’ll probably fall apart in a year or two, but handmade items have longevity.  Artisans have pride in their work, and want it to last.  Even the materials are hand-picked by an individual, and what big manufacturing company can say that?

3. Your gifts are the best on the block.  Cool, trendy, unique, and usually one-of-a kind, you can find some really awesome handmade stuff that’ll make everyone ask “Where can I get one?”

4. Customization!  Since each and every item is made by hand, and you are usually talking directly to the person making it, you can tweak the color or size of something you are interested in, or even get a fully commissioned custom order done.  This avoids you having the excuse of “it was all the store had left.”  Want a cool case for your new gadget, but maybe you have some weird size the store doesn’t offer?  Get is custom made to your exact dimensions!  Doggie sweaters from the store never quite fit your beloved pooch?  Customization to the rescue!  The possibilities are endless really.

5. You’re helping the environment.  It’s always a nice feeling to ‘go green’ isn’t it?  Handmade items aren’t made in a waste-producing factory and shipped halfway around the world using fuel and energy.  Buying handmade (especially really locally) can greatly reduce your carbon footprint on the world.

6. You gain a unique connection with an artisan.  You can be in direct contact with the person who made the item with their own hands.  For some reason this is just really cool.  I mean, think about how awesome it’d be to meet your favorite clothing designer, artist, author, or chef.  It’s kinda like that feeling, but on a much smaller and more intimate scale.

7. Let’s not forget the warm fuzzy feeling of knowing you helped support someone very directly.  For example, when you purchase something from my shop, you just helped put food on the table for another meal (and I thank you deeply for that).  You don’t have to pay the shop’s cashier and the various levels of management and the supplier and the designer and the manufacturer, because just one person is all those things!

Read the rest of Amanda’s guest post at Handmadeology.