“I feel much better about it now” in 100,000 words or less
A bit back I watched Maxed Out and King Corn and left both wondering what role I play in the mass consumption and extreme materialistic culture we have become. After the movies, my role was problematic. I make things. Things that I want people to buy. Not only do I want people to buy them, I really *need* people to buy them. It is my livelihood, it is my family’s only income right now and without the continued support, we would be in real trouble. But I was struck wondering what role I played in the problem. Wishing I could produce things and work on the barter system alone. Dreaming of how amazing it would be to swap skills, items and food with other folks. Wishing I could exchange a wooden keepsake for more ink or my dentist bill for a collection of rubber stamps, trade my rent for a few wedding toppers. But it’s not practical, cash is king. I can work at doing the best I can but, inevitably, cash is necessary. And I make mine by creating things, items, goods to sell.
About this time, I also ran across a company based in Korea that had stolen some of my stamp designs and was producing a stamp set with some of my own designs. Besides the shock and sadness that they were so blatantly ripping me off, I was struck by how cheaply they were selling the set. It sent my mind to another spot of what is more important, the fact that you have a cute stamp or a cute *handmade* stamp. Because the cost of the two is very different. This lead to what is the true cost of handmade. Some people look at a handmade item and think they could make some version of that idea for cheaper. And you very well may be able to do just that, but the cost of a product is not merely in the computation of the supplies used in the end result. Having been self-employed for several years now, the cost is so much higher. There are taxes, healthcare costs, web hosting fees, publicity costs, legal and accounting fees, countless hours designing and perfecting an item, searching and sourcing the right materials–the list is endless, seemingly ceaseless. Yet, therein lies the difference, it’s not just about getting that cute stamp. When you buy handmade directly from an individual, you are investing in me. And not just in me, but in my products, in my ideas and in my own well-being. When you buy something from me, you just gave me a double high five. We just connected and shook hands like mad. Seriously, its the most wonderful feeling to go buy groceries and know that I am buying groceries this week thanks to the support of Anna, Todd, Margaret and a boutique store in Australia. They made it possible. It is truly the most beautiful experience.
Then wouldn’t you know, two days ago NPR was broadcasting a show about dying and how to do it well. The idea of putting affairs in order, telling folks what you want to tell them now, not in a year from now because a year from now may not happen. (Which is not a guarantee for anyone, me included.) And it brought back up all these thoughts and I realized this is what was missing in my equation before, in my computation of what role I played in the buy, buy, need more, materialistic mentality. It was the experience and the community we share. I don’t make things to show other people how rich you are, or make things to impress your neighbors. I make things to create and share a memory with you, to create an experience you will remember. To bring things and people together. And I’m so blessed and lucky to be given the opportunity to do that. And I hope that when you buy something from me, that connection is felt. Even though time does not always allow me the opportunity to respond fully to every question or to say yes to every request, I hope that the objects I make celebrate a moment for you. And I hope that this space, this steno pad, provides direction for you to make and share more with your family and peeps. And while it may be nice to consider a cash-free society, I’m feeling pretty darn good these days about my role in the current one. High five to that!
I leave you with an image of my buddy squirrel who came so close to me yesterday, I swear it would have jumped on my leg and crawled around to my shoulder and kissed my cheek if I had stayed still just a moment longer. How’s that for the bigger picture giving me a high five, too. Either that, or I was convinced it might take the clothespin doll I was photographing under my tripod. I bet it needed a little something to up the ante on his pending nut stash swap. You can have it tomorrow, little man. I’ll leave it by the back door.