Wednesday, 10 December 2008

New Legislation Threatens the Handmade Community

By an act of Congress, as of February 10, 2009, all items intended for children under 12 years of age, that have not been tested and certified as within the legal limits for lead content, will be deemed a "Hazardous Substance."

This new law, purposed and ratified for the purpose of stopping the numerous lead-filled imports from China, and containing absolutely no exceptions, whatsoever, for any US based companies - whether as large as Wal-mart or as small as Sally Mae sewing children's dresses in her living room in front of the TV - has caused small time manufacturers to deem February 10th "National Bankruptcy  Day." 

This is the day when thousands - hundreds of thousands - of small time manufacturers and one-woman-wonders will be forced to close up shop because they are not able to afford to meet the new requirement: mandatory third-party lead testing. This issue is further intensified because even the products they have on hand, will go from being perfectly acceptable on February 9 to a hazardous substance on February 10. They will no longer even be allowed to make children's items for charity. 

Does everyone understand the ramifications of this? 

Think about the economic ramifications. 
1. Hundreds of thousands of small time manufacturers no longer selling products to supplement their family's income. Less income.
2. Hundreds of thousands of small time manufacturers no longer buying supplies. And some of these folks buy SUPPLIES. Less spending. 

I don't know much about economic matters, but I do know that less income + less spending = weaker economy. 

Let's think about the charitable ramifications. Crafters are some of the greatest donators of tangible, kind, helpful goods.  There are massive programs out there of thousands upon thousands of knitters and crocheters (this is one area I happen to know about) making baby blankets, booties, squares for afgans, hats, preemie clothing (a BIG group), and all of these charitable contributions will have to stop on February 10. Ladies will no longer be permitted to buy some yarn at Walmart, make a baby blanket,  and just give it to charity - who gives a "hazardous substance" to charity?

These ladies aren't out buying metal yarn, or taking it home and pumping pencil lead into it (yes, I know pencil lead is actually made of graphite, but you get my drift), they're sitting in front of the telly crocheting baby booties to sell on Etsy, or knitting a baby hat for "Cap for Kids." And in a month, that will all come to an end. 

This is a truly sad day for America. 

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Artisan Series: Hilary's Hope

Some people amaze us as artists, while some artists amaze us as people. This woman does both.

Hilary is a woman of brilliant artistic ability and inspiring inner beauty and strength. She is much like many of us - a stay-at-home mom and part-time artist. She uses her talent to create lovely one-of-a-kind handbags, purses, and even diaper bags. Her bags are true works of art that she puts her heart into, not only with artistic flair, but good solid craftsmanship. This is where Hilary amazes us as an artist. 

But it is in the story behind her work that the artist amazes us as a person. Hilary and her husband Jacob are on a challenging quest - to adopt a child from Ethiopia. When they made the decision to adopt, Hilary got out her sewing machine (actually, it was probably already out), and got to work. "Hilary's Hope" began as an effort to raise money for the adoption process - a young artistic mother's way of contributing to her future child's well-being. We artisans and crafters who sell our work do so for a great variety of reasons, but it touched me to see a woman put so much personal effort and creative abilities, not toward something for herself per say, but for someone she had never yet met. 

I wish that I could say that their pathway has been strewn with roses and lilies, but it is not so. 
They have had days of painful waiting, good days of hearing word that they have been referred to a child, days of hearing someone else has been granted what they most deeply desire, and they have had days of immeasurable grief watching from afar as their soon-to-be-brought-home daughter succumbed to pneumonia after a short, but grueling, battle. 

Their trials and grief have been tremendous, but their faith in God, their sweetness, and their strength have shone like a radiant light. In the midst of even the greatest of personal tragedies, Hilary's Hope continues. They are looking to bring their little son home, and have received word that they have been referred to a new child as well. Hilary is still making her bags, and holding garage sales, and anything else she can do to raise money for the adoption costs. And, amazingly, without bitterness and without defeat, they continue with hope for the future. 

Hilary is truly an inspiring artisan and woman.

If you would like to learn more about Hilary's Hope or read their adoption blog, see:

Friday, 5 December 2008

'Tis the Season to be JOLLY

We have finally made it full swing into the Christmas season - at least the Christmas shopping season. This year is definitely seeing some changes in Christmas shopping habits. Walmart reported that sales were up 3.4% in November, while other, higher end retailers reported slides in figures by as much as 10%. People are looking for basement bargains, and I really can't blame them. My husband and I are having a very lean Christmas this year ourselves, so we know the routine.

There's two sides to this issue that just don't make any sense. The first is this continued need for fancy goods - whether or not people can afford them. The second is the number of people that dismiss simplicity as somehow inappropriate for Christmas. 

Black Friday this year saw unimaginable behavior on the part of shoppers. A temporary holiday employee at a Long Island Walmart is killed and three customers injured in a discount stampede. Even though most people are perfectly aware that everyone is a little more on the "lean" side, shoppers are still out demanding big electronics, silly bath baskets, and monster toys. Have these numerous people ever considered that it really is ok to live within your budget - however simple that might be - with regard to Christmas gifts? How about getting together with family for Christmas - and that's it? How about making gifts yourself this year? 

It is commercialism, and the continual bombardment of adversing that is skillfully designed to play upon human weakness and nature, that convinces us that we need more and more. That what we have is not good enough.  The handmade life isn't just about buying handmade, it's also about simplicity. Enjoying the things around us, the things we already have, our loved ones, the little things in life that are easy to overlook. It's about taking stock, and realizing just how blessed we already are, and choosing to believe, no matter how continually barraged, that what we already have really is enough. 

Just my simple thoughts. 

On a side note: As the shopping season continues, check back here or at my other blog: for fantastic homemade gift ideas that won't break your budget at all, and will be great fun!!

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

The Beauty of Local: Y Cwt Caws

Not all of the people I feature will be local for me, but this one I must, because it holds a special place in my heart. 

Y Cwt Caws is a little company based right close to where I live here in Wales. What exactly is "Y Cwt Caws" you ask? It is Welsh for "The Cheese Hut." It is pronounced " Uh coot cowss," and it represents a small local goats cheese company.

Nigel Jeffries, along with his wife Rhian, are the sole genius and  backbone of this small local produce company. They began three years ago with fifty goats, and a barn converted to a creamery. That's right folks - he raises the goats to get the milk to make the cheese. The reason this particular local company holds a place in my heart is that for the cheese-lover that I am, there is no cheese in the world to compare with this. They make all varieties of goats cheese from feta to soft, almost like cream cheese but softer, to their new line of hard cheese. And they make it better than anyone. Their signature delight is called "Peli Pabo," and is a tub of little round balls of cheese in sunflower oil. I wish I could hand you one through the computer screen so you could have a taste - the richness, the flavour, the texture - all out of this world! 

And definitely out the supermarket.

Their company, almost exclusively, opened my eyes to the possibilities - to what lies out there - when one steps away from the supermarket to explore the vast reaches of the term "local." 

I'm afraid they have no website to view, but take a look at the article written about their company in the North Wales Daily Post, and if you need to contact them, their number is:
01248 410372.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Artisan Series: Weaver from Anglesey, Wales

This woman amazes me. Flat out.

This lovely artisan, a Scottish born weaver, creates true works of textile art at her home on Anglesey, Wales. The piece showing here began as the fleece of one of her very own Jacob Sheep, which she and her husband raise. The sheep was sheered by hand, she then handspun the wool into thread and wove the threads together on her home loom. 

As she says, "The colours are the natural colours which occur in the Jacobs fleece; the dark brown and the white are spun and plied on their own, and the speckle is a strand of both plied together - it is a demonstration of the range of colours that can be obtained from one fleece."

This artisan maintains her own website:
As well as an Etsy shop:

Reason #1: "All Men are Created Equal"

But not all men are treated equal. 

There are a million and a half reasons to shop handmade, local, and fair trade. 

Today's discussion focuses on one very big reason, and generally the first that comes to my mind. The slave labour of China's political prisoners. China has for the longest time failed to comply with the UN's requirements for religious freedom. For decades, it has imprisoned, tortured, killed, and enslaved those people who refuse to comply with the government's mandates regarding religion and religious activity. These are not murderers, thieves, or drug smugglers - they're pastors, church-goers, and if they're smuggling anything, it's Bibles. These are sent for "re-education" through the means of labour. As a fellow Christian, this issue hits me over the head with a 2x4. The thought of a fellow Christian slaving over my mp3 player so that I can cruise with tunes makes my stomach turn. 

Hear what the U.S. State Department had to say in its report on religious freedom in China just last year:

"Police interrogated both laypeople and their leaders about their activities at the meeting sites, in hotel rooms, and in detention centers. Leaders sometimes faced harsher treatment, including detention, formal arrest and sentencing to reeducation or imprisonment."

and again,

"Practitioners who refuse to recant their beliefs are sometimes subjected to harsh treatment in prisons, reeducation through labor camps, and extra-judicial "legal education" centers."

It is very easy in our western mentality to believe that these sorts of things are of the past, but the reality is, they're going on today, every day. When I see that little Made in China sticker, I sometimes wonder - what about the person who put made that? 

If ever there was a good reason to buy local, handmade, or fair trade, that little question is definitely one. 

The two reasons for this blog.

This blog has two purposes.

1) To promote the inspiring handmade goods that I find as I'm cruising the net. It's amazing what people make by hand!

2) To bring to light  the over-commercialism, cheap products, and inhumane working conditions associated with the manufactured lifestyle. 

Have a seat, and have a think.