Yesterday I talked about being an unemployed bride. I also mentioned that I’ve been trying to keep myself as busy as possible so I don’t give into the unemployment misery. So today I’ll share with you one of those things that keeps me busy. I had sort of wanted this blog to be anonymous at first, but when you’re writing about your life that gets difficult pretty quickly. I thought I wanted to keep parts of my life separate and I didn’t want to seem self-promoting either, but whatever. The point of all this is that I have an etsy store! Ta-dah! Aren’t you so excited? That’s what I thought.
For real though, I paint these boxes, and make other products too, and I really enjoy it. I’ve come to realize that people who blatantly promote and embellish all their talents, are inherently more successful. I’m naturally predisposed to be annoyed by people like that, but they always get the last laugh when they have lots of money and accomplishments, and I’m sitting in the dark muttering to myself while I make clothes for my cats. So, I’m adding my etsy shop in my links section, you can check it out over there to the right, farther down, under my blogroll. It’s a big part of me and it’s something I love doing, and now when I say that I’m “working on a bridal box”, you’ll actually know what I’m talking about.
My shop is called Sweet Gum & Oak as a wink and a nod to my deeply missed grandfather. My sister and I were city kids growing up in an apartment in Queens, so when we would go visit my grandparents on Long Island my grandpa assigned us each one of the tall trees in their backyard, because we didn’t have any trees of our own. Mine was a Sweet Gum, my sister’s an Oak, and there they still stand in my grandparents backyard. This fall when my grandmother moves out of the house she has lived in for 58 years another family will inherit those trees, I hope they love them as much as we did.
So yeah, I’m an artist, I have trained myself to say that as much as possible because I have thousands and thousands of dollars in student loans from art school that I’ll be paying off for the rest of my life, so at the very least what that money bought me is the unabashed right to call myself an artist with confidence.
I could paint more “meaningful” art, or stuff that was harder to interpret and therefore seemed more meaningful, but honestly, getting to make these for people’s weddings makes me very happy, and as sappy as it sounds that really means a lot to me.
I love to make things and give them away to people, for years I’ve been doing that, every Christmas my house is like a workshop, and I love when I’m in someone’s home and I see something I painted for them sitting there. It’s like “oh hello old friend, look at you!” (I don’t actually say that out loud because then everyone would know how strange I am, but I always think it). At some point I realized I needed to start charging for my work because it takes a lot of time and supplies.
Etsy is great because while it has some really weird/cheap/bad stuff, it also has some amazing/gorgeous/beautiful stuff too. I have spent hours paging through regretsy, and it can be pretty damn hysterical, I pray to god I never end up on there, and if I do, I hope I can maintain a sense of humor about it.
There is just something different about things that are hand-made, they’re almost always better made, and they just feel special.
Recently while watching the show American Pickers (if you haven’t seen it check it out, it’s on the History channel), there was a moment that really struck me. In the midst of their “picking”, the guys came across some object or other that was hand-made in the USA (I think it was a tin toy), one of the guys then said something to the effect of “It’s important to preserve this stuff so that future generations know this country used to be producers and not just consumers”. For some reason that moment hit me hard, because it’s incredibly sad. Pick up most things in your house and you’ll find that they’ve been made somewhere far, far, away. I’m not talking about beautifully crafted traditional items like Indian scarves, or South American woven blankets—things that are made with love, care, and tradition from other countries. I’m talking about products that were mass-produced for incredibly cheap, and specifically to be marketed to American consumers. These things rarely have any meaning, and in the years to come they won’t have any real value, if they have any now.
It can be expensive to buy hand-made products, just like buying organic vegetables. But a piece of furniture or jewelry, or even a pair of socks, will last much longer (and probably bring you more enjoyment) than a bundle of produce, so it’s worth it. I can tell you that everything I make is made with precise attention, I want to be proud of what I do and I want the person I make it for to feel like it’s unique, because it is. I love that through etsy I get to connect to people all over the world. I’ve sent things as far as Australia, and I love thinking about items I’ve made being sent off to new homes where I hope they’re loved and appreciated.
Maybe the nest time you need to buy a gift, instead of going to the mall you’ll check out etsy.com, there are lots of great sellers on there and I hope to feature some of them specifically. I’m not asking anyone to buy anything from me, I just want to draw your attention to the idea of hand-made products and hope that you’ll check some out. On etsy you deal with real people, so you can customize your gifts and also barter with sellers to create something for you in your budget. Maybe, if we all do that, we can start a revolution, and MADE IN THE USA won’t just be a piece of nostalgia, but a part of America’s future.