As the winter festivals approach, our thoughts turn to shopping for presents and festive meals.
In the internet age, it’s so tempting to sit at home, shopping online at multinationals, chain stores and supermarkets and having everything delivered.
Easy peasy. No fighting for parking spaces and elbowing our way through crowds or worrying that the presents we want to give might be sold out.
But have you ever considered purchasing beautiful, hand-crafted, individual gifts and treats instead?
Rather than lining the coffers of corporate organisations – which are not always as diligent as they should be in paying tax – you could support independent makers and producers in your community, keeping finance and jobs in the local economy.
My home city of Nottingham has a proud craft heritage, with its history of lace making. Some of the mills once used for this are now home to creative collectives making and selling unique designs in everything from digital art to handmade jewellery and knitwear.
Many towns and cities across the UK and beyond have a similar movement, signalling a return to the marketing of products direct from artists and makers, who often take turns at staffing the shop in which they sell.
There’s also a growing number of small, independent gift shops and galleries which support local makers and offer a fantastic range of gorgeous gifts, some of which can be personalised or made to commission.
Small Business Saturday is an annual celebration in the UK, and takes place in 2015 on 5th December. Many shops, cafés and services will have special offers, competitions and activities to mark this day. So do look out for businesses in your high street, market town or village which are marking this event. With five million small businesses in the UK, there’s bound to be something happening near you.
Quality craft fairs are another source of gift shopping, where you can meet the maker and find out about the passion that drives their craft skills.
These are frequently held at stately homes, making for a great day out at the same time. You can do your festive shopping at the same time as absorbing some historical culture or enjoying a walk in glorious landscapes.
So as well as seriously reducing the stress of festive shopping, you can actually do something to actively combat stress and improve your physical wellbeing in the process.
Find fresh food locally
Farm shops and farmers’ markets are other great sources of fresh, locally grown and high-welfare foodstuffs – again, often direct from the producers who really care about their animals, land and crops.
Many farmers are struggling to make a living from land which has been in their families for generations, and if we can support them by buying our festive meat or vegetables from them, this is a small action which can make a big difference in their families’ lives.
Even if internet shopping is a necessity for you, there are online craft marketplaces like Etsy and Folksy which host hundreds of web shops run by artists and craftspeople directly engaged and invested in making what they sell. So you’re guaranteed great customer service.
Some people think that arts and crafts goods are too expensive, but many makers offer a range of items to suit different budgets, and even seemingly expensive pieces equate to fantastic value when you consider the cost of raw materials, training, expertise, time and care which goes into making.
Factor in that the makers are doing this out of love for their medium and tradition, and you have a guilt-free purchase devoid of any concerns about exploitative labour.
Could you commit to buying at least some of your festive purchases from a local maker or producer?
Your custom will be met with deep gratitude and you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you have directly supported someone who pours love, care and talent into every article they make or grow.
Find out more…