Buying local + handmade

Making a case to shop for local, handmade goods.

I don’t remember the specific date, but I remember falling in love with one of my favourite pieces of clothing at the Shipyards Night Market in North Vancouver. It was a Friday night, it was cold, and I was grateful to stretch my legs and get the heck out of my apartment. I’d just finished enjoying some mac and cheese from one of the food trucks there that evening, and I was wanting to walk off the calories. So, I headed to the other side of the market where there were some stalls that I had yet to look at.

Anyone who knows me well knows how much I like to shop – well, at least I used to. I don’t shop as much anymore, but when I’m out shopping, I’m always either searching for a bargain, or a one-of-a-kind piece no one else would have. With this in mind, I started browsing the tables and racks until I found one area with an aesthetic that stood out to me.

I didn’t blink when I’d spotted it: a cute beige scarf with these funny, kind of chubby foxes printed all over it. I touched it, and found it soft and cozy. It made me want to throw my hair in a messy bun, rock a chunky-knit sweater, and get all “basic.” There was something so charming about this scarf that made me actually want to have it.

I looked for the tag. It said $20. Shut up and take my money.

That scarf has been so many places with me. I’ve worn it to work, I’ve travelled with it; I’ve managed to get good use out of it. Even now (I’m guessing I’ve had it for at least four or five years) I still get compliments. And this is going to sound weird, but out of the handful of scarves I own, this particular scarf makes me happy. I highly doubt anyone owns the same piece, I know it was crafted locally (I believe the woman I bought it from was one of the few at the market who was from the North Shore), and let’s face it – it is a stinkin’ cute piece. Since then, I’ve been sucked into purchasing handmade, local goods, and I’m less likely to head to a chain shop to grab pieces. This is not to say that I don’t shop at big box stores – there are some things I leave to them – but when I can get a cute pin, earrings, or a customized mason jar from someone local, I’m totally cool with that.

The most prominent piece of feedback I’ve heard from people I’ve discussed this topic with has been, “okay, the item may be designed locally, but is it actually created locally?” One example of this, perhaps, would be the mason jar I just mentioned. The jar may have its design created locally, but some might argue that because the jar was made outside of the city, it’s not 100% local. I honestly think this is nitpicky: the whole point is to support local businesses, who probably have only so many options when obtaining supplies. I don’t think most mason jar makers create their jars in their backyard. (Although, if there is a place that does that…holy crow.) And even then, would that stop the naysayers from asking, “well, where do you get the materials from to make those jars?”

I know a lot of local crafters in Metro Vancouver are keen to ensure their products are as sustainable as possible, which is a whole other story. (For the record, I am more likely to go out of my way to buy that person’s goods if they are sustainable, eliminate as much waste as possible, and tick off a whole bunch of other ethical boxes, but that’s for another post.)

If you haven’t had the chance to check out the local crafting talent, I’d recommend it. You can find all kinds of artisan goods these days, whether that’s an enamel pin, a necklace, a custom mug…you name it, it’s probably out there. Take the time to peruse the ads or the events section on your Facebook page to see what fairs and local markets are coming up near you. I actually managed to find events on Etsy – not long after that I got suckered into buying stuff off that site, and I’ve yet to be disappointed. What have you got to lose? It’s always fun to support your local peeps.

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