This past weekend I attended my area's local summer arts fair, the SoNo Arts Celebration in Connecticut. It has grown significantly from when I first moved to this area, which is very exciting, both for me as a shopper and for the artists. Selling directly to customers means that not only do artisans get to connect with their customers and clients, but they get to hear what those customers need and want, which is invaluable feedback for any businessperson. And those who buy get to meet and chat with (and maybe better understand the artwork) of the artists who they are buying from. It's just simply more fun for both parties than selling anonymously.
I went looking for a gift for my father's upcoming 70th birthday. It's a big one, and I wanted to find something that respected the celebration, and also telegraphed the sense of place where I am to where he lives in Australia.
After walking around for awhile, admiring and considering both useful and purely decorative art, I bought a beautiful, handmade wooden bowl from North Mountain Woodworks, based out of Swoope, Va., for my father's gift.
Along with meeting the person who actually made it, I received information about how to care for the piece, so that it would last for years to come. It is made from a single piece of wood that was found on the land where Andy and Leah Rhodes run their business from, and is a usable piece of art from the Eastern American woodlands, which are very different from where my father lives in Australia (also a woodsy area, known there as "the bush").
From my woodlands to his, it's a perfect — and useful — gift, made by hand. It made me think how our local arts festivals are one of the few places left to meet the people who make what we use, know that the money we hand over goes directly to them, and to participate in a one-on-one economy that directly supports local businesses.
Related arts story on MNN: 14 artists with a green message