Buying Local

Why I do what I do, the value of money, and the Social Responsibility of buying local:

Copper Leaf on Glass

Hand Laid Copper Leaf, subsurface on glass panel. Commercial sample.


It occurred to me this morning that I have truly leveraged my vocation.
By choosing to do work that I am passionate about, I inadvertently earn much more than money. Sure, each time someone buys a portfolio piece from me, they pay me with dollars, but I will also draw value in other significant ways.
The way I see it, I will get paid in experience. In accomplishment. In happiness. In reputation. In enhanced capability. In developed skill. In added perspective. In exposure. In friendship.
When the job is done, if I did it well, I will get the payback of a bit of pride each time I see pictures of the work, or hear a comment on it. Sometimes when others see the pictures of the work, they will ask me to do my work for them, and the cycle will repeat. When I sit somewhere downtown for a beer or a dinner, it’s pretty cool to look out at the urban landscape and see something that I created. That is a big payback.
As a small creative shopsmith who focusses much more on my trade and my work than I do financial matters, this “leveraging” is a good thing, because I could surely make much more actual cash doing something else entirely.

I believe that money is only a unit of measure, an accounting of capacity to purchase, a snapshot of potential power.
Money is a way for folks to “buy” what they cannot make or do, or otherwise have or earn. Money provides the means to sample creativity, ingenuity and passion. Not a way to own these capabilities, but a way to own examples of them, and to support their continued existence in the local community.
Through this lens I find abstract value in my creative work, a measure of worth that is not centered strictly upon my own personal satisfaction, and not measured by the yardstick of the dollar.

I have come to think that this perspective may be in part what drives many creative people to attempt absolute creative success. To strain all available resources for improvement. To continually shoot for perfection. They are not focussed on money, they are being creative. I think that the real reward in creative work comes from within, not approval or payment from outside. The creatives’ need for money is only to keep logistics tidy, a cumbersome interference in the creative process. A necessary evil.

Folks who do not share the creative drive, but still admire, desire, and / or respect it, folks who know that the striving for creative excellence is good for all in a society, folks with the capacity to buy “made” things locally with their money, should do so unabashedly, frequently, and with care, as the money transaction enables the local creative to create further, thus adding something to and for society that only he or she can. Perhaps this is modern-day patronage, a partnership between the enablers, folks with money , and the makers and creative types in the local market.

An awareness of the importance of quality, a developed appreciation of the capacity to create, the seeking out of talent, informing oneself about the investment to be made in both the creative person or shop, and in the society.
These are important responsibilities of the buyer.
This is the value system that the buyer has the power to promote with his money, both in his own self-interest and in the interest of the society as a whole. Perhaps this is not the best moment for a buyer to focus on securing a “good deal”, as typically the creative will thus not be getting a fair deal, and over time this style of interaction will injure the creative person, eventually rendering him or her less capable of offering creativity to the rest of us. Perhaps this is the moment for the buyer to exercise a bit of social responsibility, to empower the creative to continue in his or her development. To get work out on the street that inspires each of us and adds just a bit to our quality of life.
Which is the real asset? The Twenty Dollar Bill, or the ability to create what that bill will be traded for? Perhaps the real asset is a team, forged of the creator and the patron. Both can simply exist independently, but each will prosper with the aid of the other.

This is why we should buy local, buy carefully, buy sportively. This is why folks should think local and skip corporate. This is why thought and awareness matter. This is how the buyer can buy more than just Twenty Dollars worth of something. The Twenty Dollars can help fund a better community. We should actively support the small shop, the hidden artist, the craftsman. Without that support from “the market”, the creative product lines become untenable and will eventually become unavailable to all of us.
Corporate product sales centers of every type are engineered from the ground up to make money. There is a logical place for them and for money in society, but both should serve the society and not at the expense of choices for the rest of us.

Can you bargain for passion?
Seek, find, and support Local.
In my humble opinion, it’s pretty important.

Thanks! – Jim at Artcraft


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