A handmade holiday

What’s Hot: A curated collection of local craft products, all in one place

Who Shows it Off: The Handmade Showroom

Handmade Showroom_shop

What I Love: Kid-sized costumes for year-round play by World of Whimm, goggle hats by Scary White Girl, the elegant curves of a hinged shell by Turn ‘n Burn Arts, the scents of dill and cedar in Jet City Soap by Seattle Sundries


You are passionate about supporting small businesses and local artisans. You have a long list of friends and relatives who managed to be far more nice than naughty this year. You have style. You have kids. You have kids with style. But you also only have 10 shopping days left this holiday season. What do you do?

Your answer can be found at The Handmade Showroom, located on the third floor at Pacific Place downtown.

HS_showroom5
Sales assistant Arika Gloud in The Handmade Showroom’s foods and kitchenware corner

Founded by Marlo Miyashiro (Creative Arts Consulting) and Kayce Quevedo (World of Whimm), this pop-up store features artists and craftspeople working primarily in Washington and Oregon. The showroom is curated like an art gallery, and Quevedo has an exquisite eye for display. A clean, white backdrop frames a wide range of perfect holiday gifts: home décor pieces, clothing, jewelry, bags and wallets, toys, handmade soaps and craft food items.

HS_Collage
Clockwise from top left: items by Thea Starr, Hasenpfeffer, Scary White Girl Designs, Alize and Ivy Designs, The Cat Ball, Seattle Sundries, Glass Elements, World of Whimm, Turn ‘n Burn Arts, and Careful It Bites

The Handmade Showroom opened in June of this year and will be at its current location through December 31. Shop the showroom before it’s too late. But before you do, get a little Handmade history and some (local) shopping tips from Managing Director Miyashiro:

The EM: What made you decide to open a bricks and mortar store for local artists and craftspeople?

MM: We have been working together for the better part of 8 years co-organizing the artists association known Seattle Handmade (formerly etsyRAIN), creating community events and producing craft shows for our members. Collaborating on a physical store together was, in many ways, a natural extension of our years of experience in producing events that support the creative community of Seattle.

The EM: How many vendors/artists do you currently carry? 

MM: We began with around 30 artists when we first opened and today we have over 70!

The EM: You mentioned that you think of the Handmade Showroom as a “gallery.” What are some of the key features and principles of production that you look for when you curate for this space?

MM: Our focus is on finding and showing the best contemporary handmade goods in the Pacific Northwest. When making our decisions about new artists to invite to participate, we look at things like product consistency, material quality, company branding, pricing structure, business professionalism, and category availability to ensure we have a good mix of products and price ranges.

The EM: Who are your customers, and what is the most fun or interesting comment a customer has made? 

MM: When we first started, we assumed most of our business would come from tourists, given the location of the shopping center, but a good majority of our customers work and/or live in the downtown Seattle area. That made us really happy because it means that we will be able to build a following here should we be given the opportunity to stay permanently. Everyone who takes the time to look at the wonderful work we represent tells us how refreshing it is to have a store like ours at Pacific Place Shopping Center. “This is SO needed here.” is one we hear often. We happen to agree!

The EM: Do you plan to look for a permanent home or keep this store as a pop-up? If the latter, do you envision expanding, and how?

MM: We are currently in negotiations to secure a full-time lease! We are hopeful that we have proven our worth over the last six months and are given the opportunity to grow our business here in downtown Seattle. As far as expansion goes, the super-big hope/dream/vision is to open up locations in other major metropolitan cities, representing artists in those areas and curating collections like the one we have here. Just thinking about it is exciting and scary, but that would be so amazing!

The EM: Any great merchandise ideas/tips for holiday shoppers?

MM: Our fabulous Digital Media Manager, Michaela Rose (who also happens to be one of our artists), has recently launched a “12 Days of Handmade” campaign on our Facebook page. It’s a really great way to get to know what we have for holiday gift giving!

The EM: What will spell success for The Handmade Showroom?

MM: Success for The Handmade Showroom would be to have an established location with profitable earnings while holding true to our focus on quality handmade goods. All we need is the support of our community to make that happen. Here’s to a wonderful Handmade Holiday Season!

Waterproof wit

No Woman
“No Woman Needs a Hero” by Ugly Baby

What’s Hot: A shot of sass with your suds

Who makes it: Rosalie Gale of Ugly Baby

What I love: A daily reminder that I’m the hero of  my own story–or at least my own shower


I could have used an Ugly Baby back in my freshman year of college. I lived at the library, but slept in a 5’ x 10’ box with a wobbly bunk bed and a scuffed built-in desk. Some long gone co-ed had etched C + F in the center of my side of the desk, leaving me to wonder if this was a reflection of her love life or her academic performance. At the far end, across from the door, a tiny window offered a sweeping view of the cafeteria’s back wall. My Bonne Bell Bit-O-Honey Lip Smacker (dating myself here) and my roommate Margaret’s balled-up socks comingled in the air. The shower we shared with the girls on our floor was even grimmer. I remember climbing down from the upper bunk in the gloom of a Michigan winter morning, shuffling to the shower room, turning on the fluorescent overheads, and staring blankly at blank tile as the water went from 0 degrees to 60 in the course of my scrubdown. On those mornings, I could have used a sparkly reminder to “focus” or “floss, bitch.” “Follow your bliss or else” in big bold grape could have jump-started my day. But this was before I discovered coffee, and too long before I discovered Ugly Baby.

Ugly Baby waterproof art for the shower is the brainchild of Seattle comedian and artist Rosalie Gale.

Ugly Baby shower art
Wall of shower art by Ugly Baby

These soap-shaped rubber babies with suction cups attached to their backsides mount easily in your shower and offer daily dividends. The word “butt” curls over a tiny plastic figure swimming in glitter. (She’s facing away, of course. The one facing towards us says “muff.”) A unicorn kicks at “sweet ride” or “how I roll” against a sunset backdrop. Each piece combines Jolly Rancher colors with a fortune cookie message that’s equal parts sass and snark. They are the perfect pick-me-up for a drizzly Seattle morning—and we have a lot of those.

The Ugly Baby and La Ru store
The Ugly Baby and La Ru store

Gale is master of more than the drip dry. The Ugly Baby line includes prints, cards, buttons, and t-shirts. Sneak down behind Pike Place Market to the Ugly Baby and La Ru storefront on Western Avenue and walk right into Gale’s sublime sense of humor.

Coffee-drinking slot by La Ru
“Coffee!” by La Ru

Ugly Baby shares its space and its whimsical aesthetic with artist Lauren Rudeck of La Ru. La Ru features “cute animals and fighting” and other ass-kicking kick-starters. Anyone looking for stocking stuffers for the discerning bather or sloth-lover will find them—and a hundred other items to bring a smile—right here.

Ugly Baby’s Rosalie Gale recently shared what gets her out of bed in the morning.

The EM: You’re an “ex-stand-up comedian.” How has this informed what you do now?

RG: Comedy is an essential element of my work, so my background in stand up comedy is helpful. Many times, I have created shower art pieces that are based on jokes I used to tell on stage. It’s fun to try and figure out a way to translate the humor into a visual medium.

The EM: When did you start making shower art? What prompted the idea?

RG: My husband, Doug, and I invented shower art is 2007. I was bored in the shower and when I came out, I said, “There should really be something you can look at while you’re in there.” We decided to figure out how to make it and set off on an adventure that has lasted eight years so far. 

The EM: I’ve got to ask. What is the story behind the “Ugly Baby” logo? 

RG: The “Ugly Baby” is Douglas Gale on the day he was born. That really unfortunate picture surfaced about the same time that we were trying to decide on a name for our business. People sometimes argue that the cartoon logo version is not actually an ugly baby. When that happens, I show them the original image and no one has ever argued. 

The EM: What materials do you use and what is the process for creating your shower art pieces?

RG: Shower art is made out of rubber, glitter, discarded toys and a fair amount of sarcasm. We create them in molds and build them up in layers. We have to put in all the letters upside down and backwards, which means we make a lot of mistakes. All the boo-boos are hanging up in our own shower.

The EM: What are your best sellers?

RG: Hands down: “Floss Bitch”, “Go Get Your Almost Equal Pay”, “Poop Like No One is Watching”, and anything with our roller skating unicorn. 

The EM: How have you expanded your line from waterproof shower art, and what are your plans for Ugly Baby’s future?

RG: We make all of our shower art pieces by hand, but we also have a line of products that share similar designs and themes that are not made by hand. Our friend Barry Blankenship translates our ideas into great t-shirts. We also have prints, postcards, stickers, buttons, magnets, cross stitch kits and embroidery floss holders. Once a shower art design becomes really popular, we turn it into all of these supplemental products that we can easily sell wholesale. 

The EM: As a local small business owner who makes her own product, what are your biggest challenges? Do you plan to stay relatively small or scale up and do wholesale to bigger stores?

RG: Time management! I do have a handful of wholesale accounts, but I really prefer to sell directly to my customers, so I don’t actively pursue that side of my business.

The EM: You share your store with another small business, La Ru. The two lines seem to work really well together. What are the pros and cons of sharing your space with another independent artist and her work?

RG: We aren’t a partnership in the traditional sense. We are two separate businesses that share a retail space. That set-up makes some things more complicated;  our employees work for both businesses and we have two separate payroll accounts. But it means we each retain total control over our own businesses.

That said, Lauren and I have really complimentary skills. She works in architecture, so she was able to communicate with the [Seattle Historic Preservation] board about our plans for the [store]. I do web development and built our website. It’s nice to have someone else to share ideas with, and to know that you’re not on this journey alone.


Where to find it:

You can purchase Ugly Baby merchandise on the Ugly Baby and La Ru website (where you’ll find links to Twitter and Facebook), or Etsy. (Use coupon code: ILIKEYA for a 20% friends & family discount.)

The Ugly Baby and La Ru store is located at 1430 Western Avenue in Seattle. It’s worth stopping by to get the full experience, but the following stores in Seattle and Portland also carry Ugly Baby items:

Retrofit Home         Biscuit Bitch     The Handmade Showroom

Schmancy     Monster Art & Clothing     Presents of Mind

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The seaside in a shop window

What’s hot: Elegant, handmade jewelry inspired by the sea

Who makes it: Alexa Allamano of Foamy Wader

gold earrings with coral
Foamy Wader peacock earrings,

What I love: Peacock feathers earrings with peach coral

Walk by Foamy Wader when high noon casts low light and the day is cocooned in grey. Your eye will catch on a glint of gold. The shop window draws passerby to the sea, and reminds those who stop that even the smallest, most delicate thing can awaken summer.

Bracelets_Foamy WaderThe shop’s owner, Alexa Allamano, makes jewelry “inspired by the seaside.” Her work is elegant and unabashedly romantic. Allamano favors the warmth of gold, simple lines that mime coastlines and currents, and natural gemstones for a splash of color: aquamarine and sunny citrine, moss amethyst, London blue topaz, iridescent labradorite. Along with color that recalls the sun and sea, Allamano often incorporates nautical touches such as anchors and sailors’ knots. A signature piece is a pendant with clusters of gems that “mimic sea foam.” Her pieces, mostly necklaces, bracelets, and earrings with a 14 karat gold fill or sterling silver base, are lightweight and highly wearable. They transition easily from day casual to evening special.

Necklace with gemstones

Birds_Foamy Wader Star necklace_Foamy wader

Eight years ago, jewelry was a hobby for Allamano. Weekdays, she worked at Washington Mutual.  At high tide of the financial crisis, J.P. Morgan Chase scooped up the beleaguered Seattle bank’s assets, leaving thousands of WaMu employees in its wake. Allamano was one of them. “I got fired. And then I got fired up.”

As her hobby evolved into full-time work, Allamano—a native of this coastal city—carefully crafted a simple seaside aesthetic. Foamy Wader jewelry sold well on Etsy, so Allamano ventured into the craft fair world with Urban Craft Uprising in 2009. Building on her wholesale and trunk show successes, she opened her own store last year. “After years of treading water,” she tells me, “It was time for me to drop anchor.”

Alexa Allamano in front of her shop
Alexa Allamano in front of her shop

Foamy Wader on 55th Street NE in the Bryant neighborhood hides a roomy workspace in the back, where Allamano makes her jewelry when she isn’t selling it on the road.  “Now that I have this big workspace, I can experiment,” she reveals. “I’m learning how to solder and to weave, and getting set up to do larger pieces, such as wall hangings. I’d like to branch out into home décor.”

Meanwhile, the generous south-facing windows up front allow Allamano to indulge her gift for display. Pieces dangle over the lips of seashells, nestle in coral next to tarnished boxes–sunken treasure. Go find it.


Where to find it:

The Foamy Wader shop is located at 2612 NE 55th Street in Seattle

Foamy Wader website (Check here or at the Foamy Wader Facebook page for craft show appearances and shops that carry Foamy Wader jewelry)

Foamy Wader Etsy

Come on baby, let’s do the Orange Twist

What’s hot: Bold whimsy and year-round Valentines on recycled stockprint with Zut Alors written on it

Who makes it: Claire Jauregui of Orange Twist

What I love: The “Zut Alors!” print–bien sûr!


Claire Jauregui’s work is bold, bright, and fun. Her handmade screen-printed designs marry a sense of play with dense, serious color; they send a message. And that’s the idea. Jauregui has enclosed happy birthdays, holiday wishes, and sweet Valentines in her unique handmade cards since she was in elementary school.

artist in her studio
Claire Jauregui in her studio

Jauregui’s interests in writing and art endured, and she expanded from colored pencils to other media. She wrote freelance, worked in a gallery, experimented with acrylics. She made more cards for friends and family members. Not long after she moved to Seattle, a friend suggested that she try screen printing. After honing her skills in screen printing and monoprinting as an artist-in-residence at Pratt Fine Arts Center, Jauregui established Orange Twist in 2008. Since then, card-carrying

two figures in front of a hear

Seattleites have come to treasure her distinctive products: a pair of mooning Sasquatches for a monster-sized love, or a “Made in Washington” onesie for a Seattle newbie. Because Jauregui is also committed to keeping her environmental impact low, Orange Twist products are made with 100% post-consumer recycled paper and organic cotton, and printed with nontoxic ink.

Father's Day greeting card

Claire Jauregui is busy these days, creating new cards, prints, temporary tattoos and babywear designs for her wholesale and online customers. But she recently took time to chat with The Emerald Miner about her Seattle-based business.

The EM: You pull off visual double plays (a heart-shaped steak) and occasionally borrow from familiar graphics (the carnival popcorn bag). What sources spark your designs?

CJ: I draw inspiration from puns, absurdities, slogans, memories from growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, colloquialisms, vintage ad design, propaganda posters, television shows, and literature. I also get ideas while printing and layering prints on top of each other. In September I took a month to focus on making work without expectations and without a set style in mind. It was a great way to reconnect with open ended creativity, and I plan to incorporate more experimentation into my creative practice.

The EM: What are the main challenges of keeping your business sustainable and the product materials organic and recyclable?

CJ: Pricing and aesthetic considerations are the biggest challenges in my business.

The EM: Do you plan to expand your product line, either in paper, clothing, or other materials?

CJ: I love paper and how it’s a very straightforward substrate with endless possibilities. I plan to create a bunch of new poster prints in the next year. Longer term, I’m interested in writing and/or illustrating books and designing a fabric collection. Currently I make almost everything Orange Twist offers in house, but longer term, I’d love to design items that foster creativity and collaboration.

The EM:  Do you hope to open your own storefront and/or get picked up by big box stores, or do you prefer to stay small?many-hands-light-work-print-450x450

CJ: I absolutely want to keep my hands actually making items, so in my mind this means I’ll stay small. While I’m interested in collaborations and licensing for books or fabric lines that I do not manufacture, I always want to have a part of my business that creates certain products from start to finish. There’s something magical about thinking of an idea and nurturing it into a tangible object.

The EM: Cards are an old-fashioned way of fostering connection (through the individuality of handwriting, the tactility of paper, the thoughtfulness required to write a message vs to tweet one). How has Orange Twist fostered connections for you?

CJ: Orange Twist has helped me make friends in the craft and small manufacturing community. It’s an incredibly supportive community and full of people who are generous with sharing tips, ideas, and experiences.

The EM: Do you find that people still like to send and receive paper greetings and slo-mail messages, or is that generational?

CJ: Cards reach across generational lines and hold a special space whether you’re old or young. The majority of my customers are younger people. What I love about cards is that they can be so many things—art, ephemera, heartfelt, spur-of-the moment, trivial, personal, impersonal—they are a great way to both express oneself while also considering the recipient. It’s a wonderfully personalized and unique experience to receive a handwritten card, and I feel privileged and lucky every time someone chooses to send an Orange Twist card.


picture of Space needle
art this post by Orange Twist

Where to find it:

For a list of places where you can find Orange Twist items, check Where To Buy at orangetwistcards.com.


Local body care for every (local) body

What’s hot: High-quality, hand-crafted, all-natural body products made here 

Who makes it:  Joan Johnson, Founder of Olive Branch Body Care

What I love: All-Natural Illuminating Color  (color for lips and cheeks in a handy little pot) and All-Natural Anti-Aging & Restoring Face Wash (smells fresh and gets that make-up OFF)


Sales come naturally to Joan Johnson. At five, she got a hand-cranked sewing machine and set out to sew diaper covers for the neighbors to buy. She made clay pins in high school to sell to classmates. She blazed a trail to corporate retail, honing skills in finance, procurement, and distribution to help grow small businesses. Eventually, she combined her retail background with a passion for baking to grow a small business of her own.

Joan Johnson
Joan Johnson, Founder of Branch Body Care

“I used to admire Betty Crocker bakers who experimented with ingredients and how they react together to come up with their recipes,” Johnson tells me, although the recipes she develops aren’t for dessert. “My family was paying a lot of money for skin care products that were sticky and heavy, didn’t absorb that well, and used a lot of artificial ingredients.” By 2008, she was concocting natural products for her family. Two years later, Johnson established Olive Branch Body Care, a skin care line derived from botanical ingredients and handmade in small batches to keep them “fresh and potent.”

Not all skin is created equal,” Johnson remarks, which is why she not only went natural, but created products for specific skin challenges, such as acne, aging, and rosacea. About 50% of the products we apply to skin, our largest organ, are absorbed by our internal organs. Occasionally, artificial ingredients set off a negative chemical reaction and an allergy blow-up. Knowing this, Johnson is vigilant about testing ingredients for allergic reaction. (Olive Branch offers both SPF and non-SPF products, for example, as some consumers are allergic to titanium.) “The difference with natural products,” Johnson continues, “is that the body’s cellular structure responds to them, and can even sometimes change and improve the cellular structure over time.”

Although touted as the magic bullet of anti-aging skin care, retinol extracts a price–and not just in dollars. Retinol A produced in a lab is harsher on the skin than natural vitamin A. For rosacea sufferers, the cost is even higher: Retinol A inflames their sensitive skin. And then there’s acne. Some of us who thought we’d left it behind in high school have experienced an unhappy reunion in middle age. So Johnson has developed products such as Anti-Acne & Restoring Natural Face Wash and Scrub with salicylic acid and jojoba, as well as Anti-Aging & Restoring Natural Face Cream (a bestseller), with such ingredients as chicory root, algae extract, and plant-derived amino acids.

Farmer’s markets and street fairs sell an array of homemade products, but Olive Branch Body Care is backed by the FDA, Johnson’s rigorous research, and consultation with a professional supplier of high end commercial body care. “Whenever I hear about a new ingredient, I evaluate it to see how it could be integrated into my line.” In addition, the packaging is clean, elegant, and smart: fingertips stay out of the product to keep bacteria at bay.

Olive Branch Body Care products
Olive Branch Body Care products

Olive Branch Body Care offers over a 100 products, and grows yearly by word-of-mouth.   The business allows Johnson to be both creative and analytical, but “her biggest joy is the ability to make a difference in someone’s life.”  A mother bought the All-Natural Shea Body Butter for her son, who had eczema. “She came back the next day to let me know that she already saw a difference. When you find something that works, you want to tell everyone.”


Where to find it:

The Emerald City in Slow Forward

The hulking exoskeleton of the old Seattle Gas Light Company in Gas Works Park is a dramatic reminder of the Emerald City’s industrial past.  My favorite such landmarks, however, is the ZymoGenetics building, perched across the way on the eastern edge of Lake Union with its six smokestacks lined up like tin soldiers marching against time. The building now houses big pharma biotech. Once upon a time, it was the Lake Union Steam Plant, generating power for Seattle’s growing urban core.

ZymoGenetics Building
ZymoGenetics

Many more modest facades stamped the city’s manufacturing and mid-century economic identity onto the city’s geography. A block-long commercial building that held the Cedar Street bakery during the Great Depression balances its utilitarian nature with a little Art Deco whimsy. In 1937, the Washington Quilt Manufacturing Company moved into the stoic White & Hitchcock Building on 1st and Bell, at a time when textiles and outdoor clothing manufacture, of which REI and Eddie Bauer are legacies, were among Seattle’s biggest industries.

Perhaps the image I most associated with Belltown when I first moved to Seattle in 1990 was the looping, bold red script that spelled out “Skyway” on the front of a low-slung box at Western and Wall.

Skyway Luggage
Skyway Luggage

That sign soared up and to the right, all forward motion. Founded in 1910 as the Seattle Suitcase Trunk and Bag Manufacturing Company, the family-owned business took off as air travel became a middle class reality, creating handheld bags and suitcases “Built for the Sky.” Skyway Luggage lived and worked in this city for nearly five decades. Now, the Skyway name belongs to Ricardo Beverly Hills, and the building itself, still hunched on a steep grade in the heart of Belltown, is owned by a global holding company based in the Philippines.

Few places boom and bust like Seattle. In the past couple of decades, a forest of high rise condominiums overshadowed these ghosts of Seattle’s manufacturing heyday. And as more production moved offshore and storefronts emptied, locals wondered if local manufacturing was a bust. Not so fast. While the scale is smaller and the activity less centralized, local manufacturing is chasing a boom in the city’s neighborhoods.

pretzel croissant from Coyles
The Coyles Cretzel

The Cedar Bakery left Cedar Street long ago.  Coyle’s Bakeshop, on the other hand, lives in an old storefront on Greenwood Ave N. Coyle’s offers up fresh, handmade baked goods, including the ingenious “cretzel,” an improbable and delightful marriage of croissant air and pretzel crunch.

In Ballard, owner/maker Matt Noren at Tarboo sews the quintessential northwest button-down plaid shirt.

plaid shirt
Tarboo Red Buffalo Plain Flannel
man sewing at machine
Matt Noren of Tarboo

And because he does this at a sewing machine on the floor of his store, customers have the rare treat of to seeing a textile selected, a garment constructed.

Skyway travel bags aren’t made in Seattle anymore, but local Alchemy Goods upcycles bicycle inner tubes and seatbelts for slick, sturdy messenger bags, backpacks, totes and accessories. (My own AG “Queen Anne” wallet is nearly six years old, and still looks new. This, despite serious wear and tear in the credit card slots.)

messenger bag
AG Jefferson Messenger Bag

I’ll feature specific products and individual local businesses such as these in future posts, but this week I want to let you know about an organization that supports all things Seattle Made. This local nonprofit, originally an alliance of 100 Seattle-based manufacturers, formed in 2014 “to grow and support a diverse ecosystem of urban manufacturers and producers that expand opportunities for local ownership and meaningful employment, build our region’s long-term resiliency, and celebrate Seattle’s unique cultural identity.” Seattle Made Week, a huge week-long celebration of local businesses, wraps up today, but check out this excellent site anytime for information about hundreds of Seattle movers and makers: SeattleMade.org.

Like the old Skyway sign, the Emerald City looks like it’s in forward motion again.

See you next week!

The Emerald Miner: Mining Your Local Gems Since 2015

I live in Seattle, the Emerald City. Seattle’s white collar renaissance grew from the drive westward and deep blue collar roots. It is a city at a providential post, built on invention and an abundance of earthly and maritime stock. Seattle is also a city of neighborhoods, many with busy farmer’s markets and quirky stores fronting a wealth of local goods. This place has changed dramatically in the three decades since it got its official nickname, extending its international reach and the products and services that fuel its economy. But there are still plenty of local gems in the Emerald City, and they’re well worth mining. Here are just a few benefits of consuming on the local level when you can:

  • High quality and freshness
  • Personal service
  • Product diversity
  • Lower environmental cost
  • A competitive marketplace, which means more competitive pricing
  • A greater economic and personal stake in the place where we live

Those of us most determined to boost our native economy by shopping locally have to rely on word of mouth, social media buzz, or happy accident as we wander craft fairs and farmer’s markets. And too often, it just seems easier and quicker to go online and one-click our way to products made in Bangladesh, shipped (for “free”) long distances, flown yet more distance, shrink-wrapped and boxed, and trucked to our doorsteps. And it is often easier—for us. It is often quicker—for us. But is it smarter for any but the corporations behind the click?

Hamlet_vs_Amazon

Sustainable Connections, in its “Top Ten Reasons to Think Local – Buy Local – Be Local,” tells us that

a growing body of economic research shows that in an increasingly homogenized world, entrepreneurs and skilled workers are more likely to invest and settle in communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character.

And while you can conveniently purchase some unique goods from small businesses via Amazon and other large online retailers, there are often serious trade-offs for those business owners and workers who supply these retailers, and for consumers who never leave their laptops to go look at what’s in store. As small businesses and storefronts close, civic life grows to a close. Our choices about what and how to consume narrow. And we lose the many sensory pleasures and discoveries of the physical marketplace:  the smell of small batch bread or soap or spirits, the texture of a boiled wool jacket draped around ones shoulders by the woman who made it, homemade honey from backyard bees.

This is not to ignore that we live in a global economy, but to embrace the merits of the local economy as a player, while resisting the assumptions of the global marketplace, which tell us that speed, convenience, homogeneity, and low cost outweigh craft, sustainability, variety, and low wages. In his book, The News, philosopher and cultural critic Alain de Botton asks us to remember that the goods produced by a factory in south-east China are cheap not because of technological ingenuity, but because the workers who produce them “suffer grievously from a condition that economists would politely call ‘a lack of pricing power’—and we might more frankly identify as desperation.” He goes on to note that when

labour is subdivided into ever smaller parts, when whole careers are devoted to turning out objects [or ways of selling those objects] which will affect another’s well-being for only a second or not at all, then meaning suffers. Not that the stock markets would care; they would reply that meaning should be something reserved for the weekend.

I’d like to reserve a little meaning for my Mondays, too. I’d like to live in a city where big box and big online are not my only shopping options. I’d like to help ensure that there are viable workplaces in our future that don’t mimic the factories of our past. I’d like for my downtown to be more than a global corporate headquarters. And if I want all of those things, I’ve got to put my money where my mouth(iness) is. I invite you to join me.

Welcome to the The Emerald Miner, your destination for homegrown, handmade, hot stuff from right here in the Emerald City and around town. Each week, I’ll introduce you to a local craftsman or woman–an entrepreneur, a maker–the products that he or she makes, and where to find them. As the site grows, I’m hoping that you’ll send me tips on some of your local favorites, too.

To meaningful consumption and happy discoveries! See you next week.