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Gifting Handmade

Gifting Handmade

Gifting Handmade

December/January 2021 issue of American Craft magazine
Author Sarah Schultz
Gifting Handmade Cover Graphic

While the last 10 months have been filled with upheaval and loss, they have also offered the unexpected gift of connecting more deeply to what is essential. And if there was ever a moment to step up and support craftspeople and artists, it is now.

As someone who is not an artist, I deeply value the creative process and view the act of making as an expression of optimism and hope. The crafted objects in my house – the ceramic vase filled with flowers from my garden, the woven runner on the dining table where I now work, the wooden sculpture that serves no purpose other than delight – seem to embody that spirit. Since March, these things have been my constant daily companions, reminding me of life and making me feel a little less alone in the world.

I’ve been trying to pay this feeling forward. In this distanced time, I’ve stayed connected by sending family and friends artwork. The in-person shows I cherish attending have moved online until we can gather again. And so, I’m discovering new artists in new places. When a friend moved into a new home, I brought them a handmade broom from an artist in Montana. When another had a child, I gifted a handwoven baby blanket destined to become an heirloom. While I’ve been buying work to support artists, I’ve also tried to show up and pay attention, to be a cheerleader and fan. I follow exhibitions that have moved online, send notes of congratulations and encouragement, and listen and learn from the ways that so many artists are confronting the social injustices and tensions in our culture.

Grid screenshots taken during San Francisco Bay Area Craft Week Maker Meetups

↑ Artists show their work at the ACC’s virtual San Francisco Bay Area Craft Week. Top row: Sam Woehrmann, Stacey Lee Webber, Sarita Westrup. Middle row: Briana of Sun & Lace, Agelio Batle, Jenny Fong. Bottom row: Avery Williamson, Susan McKinney, Cedric Mitchell.

Many artists are struggling to make a living right now, or even to get into the studio. Many find themselves removed from their communities. We need to support them, and – in this giving season – we can let them know that what they do is life-giving and important.

Gifting handmade work is a powerful act that not only keeps artists going as independent business owners, but also keeps us going. Artists help us make sense of things and give us permission to step away from the ordinary. We rely on them to bring beauty, truth, and light into the world.

Sarah Schultz is the executive director of the American Craft Council.

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