Sunday, February 06, 2011

The Why and How-To for Handmade Gifts

The milestones and celebrations of life ask for gifts that signify or lend equal importance. Birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, graduations, reunions all spring to mind as occasions for gifts that will inspire and leave memories worth remembering in their wake. Store-bought arts and crafts tend to evoke less meaningful reactions from friends and loved ones; hence their tendency to wind up in a landfill. For those up to the task, the handmade gifts remains a creative alternative sure to make the best impression: a heartfelt one.

Here are a few reasons why handmade gifts, be they hand-woven baskets or personally sculpted rings and bracelets, make the best gifts:

1. It’s personal

Hearkening back to those famous lines from The Godfather, there’s a difference between what business is and what’s personal. Following that logic, a store-bought gift feels artificial and business-like; a handmade gift lends personality to the occasion. A personalized gift says it all to your friend or loved one: “you matter, because I spent time and effort on a gift for you.” It’s something from the heart, and unlike a trinket made in China, it’s memorable (and, maybe as or importantly, it doesn’t contribute to the U.S. trade deficit with certain countries in the Far East).

2. It’s probably cheaper

Probably. Unless you’re recreating the Mona Lisa or Michelangelo’s David, paper mache, paper, thread, even the constituent parts required of metalwork and art collectively cost less in small portions. Then again, why go cheap if the intention is to inspire genuine smiles and warmth? Other than engagement rings and graduation gifts, handmade gifts present the gift-giver with a great excuse to go big or go home.

3. It’s probably green

Particularly if the intended recipient is a Gen-Y’er, environmentally conscious, vegetarian, or vegan, a handmade gift is the right choice for the right reasons: it will inspire the recipient’s inner hippie and leave our world a bit less polluted. An important caveat to remember: if a green philosophy is the centerpiece of your masterpiece, just make sure its overall impact on energy consumption and the environment really is zero, or as close to it as possible. Nothing is as cringe-worthy as a widely panned gift with honorable intentions.

4. It may support a starving artist

You don’t have to go far in your community to meet the artist whose passion is art. Even if you don’t make a handmade gift, buying one at a local store will contribute back to your community by encouraging the production and sale of local art. With the economy lingering on in recovery mode, many artists and artisans, devoid of wealthy benefactors or corporate sponsors, find themselves with empty wallets and in desperate straits. All the more reason to avoid the big business of mass-produced effects and steal the show with a humble token straight from the heart of Americana.

5. Making it will probably relieve stress

The process of creation is known to relieve stress and promote positive energy. If you, in your role as gift-giver, make the threaded bracelet, portrait, or basket, you’ll in all likelihood save yourself a future trip to the doctor or gym. Who says gift-giving can’t be a two-way street?

So you’re convinced that you’d like to give that special someone, friend, or family member a handmade jewelry gift. Where to start? There’s no guide that contains all the ideas on earth for a great handmade gift, so the best place to start is with what the intended gift recipient likes or would like. What’s their passion? Likes? Just as importantly, what are their dislikes? A heartfelt gift is one that begins, after all, with the heart.