It’s always good to try and spot a silver lining, no matter how big the cloud… and there are few clouds bigger than the Covid-shaped one that’s going on right now. The lockdown has definitely seen an upsurge in online shopping - let’s face it, when you can’t (or don’t want to) get out to the shops there’s not much else you can do apart from hit the internet! It’s one of the reasons why sites like Etsy and Folksy have seen such a rise in shoppers - and it also means that buying direct from artists, designers, makers and creators has never been easier.
Whilst the craft fairs, pop up galleries and Christmas markets may not be happening this year, there’s still a world of talented local makers that can be discovered on the internet. If you want to buy really locally, Folksy even has a dedicated section on the site that allows you to search for makers that are in your county! If you click here, you'll find their special regional section where you can discover makers that are right in your area.
It’s great to be able to meet the maker or designer in person, of course - but buying online doesn’t have to be impersonal, especially when you’re buying from an independent artist or designer. In fact, I know that many of the sellers on Folksy love to hear from customers and are always happy to deal with questions. Speaking personally, if I know that a customer is looking for something specific, or wants a little tweak here or there to one of my designs, I’ll always do everything I can to be adaptable. And that’s not something you get when you buy in a shop!
Just think about the hours and hours you've spent over the years, walking around shop after shop. Buying your parking ticket, getting sore feet, buying something on the spur of the moment and then thinking twice about it when you get home... we've all been there! Imagine instead walking into a shop and asking the staff to bring you a comfy chair, then getting them to parade every item in the store in front of you - preferably organised by price so that you can stick within budget. And in a certain colour or size. And not something you've seen before. And if they do show you something that fits the bill, you want them to be able to provide all the details about it: what it's made from, whether it comes in different styles or colours, where it was made - in fact, it would be nice if they could nip out the back and bring out the person who made it so that they could answer all your questions. And while they're there, maybe you could ask them if it's possible to have it made in a different colour because Auntie Annie likes dark blue more than sky blue... Imagine that world! Well, you don't really have to imagine it because it's right there on the internet.
It’s always exciting when you receive your online order through the post too - opening and unwrapping the parcel, seeing the item inside that you ordered in real life… but buying online from an artisan or designer takes it to a whole new level! More often than not, you’ll discover layers of pretty tissue paper, a little heartfelt ‘thank you’ note from the seller, and maybe even a little unexpected treat inside the parcel too. It all adds up to the drama and excitement of unwrapping and revealing that gorgeous, unique item you purchased - very often, one that’s actually been made especially for you. It’s a fabulous feeling!
If you’ve started thinking about Christmas, and how you can make it extra special this year, I definitely encourage you to turn towards the independent crafters and designers for inspiration. They’re usually ahead of the curve in terms of design too, mingling traditional technique with up to date design. So if you want something that is not only unique but also stylish, you won’t be disappointed. Whether it’s traditional or contemporary that you like, there’s never been a better time than now to discover a world of talent online. Here's just a tiny selection of some of my favourite Folksy finds to give you a flavour of what you can find:
Like me, many sellers have their own websites, but if you don’t know where to start to find these designer-makers the very best place to start is Folksy. Like Etsy, it’s packed with just about every kind of artist, crafter, designer and artisan you could wish for - but unlike Etsy, it’s very strict about what items are permitted on the site, so you won’t find anything mass produced masquerading as ‘handmade’! Take a look at the site to discover a wealth of delights: from ceramicists to weavers, artists to wood turners, bag makers to jewellery designers: you name it!
Your only issue will be choosing what to buy...