(Slightly late) Small Business Saturday gift guide, and a Boston craft fair list

I’m not a fan of Small Business Saturday‘s corporate sponsorship, but I think the basic idea is sound. For those who can afford to do so, supporting small businesses–especially local ones–is a good way to take part in building a sustainable, humane, community-based economy.

With the usual caveats that 1.) individual consumer choices are not a substitute for political engagement and 2.) spending time together is always a wonderful gift and there should be no obligation to buy anything for anyone, here are a few items I like from small businesses and craftspeople around the internet, some of whom are local to Boston.

1.) “Gigi” burlesque mug – Dupenny –  £13.50
2.) Unicorn Landia nail polish – Starrily at ShanaLogic – $9.99
3.) Collectible narwhal ornament – Magic Bean Buyer at ShanaLogic – $15.99
4.) See you space corgi sticker – Megan Lara at RedBubble – $4.00
5.) Mauve crystal and feather fascinator – I Am Joolienn on Etsy – $25.00 (Note: Joolie is a Somerville local who makes all sorts of pretty, shiny, feathery things.)
6.) Cat life brooch – The Tiny Hobo on Etsy – $10.00 (Note: The Tiny Hobo also makes a ton of fat-pos stuff, which you can find in her main shop, t-shirt shop, and Custom Plus shop.)
7.) Peacock feather journal set – CoupCoup Designs on Etsy – $12.00
8.) Neon rainbow felt necklace – HandiCraftKate on Etsy – $55.00
9.) Signed machines of love poster – DFTBA Records – $15.00
10.) Chocolate Mexicano sampler – Taza Chocolate – $21.00 (Note: Taza is a local company that makes Mexican-style fair-trade chocolate right here in Somerville. They also give tours, which look like fun.)

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Jobs in a shareable society: how do we get paid if no one is buying?

Despite my love of shiny shiny things, I am generally in favor of a society focused less on consumption and more on community. Our current levels of consumption as a society are unsustainable and harmful to both workers and the environment; if you want a good in-depth analysis of these problems and some potential solutions, I highly recommend Annie Leonard’s book The Story of Stuff.

But there’s one thing I keep wondering when I think about transitioning to a less stuff-focused society, and reading this post about planning a shareable wedding helped me put my finger on it.

The author’s wedding, which included contributions from creative friends and lots of DIY, sounds wonderful. I especially like the idea of a make-your-own-mojito station, which I’m totally stealing for future use:

Think about all the things you can make instead of buy. Instead of programs, we painted the day’s agenda on a big smooth piece of wood, propped up on an easel. Instead of a full cocktail bar, Michael made a giant pitcherful of sugar-mint-lime mash the day before, and guests enjoyed the make-your-own-mojito station with instructions and ingredients. And instead of store-bought invitations, we designed and formatted our own, and printed them at a local copy business for under a hundred dollars.

I have no problem with the author, or anyone else, planning their weddings or other events this way (although I would caution anyone considering using “friendors” to think about it carefully and be aware of the risks).  But when I see such stories held up as a model for “how we should do things,” it leaves me wondering: if everyone did it that way, what would happen to all the professional photographers, florists, wedding coordinators, artists, designers, craftspeople, and bakers?

More broadly, if we move toward a model of sharing–that is, replacing paid labor with volunteer work done by friends and family–where does that leave people who make things and provide services for a living?

One potential way around this conundrum is the basic national income, which would free people from having to work to survive. Under such a system, people who want to make art could do so without having to find a way to make money from it, and people who want to volunteer for their friends could do so without losing out on much-needed wages. But even then, there are probably many people who would want to do these types of work. After all, being an accessory maker, photographer, event planner, graphic designer, florist, or maker of tiny wedding cake replicas sound like fulfilling and rewarding jobs–exactly the kind we’d want more of in a new economy.

How do we move away from ubiquitous commercialization, from the constant beating drum of buy-buy-buy, without devaluing creative work?

I know this is a rather theoretical question, as we’re nowhere near a large-scale shift away from consumption. But I care about figuring out social and economic models that would work for as many people as possible.

Holiday gift ideas mega-post

Note: I know that not everyone celebrates a holiday in December, or is into gift-giving, or has the time/money/energy to buy/make gifts. If you’re not looking for gift ideas for whatever reason, feel free to skip over this post.

But if you are looking for gift ideas, read on! I’ve got everything from charities to DIY ideas to pencil holders made out of floppy disks, TARDIS lunchboxes, and pizza pi cutters.

One of my favorite holiday past-times: finding things that say “Joy” and cutting off the J.

Charities

Donating to charity in someone’s name is always a good idea if 1.) they really care about a particular issue, 2.) they already have all the material things they want, or 3.) you just don’t know what else to give them.

Here are a few that I like. You can find more on this list of top-rated charities.

Kiva is especially cool, because it’s not a traditional charity–it’s a microlending site. You make a loan of $25 to an entrepreneur from the developing world, and almost always get back the entire loan. Which means, if you give a Kiva loan as a gift, the recipient first gets to help entrepreneur pull themselves out of poverty, and then later gets money, which they can either cash out or invest again. It’s pretty awesome.

Doctors Without Borders
Girls Write Now
Grameen Foundation
Habitat for Humanity
Heifter International
Modest Needs
Nature Conservancy
Oxfam
Seeds of Peace
Sierra Club
Survival International
This Star Won’t Go Out Foundation
Water.org
WriteGirl

This cupcake was actually not very tasty, but it was cute!

Holiday Gift Ideas List

I made this list on Amazon, with a bunch of things that I thought might make good presents–from Lego-shaped soaps to geeky music to knitted platypi.  There’s even a Dr. Horrible onesie for your tiny friends.

I’ve listed items from $1.70 to $72, and the majority are $20 or under. There’s plenty of pink and sparkly stuff, since that’s what I gravitate toward, but I’ve tried to include items that would appeal to people with different tastes and interests.

I’ve also made a separate list of fat-positive gift ideas for the rad fatties in your life!

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