We just had lunch with our dad yesterday and had a lengthy discussion about buying local. He's one of those people I would definitely classify as xenophile and always impresses (and annoys) with his tolerance and open-mindedness. If you stray too far into complaints about a category of person, he is always quick to challenge you. "I maintain there are nice (insert group here), too," is a common refrain. The annoying part is when individual bad behavior gets excused or pardoned - typically he turns it around and asks what it is I did to cause such behavior.
In part because of such spirit, he is reluctant to close off any doors, to categorically say, "I won't buy from overseas." He would, I think, say that in drawing lines, there is too often the tendency not just to separate but to say that these here are good and those there are bad. This is his primary objection to organized religion, while we're at it - creation of a group is quickly followed by implication that those outside of the group are somehow lesser.
In addition to seeming to love, or at least find interesting, all people, he feels the same way about food (with chicken and carrots the notable exceptions). So when it comes to buying local, his first objection would be that if you really are going to buy local, that means no one in Michigan should be eating Wisconsin cheese (which we know is not the case), and no one in Wisconsin should be eating avocados. He is, reasonably so, unwiling to make any such proclamations.
Meanwhile, at the shop, we have our love of our state, to be sure, but we love the things that people are making all over the place, even some things that are made overseas that we just can't resist. That said, if you are wanting to buy even more local, these are some of our favorites that are made right here in the state. The added advantage is that not only have you reduced your carbon footprint but you contribute to the economic viability of our local communities in more ways than just paying the salaries of two shopgirls.
1. Wooden snowflakes. I know, I just told this story in another blog post, but I found these lovelies at the gift show in Atlanta. As I was examing their products, I looked up at their sign and I exclaimed, "Spring Green! Why did I have to travel all this way to find you?!" Not only are these ornaments made here in Wisconsin, they are made from sustainably managed trees. They come in lovely boxed sets, which could be split up to create sweet little package decorations for a number of people on your list.
2. Inspiring prints. We have works by a number of printmakers, from the state and beyond. Perhaps one of our favorite in-state printers is Lori from Kimberly, Wisconsin (don't worry, you aren't alone, I had to look it up, too). People often ask us how we find our artists - sometimes we go out looking for them, sometimes they drop into our lap, as was the case with Lori. It happened at the time she submitted her work that we were looking to expand our collection of prints, and she also hit upon my fondness for quotations and letterpress. We featured her prints last year in our Alice in Wonderland window but they have continued to sell well, especially at graduation time.
3. Hand-stamped ceramics. Made in Milwaukee, this is a prime example of things we love to source locally. Had we received these dishes from anywhere else, there would have been bubble wrap, packing peanuts and several layers of cardboard. As it is, the artist brings them to us in two big tubs, we pick out what we want, and send her away with anything leftover and her bubble wrap. Granted, she had to drive from Milwaukee, but that is a far cry from the items which came by boat and then train or truck. We love her choices of colors and images and are particularly enjoying this year's batch of bicycle dishes.
4. Lucky penny necklace. Made in Oshkosh. Who doesn't need a lucky penny?
5. Onesies. The majority of our onesies are made right here in Madison. "Someone in Wisco loves me" is one of our most popular, as well as the Wisconsin "Represent."
6. Notecards. With the addition of our two new spinners, I was finally able to create a locally-made notecard section. There are my photographs, as well as those of our dad, and a variety of other cards made in Wisconsin. Although it is somewhat like giving a gift that benefits oneself, giving notecards is not just a plea for the recipient to write to you. Both my sister and I like to keep a lot of notecards on hand so when the time or occasion presents itself, we can send out a little note.
Naturally that's just the beginning. I think about 40% of our stock comes from Wisconsin - we have necklaces, photographs, ornaments, scarves, napkins, placemats, aprons, hair clips, tea towels, bobbie pins, earrings & more. We are proud of the many artisans of our state and happy that we can share even a small slice of their talents with you.