Sunday, August 3, 2008

Bits and I'd Rather be Beading

I went out into the wide world today.

Some friends had some out of town guests and they wanted me to go with them to do the trolley tour of Savannah's historic district and River Street.

If you've vacationed in Savannah you know exactly what I'm talking about. If not-- Savannah has a huge historic district and River Street is exactly that. It runs along the Savannah River.

Savannah is one of the USA's biggest ports and all of the big barges come down the River, laden, one assumes with porcelain thimbles and flipflops.

A few decades ago it was abandoned real estate. Now it's a huge tourist trap replete with restaurants, bars, candy stores, boutiques, galleries and souvenir shops. It's not my favorite place. When I go downtown, I go for tea at the Tearoom, which is quiet and cozy and soothing. I go with soothing people. I go early so I can get back early. No, I'm not as old as I sound right now.

A few things stood out at me today. The massive amounts of good resources devoted to generic junk at souvenir shops around the world, for one. Ubiquitously we have: porcelain thimbles, magnets with place names, keyrings with place names, tacky coffee mugs, food that does not under any circumstances belong in a jar, slogan teeshirts, flipflops, caps with place names, sorry sunglasses, jewelry made in Taiwan, China or India, disposable pens with place names and snowglobes. More specifically, though not exhaustively we have small resin pig statuettes decorated with glitter and pink feathers. People buy those? Really? Junk, junk and more junk.
It made me a little sad that people are so eager to buy junk.

Interestingly, at the galleries I was able to spot the art by locals and that purchased elsewhere mainly by price. I was admiring a series of wall tiles and then realized they were under $40 a piece. If the gallery takes half, that's $20 for the artist. Uh-uh. Looked around and saw the same tiles in three sizes and topping boxes-- the same exact pattern with no 'handpainted' differences, so I assume it was inked by machine.

The fabulous purple peyote necklace in the case was just under $500. It was made of different shades and the piece was woven of triangles grouped together. Lots of texture. Just gorgeous. Possibly one of a kind. I wondered if the artist had heard of Etsy.

Even the glasswork was different to me. The small colorful lampwork beaded bracelet in the case with the artists name prominently displayed looked much different to me that the dichroic 'art' jewelry pendants that were imported from somewhere or another.

I wouldn't bet I could spot them everytime, but that I saw any difference at all I attribute to my year on Etsy. That I was conscious of not only the tagged price, but how much the artist's cut may be I attribute to my year on Etsy. That I was frustrated at the way things were mixed together I attribute to my year on Etsy.

Now the disclaimer. I don't hate imports or jewelry from India, China and Taiwan. I like jewelry from India. I have some and want more. Once in awhile I wander into Pier 1 Imports, even though I don't like the way it smells.

My objection stems from knowing that most people will think that because things are displayed together they have equal value. If you like it fine. If you want it fine. Even tacky pig statuettes. But to buy it thinking that you're supporting an artist when you aren't isn't so great. Speaking as that artist of course.

I guess I just would like to live in a world where life and all the things in all of our lives were of the highest quality, where resources were spent on things worth spending it on and there was no waste, no deception and no taking advantage of anyone's ignorance.


  1. I hear you. I have nothing to add, just empathy.

  2. Thanks Melody. Sometimes all we need is someone to hear us:)

  3. You have said what alot of us feel....

  4. wow! it's not just new orleans, then?

    i don't think i have ever felt the need for a feathered, glittered pig, have you?

  5. Ha Amber-- nope. I've seen the same stuff in other countries and in every souvenir shop up and down the east coast.
    And I have to say I really hated the pig.

  6. 1-I SOOO wish I had taken a road trip to Savannah while I lived in GA :(.
    2-I really understand what you are saying here. I notice the same type of things now. It's frustrating eh?
    On the other hand my mind set as for how I spend my money has changed. i.e. I'd rather spend a little more on some handcrafted ear rings on etsy than my usual fare, and I'd rather spend my money on handcrafted soap than store bought body wash.
    Funny how one site can change you so much!

  7. Sarah, I understand your frustrations so well! I have some of my beadwoven pieces in a small gallery in Mesilla, NM. Right across the hallway (several galleries in one building) is a gallery that carries beadweaving from Guatamala at the ridiculously low prices that work is sells for. It's depressing.

  8. Kim that's true!

    You know what bore it home? I said to a friend that the tile was too cheap. It's can't be handmade I said. And he looked at me funny, like cheap? It's $40!! But he said that I should know better than him, and I realized how true that was. Most people would have no idea what they were seeing!