To give a generic gift, seek out a mass produced product. To give a meaningful gift, seek out the makers in your community.
The makers are the people in our towns who are creating Things out of a love and passion for creating. These Things can vary from textiles to preserves to jewelry or traditional art, but the point is that they are made by the hands of someone in our community.
Why seek their services? Because there is significant value to those Things that have a story – an art – behind their creation. Something special and irreplaceable resides within Things created through the care and imagination of another human being.
This artistry and local creation is something to be celebrated and shared in our rural communities. Gift giving is a perfect example.
When my town of Lyons received visitors from rural Japan, they showered us with gifts created in their unique rural communities. Among those gifts were:
A handmade towel using traditional natural dyeing methods
Green tea grown, harvested, and packaged in the same village
Wooden sake glasses made in the traditional way
A handmade towel with artwork telling the story of the village it came from
Traditional Japanese candies made within the town
It was a beautiful gesture. Similarly, our rural communities share this culture of local artisans. Are local creations being celebrated and shared in your town? I hope so. Locally made Things are always available if you know where to look. Wherever there’s a rural community, there’s someone who is creating. The maker may not have a storefront, but could be spending hours each week creating wood carvings, or taking time in the mornings to photograph images of your town. You may already know who these artists are in your community.
The creation of these Things adds value to local cultural production. Local handmade works provide a sense of unique place and time and express the nature of the artist who made the work. They are deeply personal. A local citizen artist took time with their own hands and imagination to create in that place. That kind of Thing cannot be replicated at a box store full of trinkets.
Such objects are just the types of gifts for visitors centers, city offices, and economic developers to have on hand. These local creations could be given to visitors to the town, or as a welcome basket to those who have just moved in. They serve as a reminder of the artistry unique to that community, and additionally help keep money local and provide income to those who are creating in town.
What might this form of hospitality look like? Such gifts could be handed out individually or put together as a package, depending upon your purpose.
Here’s an example of items for one welcome basket I created for recent visitors to Lyons, thanks to the work of our local artists.
This gift included postcards from Cosmic Films Studio as well as ones featuring the local landscape photography of Lyons artist Bruce McRoberts. It also included stickers from some of our cultural hubs in Lyons. This is one of many examples that could be used for my town, as there are many more cultural producers making Things that exemplify just how unique our place is.
Want people to remember your town? Make it personal. Seek out the local makers to give the meaningful gifts that only the people of your town can offer.