Monday, December 13, 2010

Appreciating the Handmade

Handmade Christmas card with a pine tree on itYes, I still read Dear Abby every day. My favorites are the deliciously outrageous letters about bridezillas and gift grubbers, which allow me the chance to vent to anyone in my household who'll listen.

Today's letter was from a woman who has been making Christmas cards with her young niece for the past five years. She spent more money on the materials than if she had purchased printed cards, wrote a personal note inside, and inscribed the back of each one with the words "handmade with love." And this is what happened last year:

I received a card from a friend with a small check inside. The card read, "I'm sending you this check so you can afford to buy 'real cards' next year." I was hurt and offended. I wondered if others felt similarly, so I asked around and was shocked to learn they, too, thought I was "cheap." Although it cost more money and time to create each card, no one appreciated them.
After picking my jaw up, I started to think about how this is actually an example of clashing taste cultures. While I have a hard time fathoming that so many people could completely miss the point of a handmade Christmas card, clearly, many of us in the U.S. have been acculturated to think that standardized stuff is better than homemade.

Just as I remember liking only new houses as a child and teen, and thinking anything built before the 1960s was hideous, some of us still associate handwork with being unable to buy what you need. Purchasing cards, or better yet, having a photo card made at a giant photo studio seems to be the standard among many.

I have a sister-in-law who makes all of the birthday and other special occasion (non-Christmas) cards her family sends. I appreciate these as if each one were a gift. Similarly, an uncle and aunt of ours design and screen print their own Christmas card, usually with fold ups or moving parts that are grommeted on. We all particularly look forward to getting their card each year.

I'm not sure if I have ever let these family members know how much I appreciate their extra care and creativity. Given this letter in Dear Abby, I guess I'd better do that soon, or I may never see one of these handmade treasures again.


Update: I see that Rob Beschizza at Boing Boing has also written about this Dear Abby letter. Many of the comments are priceless.

1 comment:

KLM said...

The husband and I discuss the advice column letters on a daily basis. If the world ever runs out of people irate about not getting thank you cards or about tasteless wedding invitations, those columns might dry up. But I doubt that'll happen any time soon.

About ten years ago I made a handpainted toy chest for a friend's daughter. It took me a whole weekend to do. My friend actually made fun of me for "obviously having too much time on my hands." Well, I never made that mistake again. Nuts to you, buddy.