I know that I already posted this photo a couple of days ago, but it's the only one I had handy that was related to the topic at hand: handmade toys.
There has been a lot of blogging going on out there related to the CPSIA and how it was intended to one thing (protecting small people from cheap plastic toys slathered in lead), but may end up having a number of unintended consequences (threatening small businesses and artisans who make and sell handmade children's items). As far as I can tell at this moment (despite some pretty confusing press coverage!) there are some good things in the works as far as possible exemptions from the law for toys made from natural materials. But the bigger question remains, and I think it is a valuable one: How did a well intended piece of legislation end up being written with such a blind spot for the community of people who make things in traditional ways?
I think there are a couple of answers here, but one that I think is likely is that the legislation was written by people with a limited perspective on consumer goods that seems to be pretty prevalent in our society. I'm not sure that the average person out there has any clue that there are people who really, actually still make toys and clothes by hand on a regular basis. In the era of WalMcTargetCo, who would make things when you can buy them so much more cheaply and quickly?
Those of us who are crafters and consumers of handmade goods have constructed for ourselves a little blogiverse where we can recognize the functionality, the beauty, the art and the importance of slowing down and experiencing handmade. We make, we read about what others make, but how much of what we are doing is being experienced by people outside of our online community of crafty bloggers? Some, certainly. But perhaps if it was more, something like the CPSIA in it's initial incarnation wouldn't have happened.
So, this is my proposal: A swap of handmade children's goods with associated blogging and Flickr posting of our creative process and end results. Each person would make a handmade item; a doll, a dress, whatever it might be, and send it off to a fellow maker. We would each also document the process of making and share these pictures on Flickr and our personal blogs. We could share this with friends, family, co-workers and anyone who might be willing to look and listen. Perhaps you might even give the item that you receive in the swap away as a gift to a child or a family who could benefit from a bit more exposure to handmade goodness.
At this point, I have faith that the CPSIA will likely be modified in such a way as to protect those of you out there who make and sell children's items. But this whole debacle made me realize that as much as handmade is a part of my life (and the poor family members subjected to receiving my crafts for every holiday or birthday), there are a lot of people out there who should see more of it. Who should know that handmade is still a choice that many people make for reasons of creativity, philosophy and aesthetic and that this choice is meaningful on many levels, from the way that we ourselves relate to consumption to the way that we teach our children to value time and individuality.
This is all to say that if you would like to swap some handmade crafty wonder with your fellow crafters please send an email to: email@example.com with your name, mailing address, blog address if you have one and whether or not you are willing to ship internationally should any wayward Canadians decide to participate. The CPSIA goes into effect on February 10th, so I'd like that to be our deadline for mailing swap items.
Also, this blog gets a steady, but pretty small number of readers. At least half of them are probably my family members. So, if you have a blog that gets more traffic, please put the word out. I would love to have a large number of people participating in this and posting to Flickr so that we can all demonstrate that handmade does matter, very much.