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Lisa Stewart products are handcrafted in the USAWhen you tour the Smithsonian museum in Washington DC, do you know that most of their gifts are produced in China? Why? They claimed it was too expensive to host American handcraft. Certainly not something you’d expect, is it?

A bigger spotlight is being shone on Made in America, thanks to Diane Sawyer. She and her writers are exposing a number of national museums who have decided that profit only comes from China.

An Enlightening Trend
I introduced my work to the Smithsonian gift shop just a few months ago and they weren’t interested. It’s not like my fine leather goods or other fine art is crap –quite the opposite. I’d like to say it was a business decision and now after listening to the Diane Sawyer’s article, it definitely was. Unfortunately, it was for the wrong reasons.

Do you know that just a few blocks away from the Smithsonian shop is a thriving shop called Appalachian Spring? Domestically-produced craft are the only gifts they sell. The owner of Appalachian Spring encourages you to buy US produced gifts because it employs hundreds, if not thousands of jobs.

Value Interrupted
An artist doesn’t become a Niche Finalist producing sub-standard products but like many other shops I’ve introduced my work to, they can’t see the value. I also remember sending samples to a museum shop in Pittsburgh, they sent them back (almost in ruins) and told me that they were too expensive. “But wait! I have additional price points just for this reason!” But they decided to offshore the prints they had in stock to create plastic covered totes.


I’m trying to make a living and you’re trying to turn a buck. Your decisions tell me I should no longer create art and return to corporate America to an unfulfilling job, dissolving my dreams and ambitions.

It’s disappointing to learn that when these folks make these off-the-cuff decisions, they forgo the opportunity to enrich their customers with inventive craft –American Made Craft– and allow me to keep my lights on one more month. And it starts with galleries and museum shops. To my dismay, these are the decisions I face everyday when I attempt to introduce my art to galleries.

Investment Is a Two Way Street
Refusing to include American handcraft in your stores is telling America that artisans and craftspersons no longer matter. Refusing to include American handcraft in your stores is telling your customers that they’re no longer worth the investment.

So tell me Ms. Buyer, why are you featuring American artists in your museums only to follow it up with imported dime-store crap? Isn’t this a conflict of interest at its core?

Investing in Your Local Economy
Imagine if more people bought my work, I could hire Andrew, even part-time. Many artists don’t even pull a salary. Imagine if more people bought my work, I could hire another artist. Imagine if more people bought my work, I could hire a seamstress. Imagine if more people bought my work, I could hire a bookkeeper. Imagine if more people bought my work, I could hire an office manager. Imagine if more people bought my work, maybe I could take a vacation that didn’t include a way to ‘write it off.’ Imagine if more people bought my work, I could buy craft from my favorite artists.

Buy now, love forever.
I understand and accept how certain products are cross-produced between the US and other countries -autos for instance- and that just can’t be helped. However, when you consider handcrafted design -say leathergoods- from an American/Canadian craftsman, you’re reducing the exploitation child labor so pervasive in third world countries. Do we want to continue down this road -destroying the lives of children- just so that we can consume without thinking?

Value vs. Cost
Buying from an American Craftsman isn’t about price, it’s about the value of art and design. Being mindful of spending helps to feed the American artist’s family, strengthen the middle class, and return value to art and design. The cost of mindless consumption not only reinforces child labor, but also generates shoddy workmanship and more waste in our landfills.

What kind of legacy do you want to pass on?

With each shopping trip that you take, think about how each purchase effects the livelihood of the producer. Know the company’s policies when it comes to producing the products. Chances are that favorite purse chain in the mall that rides on ‘family legacy’ has just moved it’s manufacturing facilities from China to Vietnam because it’s cheaper. Is cheaper really better?

Your next new personal treasure made with passion here in the states is perhaps the very one that your kids will love and fight over when you’re dead. Or, it will be absolute crap that has hidden disasters (like vinyl lined leather goods or lead filled paint) that they’ll sell at the tag sale upon your death.

Which one will it be?

Thank you for reading this far.
This isn’t a rant about how mistreated I feel by the economy and how I want you to run to my shop and buy. It’s about how our decisions effect the last dollar spent, here in our town and our country. All I ask is that the next time you talk with your family or your neighbor, consider talking about how buying local enriches your local economy and raises the awareness of American craft, now on the endangered species list.

Info You Can Use
For more Made IN America Series, check the ABCNews Schedule here:

For a List of American galleries featuring US artists, check here

Special Request
Please consider joining the American Made Alliance on Facebook so that my business can earn an ad in American Style magazine –I need all the exposure I can get. Their mission is to preserve, promote and protect consumer perception of the value of “American Made” and American Handmade products and the community contributions of their creative producers.

When you do, tell them Lisa Stewart sent you!

Thanks so much for considering handcrafted in the USA for your next purchase.