"If you really want to occupy Wall Street," suggests an image circulated on Facebook, "shop locally." The current emphasis on conscientious consumption as a form of politics, disseminated widely now through the meme sparked by Occupy Wall Street, boils down to choosing local, sustainable practices, supporting small businesses and buying locally made goods. Indeed, the ripples caused by shopping locally can have global effects, from community building to supporting artists. Other reasons to buy locally made items include undermining corporate giants and rejecting outsourced mass production, often achieved under compromised working conditions. Beyond politics, of course, the gift-giver is perceived as cool and politically aware. It is a winning situation all around -- and it's fun!
So, as we look for new ways to perpetuate the protests ignited by Occupy Wall Street, might I suggest some of these Bay Area resources for artist-created wares? It is possible to participate in the movement without pitching a tent in front of city hall. In fact, real economic change will require subtle, wide-reaching gestures beyond symbolic protest, and this largely boils down to how your money circulates in the economy. Frustrated by cheap mass-produced goods and the absence of American production? Hit up a local craft fair or local arts organization. One of the best ways to occupy your time and money this holiday season is to shop locally, and support artists and small businesses in the process.
Name in Lights, Tony May; courtesy SJICA.
Many nonprofit arts organizations feature storefronts that generate organizational support while also supporting local artists. Kala Art Institute (1060 Heinz Ave., Berkeley; Tuesday through Saturday, 11am-5pm) and the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art Print Center (60 South First Street, San Jose; Tuesday through Friday, 10am-5pm) both offer original prints created by former artists-in-residence. At the SJICA Print Center, discover Tony May's Name in Lights (2011), a sculptural "print" lit from within, or a series of quietly beautiful prints by former SECA awardee Rosana Castrillo Diaz.
Rock Paper Scissors Collective (2278 Telegraph Ave., Oakland; Wednesday through Sunday, 12-7pm) is a volunteer-run nonprofit that promotes skill sharing -- here you might learn how to build your own bike or buy handmade jeans. Its retail space features funky silk-screened clothes and local music, among other items.
This weekend (December 9-11), wear your walking shoes and check out the numerous pop-up holiday fairs featuring local makers. Admission at most is free. The Lab's Winter Wunderkammer (2948 16th St., San Francisco; Friday, December 9, 6-11pm, Saturday, December 10, 11am-4pm) promises a wide range of handmade objects, all under $50.
Artwork by Summer Makovkin; courtesy SF Center for the Book.
San Francisco Center for the Book (300 De Haro St., San Francisco, Saturday, December 10, 12-5pm) is hosting a holiday fair featuring handmade stationary, letter-pressed goods, books, journals, and prints.
SFMADE Holiday Gift Fair (Fort Mason, San Francisco, Sunday, December 11, 10am-5pm) boasts more than 50 local makers showcasing everything from chocolate to clothes to pet gear.
The 3rd Annual Renegade Craft Fair Holiday Market (Concourse Exhibition Center, San Francisco; Saturday and Sunday, December 17 and 18, 11am-6pm) next weekend will feature more than 250 local and national makers, amidst great food and libations, showcasing handmade functional objects and artworks. Participate in workshops to craft your own terrariums and make your own wrapping paper.
A number of arts-minded retailers are exploring alternative commercial models through an emphasis on handmade goods all year long. Modern Mouse (2228 South Shore Center, Alameda, Monday through Friday, 10am-7pm, Saturday, 10am-6pm, Sunday 11am-6pm) features locally made objects alongside those created further afield, while Roots Collaborative (84 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley, call for hours) promises that every item in their inventory is made within a 50-mile radius of its Mill Valley location.
Three Bay Area art subscription services offer unique options for supporting artists throughout the year. San Francisco-based The Thing and Alula Editions as well as The Present Group in Oakland each focus on commissioning the production of artist multiples in various formats. Subscribers receive a set number of items throughout the year based on a subscription cycle. The Thing focuses on text-based functional objects, such as quirky beverage coasters designed by Tucker Nichols. Each new edition is a surprise until its release; past items include a double-sided poster by Suzanne Husky and a pencil with two erasers by Colter Jacobson. Alula Editions creates exquisite objects with artist-designed textiles. (Allison Smith's Crewel Work (2011) -- a piece of fabric printed with an image of the tree of life accompanied by an embroidery kit -- is an accessibly priced distillation of her larger body of historical reenactments.)
When you buy a subscription to The Present Group, or even a single item, you are buying into the larger goal of developing new models for supporting artists, while receiving 3 limited edition works of art. Past examples include David Horvitz's viewmaster project and Davin Youngs' three-booklet box set. Gift subscriptions are also available.
Artwork by Jeremy Miranda; courtesy Little Paper Planes.
Other web-based innovators, such as Jen Bekman's 20x200 and Little Paper Planes facilitate affordable art collecting online from a diverse range of artists -- browse bios or send inquiries to narrow your search for local artists. Asking questions not only informs your understanding of the work, it is, in itself, a path towards community building.