In a time of mass commercialism it hardly seems the items we buy anymore have much of a story to tell, other than that of an assembly line.
Yet, in the greater New Haven area, local small businesses have sourced a number of handmade products from local, national and international artists and vendors.
"When we first opened, we wanted to make ourselves distinctive," says Coleen Campbell, owner of Dava boutique at 2100 Dixwell Ave. in Hamden. The name Dava comes from the Sanskrit word "Deva" (the store's original spelling), meaning "shining one." After 20 years in the same location, Campbell has created a warm, somber environment that not only sells handmade items but nurtures and lets the work of local and international handmade artists and designers shine.
"Right now we have handmade items from greeting cards to jewelry made out of soda caps, poster art and bath and body products from 65 local artists and growing," says Campbell. "With everything we carry there's at least one item of its kind made by a local artist."
Often surprised by what people can make, Campbell says partnering with a wide range of local artists, from 18- to 19-year-olds to potters well into their 70s, is always a fun and inviting experience. Not only does the New Haven handmade community run the whole gamut of ages, it brings artists together from different backgrounds, cultures, and upbringings.
But why buy handmade items, you might ask?
Much like the unique stores that sell them, a handmade item is imprinted with a designer's or artist's fingerprint, possessing an element of uniqueness and creativity that many say cannot be replicated through modern mass production. Often handmade items are made from better quality materials, ensuring a longer life and superiority of craftsmanship. Buying handmade can also provide support and strength to local economies through the artistic and design-based mediums of their creators. In recent years, websites like Etsy, ArtFire, Yardsellr and 1000 Markets have revitalized the online handmade market by connecting makers of artisan goods to international fellow artists, designers and buyers alike.
If you're looking to create easy, handmade and practical items yourself, Knit New Haven [26 Whitney Ave.] has countless yarns, knitting accessories, spinning supplies and even a regular knitting meet-up called Stitch n' Bitch.
For other handmade creations in the downtown New Haven area, head to Wave Gallery [1046 Chapel St.] for an array of artisan jewelry, glassware, wood crafts, and indoor or outdoor décor. The gallery is a mainstay in the New Haven scene, with an eclectic and colorful atmosphere.
Given To Gauche [4 Daniel St., Milford] is another great place for a one-of-a-kind gifts. Owned by Connecticut native Susan Ashelford, the shop features handmade items including jewelry made from silver, glass, sea glass and recycled material by local jewelry makers including Ashelford herself.