Today we have a guest post by Nick Mohler. A transplant to Pennsylvania, Nick is the current program director of the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen. He has a B.F.A. in printmaking and painting from Frostburg State University, and is a regular contributor to Handmade in PA blog.
Knowing about handmade crafts and finding it readily available can be two different things. Sure, you can go onto etsy and shop local but you’re really only seeing a very small slice of the handmade world (and probably a very narrow view of your local arts community).
Immerse yourself in the craft community by watching for upcoming studio tours, craft shows and discovering new galleries and shops in your area. But here’s some ideas for finding things local or regional in PA:
- Find a gallery – Handmade in PA blog has a brick & mortar store map. With nearly 150 galleries, shops and stores selling handmade craft from PA and beyond. You can’t go wrong. Buying local keeps your money in the local economy. Your local economy will greatly appreciate that gesture.
- Buy direct – Like an artist’s work? Contact them directly and find out where they’re showing next. Knowing your potter is like knowing your local farmer or butcher. When you need a gift for someone, you’ll know where to find it. When you need to expand your own dish set, you’ll know how to get the same thing. And having a metalsmith on speed dial can really help with jewelry repairs. The difference can be substantial.
- Explore groups – The Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen has an online membership directory. It’s not a perfect way to find crafts in your area, but there’s nearly 1300 craft-makers listed (warning: not everyone is from PA). Looking for something local to you? Check out the Guild’s chapter listing. They have 15 chapters all around the state. The chapters have their own set of events, so you’ll be able to find something nearby if you’re unable to go to the three fine craft shows.
- Travel locally with craft in mind – It began as a marketing package for tourism in PA, but the various Artisan Trails that developed have taken a life of their own. The trails are traced on old state roads throughout Pennsylvania like Route 40, 45, 15, 222 and 6. They’re connected many local artists and craftsmen in tight-knit collectives. For example, the PA Arts Experience runs through the Susquehanna Valley and is expanding out into Bucks County area. They’re a great way to discover craft and art in your area that you never realized was there. Most of them have guides online so you can plan your trip in advance.
By knowing your local art community, you’ll be able to further avoid the cheap goods you’ll find at big box stores. Not just for purchases of necessity but also when you need to find a gift – and fast!