I'm sure I don't have to go into too much detail about why a handmade item is so much better than going to say, Sears or Target, et al, and purchasing what everyone else is buying. But here goes, anyway.
Like most people, I used to go to a local department store (or, more recently, to my local PC upstairs) to buy whatever I like, needed or that I felt compelled to buy due to an unfortunate lack of respect for saving money.
That was then. A few years ago I started making my own jewelry. Why? Because I looked and looked for a unique, inexpensive eyeglass chain (I remove my glasses for reading, unlike every other middle-aged person I know!). I bought one on eBay. It was nice, but it didn't hold up well. It's nearly impossible to find such things in most department stores, so my only recourse was to make it myself. I thought "how hard can it be?"
Well, it's not 'difficult', but it is fascinating and replete with many little tips and tricks you need to get used to. One thing lead to another and, before long, I'd gotten the 'bug' and had amassed many different beads, findings, stones--you name it! Magpies never were so quick to pick up bright, shiny colorful objects.
So, I went from eyeglass chains to bracelets and on up the line. From the beginning people were complimenting my work and I started to sell on a fairly regular basis; even a local gallery offered to sell and display my pieces. It was through this process that I learned the value of a handmade item. It's more than a 'craft', more than a 'hobby', it a way of expressing my somewhat stifled creativity and, maybe, giving someone the opportunity to own a singular piece of art.
Yes, ART. Lots of folks say/think "Oh, I can do that!" But then they don't do it. A lot more than stringing a few beads on a wire or chain goes into every piece I make (and, I'm sure, other artists will say the same of their work, no matter what the medium). There's planning, costing, starting, going back and redoing...it's not as simple as it looks. But it is very satisfying.
Think of it this way: Would you rather spend money on something that the person behind you in the checkout could also have? Or hundreds of other people within a 50 mile radius? Or would you rather own a unique object, unlike any other, that one person spent a lot of time (and money, sometimes)--and by that I mean time planning, creating, and putting it all together-- making it ready for you.
I know which choice I'd make.
At this point, I've never EVER made the same piece of jewelry twice. I would, if asked, make matching items. Also, because I'm a terrible perfectionist (is that an oxymoron?), I often fuss and fuss over every single bead or component, wanting to make it the best I can. Let's face it, I AM my toughest critic!
Bottom line? Buy handmade when you have the choice. It helps spread the spirit of creativity and gives you the satisfaction of being the owner of a lovely, one-of-a-kind piece. There are many places online to find these treasures, but a good place to start is: http://SuzanneStevens.artfire.com
Or go directly to http://artfire.com
While you're there, be sure to check out all the other beautiful work by artisans in many media.