On the eighth day of Christmas… another special guest asks you to take a closer look at gift-giving

(One of our favourite things in the world is a good Colour Combo Challenge/Playing with Palettes – and that’s how we met Debi. She’s the driving force behind the Facebook group we’re a part of, and works tirelessly to get us all motivated about colour! She’s passionate about everything handmade, and is currently creating a new platform for handmade artisans. Debi is the President & CEO of Makana Mai Akua, Inc. She’s an Eskie Mom, New England Patriots fan, philanthropist and multi-passionate entrepreneur with a talent for jewelry design; an extraordinary knack for internet research; almost 30 years of teaching, coaching and mentoring experience and an intense heartfelt connection to the Islands of Hawaii. She’s also passionate about supporting and honoring soldiers, veterans and military families for which she started The Phaneuf Foundation. With everything she has going on, we’re really honoured she took the time to write for us today about what she’s doing to keep the hope alive for us handmade folks. Thanks, Debi!)

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It’s the holiday season and for most of us, that means shopping for gifts for our family and friends. With the economy in turmoil and the incredible number of natural disasters that have devastated so many around the world, this just seems to get more and more difficult to do. On top of that, in a time when wanting, having and accumulating “things” has become so commonplace, it seems impossible to buy a gift that will truly stand out and be special.

Or is it?

I’ll let you in on a secret that you can add to your gift-giving arsenal… If you know where to look, you can find the most wonderful, unique and special gifts for every single person (and gift-giving occasion!) on your list. Where is that, you say?

Well, at the moment the “where” is a bit confusing, and is more of a “who.” The way to get the most superb gifts is to look to the artisans around the world who lovingly design and create each piece of art, one at a time. And soon, you’ll have a new place to easily do that.

A Special Place in the Making

One of the biggest challenges for independent artisans has always been getting our work found by those who see its value and want to buy it. There have been online marketplaces for artisans for many years, but unfortunately, most of those once dedicated to handmade no longer are. They’re overrun with sellers trying to pass mass-produced goods off as handmade.

When a site has made a name for itself as “Your place to buy and sell all things handmade,” consumers go there expecting to find handmade products. So when the site becomes so saturated with mass-produced items made in sweatshops that those items are more prominent, it gives real handcrafted products a bad name and affects how all artisans are perceived. And the fact is that the genuine handmade artisans have trouble getting their work seen at all.

As the owner of Awaken Dreams Success Coaching, I’m a business coach for artisans and creatives. And I recently started the International Organization of Self-Representing Independent Artisan Handmade Businesses to deal with these problems. The mission of SRIAHB.org is to promote the value and benefits of handcrafted work and buying directly from the artisans who make it; and to create a community to bring together buyers and sellers of handcrafted art.

There will be an artisan directory and, eventually, a marketplace that’s 100% artisan handmade only. So you’ll have a place to go to find genuine, unique handmade products from around the world. You’ll be able to search through the directory and find artisans by name, by the type of handcraft they do and by geographic location to give you the option to “buy local” no matter where in the world you live.

Buying from an artisan can be a truly rewarding, win-win-win situation because the fact is, artisans do business differently. We don’t just lovingly create amazing, unique pieces of work. We also take care of our customers that way. When we get your business, it’s a win for us. When you have a positive buying experience and get exactly what you’re looking for, it’s a win for you. And the superior quality product, made with heart and soul, is a win for the person lucky enough to be on the receiving end of your thoughtfulness!

An Example

I’m also an artisan. I’m the owner and designer behind Designs by Debi, my handcrafted jewelry business. I specialize in Personalized Jewelry, Memorial Jewelry, Awareness Jewelry, One-of-a-Kind Pieces, Custom Designs and the gorgeous island-and-ocean themed Aloha Collection™.

I love to create meaningful jewelry for my customers, so almost all of my work is custom designs. And a large part of what I do is Memorial Jewelry… to memorialize family and pets… in a way that is meaningful to the recipient of the piece. Deep meaning expressed through jewelry is work I find indescribably fulfilling.

Another way that I indulge my meaningful creativity is with my Jewelry for Charity Program. Each month I design jewelry to raise money for a charity. These pieces are one-of-a-kind, collectible-quality pieces made using the finest materials and full of intricate details, usually incorporating design elements that hold significance to the charity I’ve selected to receive the donation from its sale.

I select a different charity each month; sometimes one that’s dear to me; sometimes one based on its “Awareness Month”; sometimes because of a specific need like when there’s a natural disaster; and I let my customers recommend charities as well.

In the spirit of the season, let me share one that’s personally meaningful to me.

Debi's Christmas bracelet

The Perfect Christmas Present” was made to raise money for the Aplastic Anemia and MDS Foundation. I chose the charity because my best friend’s daughter, Kailey, has aplastic anemia. She and her family, along with millions of others, live with the daily challenges and serious health scares that it brings.

December is Aplastic Anemia Awareness Month. Red and white are the awareness colors for it. And every day you get with a child so sick is truly a gift. So I thought a Christmas-themed piece was appropriate and that’s where the name of the piece came from.

This is the type of thought, creativity and passion that goes into the work of an artisan. And we create a full spectrum of products for your personal and gift-giving needs… jewelry and other beaded gifts, handbags, bath and beauty items, jams and jellies, candles, paintings, photography, stained glass, painted glassware, glass sculptures, handbound books and journals, treats and items for pets, ceramics and pottery, leather crafts, metal crafts, woodworking and even handmade cards to top off your presentation!

I hope you’ll consider buying handmade. Happy Holidays and all the best to you for 2014!

♥ Debi

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