I mean I still love a bit of John Lewis every now and again but I had no clue about the originality and personality that is so much more available from designers and artists. I didn't understand the time and effort involved in creating handmade beautiful things nor did I give it any time or credit. In the past even did all my Christmas and birthday gift shopping in Meadowhall (shudder).
Of course it also wasn't so easy to find five years ago. Yes there were markets but very few farmer's markets with diversity and quality available today. And finding independent departments stores was extremely tricky. Plus of course the free marketing social media provides allows individuals to promote themselves way better than ever before.
But the thing is there is more to it than that. I don't go randomly "liking" pages and shopping through Facebook. There is always a reason why I've ended up there. And that for me is people.
I meet lovely people when I'm book selling. Sometimes I get the joy of standing all day next to someone really chatty and interesting who is selling something amazing. Which is exactly what happened a year ago when I met Deborah from Moonko.
Just that stall position on one pretty quiet craft fair meant I went on to discover the Nicholl's Building in all it's eclectic glory as well as Faunagraphic, Sid Fletcher, Brendan Tyree, Katie Soze and The Aviary.
So it's about originality, beauty, friendly people and connections. But better than all that is that buying from independents also often means above and beyond.
I fell in love with a butterfly antique lens pendant made by The Aviary and was given it as a gift for my birthday. It came beautifully packaged but it turns out that it had not been fired at the right temperature and the image was detaching from the lens.
I don't like complaining (unless it's the council or some large corporate faceless place obviously) but I asked for it to be changed through Facebook. Victoria couldn't have been lovelier and it was exchanged for a new one which arrived with butterfly confetti and a beautiful house sparrow keyring to make up for the trouble. The whole thing made me smile and that, coupled with the fact that everyone comments on how lovely it is when I wear it, has made this one of the most memorable gifts this year. And of course has led me to share my positive experience with the world which is exactly what is supposed to happen and hopefully will go to help promote The Aviary further. Another win win.
So this year I'll be trying again to shop independent as much as possible.
Of course sometimes it just doesn't work as well and I have to cross over to the darker side. It's nearly impossible to find the kind of incomprehensible books my brother reads on anything other than Amazon. And if one of my favourite boys wants a specific branded suitcase to keep his finger skateboards in then who am I to argue.
But for many of the rest of my loved ones I'll be shopping the stalls next to and opposite me at my upcoming fairs. I'd be daft not to.