Thursday, December 18, 2008
Let's Keep Handmade In Business
JessTrev's thinking about independent crafters and one-of-a-kind treasures today...
Many of you may have heard about the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). It was written to stem the tide of recalls we've had over ridonculous toy safety issues like lead and phthalates, tiny chokable magnets...you name it, we've seen it in the last few years. So, first up, thanks a bunch, Congress! I appreciate that you don't want our kids nibbling on toxins. Seriously! I could not be more heartened by your attention to this pressing matter. The thing is, one of the unintended consequences of this bill could be to put small, independent craftspeople -- those who handmake items like toys, soap, clothing, textiles, and jewelry -- out of business. Tough economic climate for that ice bath, lawmakers.
I really do love the independent crafters. Don't we all? I mean, even if it weren't for the fact that most mass toy companies source and manufacure their products in places that have horrible trade records and little regard for child health, you have to give it up for the beauty and originality of handmade stuff.
I'm not a gift guide writer, but I will tell you that my toddler sleeps with a monny (monster) and a leech in his crib, courtesy of the Crafty Bastards sale here in DC last fall. His sister has some pretty smokin' shirts, and our friends' babies like to gnaw on beautiful wooden keys instead of lead-tainted brass realia. My favorite teacher gift is none other than a set of button flowers, and could there be a better way to welcome a child to the world than with a personalized birdie banner? I could go on, but I think you get my drift: a lot of the decorative touches in our lives could go missing if this bill's not altered.
That's why it's good news that you can register your opinon. Head over to change.org and vote to have their article on the CPSIA sent on over to Obama so he takes notice of the undesirable consequences to this bill. Also check out the posts by ZRecs (phone #s), CoolMomPicks (great roundup of links) and The Smart Mama (as usual, excellent detail + background...with a plug for her XRF testing biz) to brief yourself on the issue, and join the Handmade Toy Alliance on Facebook.
I have to go on record saying I am nervous about altering the bill. I appreciate what one Etsy artist said: “I'd be more than happy to have each of my toys tested, if it wasn't so cost prohibitive. It is the COST involved in testing that will shut us down, it isn't that anyone refuses to have their work tested." That's important to me. I don't want a watered-down bill with loopholes some manufacturer of plastic dolls is going to be able to leap through. At all. What I want is a cost-effective way for responsible crafters to show their safety measures. Heck, I know lots of Etsy businesses use non-toxic materials. But any eco-conscious person who's walked into a craft store is pretty clear on the fact that there are plenty of homemade items that won't be shaped from "sustainably harvested woods, non-toxic paints and beeswax." Not to mention those items being upcycled (again, good in theory) or not used for their intended purpose. So, what do I want? I want our legislators to earn their generous health packages. Figure out a way (XRF guns, in the hands of properly trained testers, seem to already be an option; testing materials rather than finished product, another) for small crafters to certify their use of safe materials, and keep the big boys (those who have truly been stocking our shelves with phthalates and lead) on the straight and narrow.
Hey, the Consumer Product Safety Commish is requesting comments, so do your knicker-knitting neighbor a favor and check out ZRecs' recs about stating your opinion on the matter. Tell our gov'ment we want both safe toys and a thriving industry made up partially of an underground mom economy.