The economy bites. We all know that. But it's coming on to buying season... and even if you don't have much to spend, you'll spend what you have. You know you will. Who do you want to support? A big-box store or a small business? Your choice.
My husband and I make a point to try to do more and more business with small business, and buy more things from crafters, local or otherwise. I haven't been seriously disappointed yet... in fact, by and large I've been thrilled. The prices are a few dollars more (a very few) than I'd pay at the stores - do you think the small businesses don't know what the going rate is? They do. And the quality is higher, the individuality and artistry are off the charts.
I look around at my living room - the desk I'm typing on was from the local unfinished wood guy - he gets them from American builders, finishes them there if you pay him. Bookshelves, file cabinet - also from him. (Well. The dark ones aren't).
That gorgeous stained glass window? We went downtown to a stained glass hole-in-the-wall shop, and were able to sit down with the proprietor, look through his book, and pick out exactly what we wanted. Then after he got the sketch, I went back down to pick the glass he'd use. Worth.every.penny.
My wedding dress (hat tip to A Practical Conservative: http://thepracticalconservative.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/become-and-support-your-local-seamstress/) was made by a local seamstress. The heavy silk, my mom brought that home with her from China... but the work? That was done locally. Yes, it was a pain to find someone who really *knew* fitting and how to deal with silk (neither easy) but when we did find her, it's embarrassing to tell you how little I paid to have this dress made. Hm. Maybe half again what the alterations on a sparkly wedding gown from the shop would have cost me?
Look, I know art is more expensive that normal stuff. But at least *look*. Maybe you can find something in a thrift shop.
Support your local craftsperson. It matters.