The Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen (of which I’m a proud member!) also has a blog called Handmade in PA, which works to bring many kinds of Pennsylvania artisans and shoppers together. I encourage you to investigate both (and you don’t have to live in Pennsylvania to be a member of the guild!).
Regardless of your geographical location, we all are particularly aware of our purchasing habits at this time of year. Have you thought about making a special effort to buy handmade items rather than mass-produced things? The downturn in the economy has made us all more careful of how we spend our money, but wherever we can, I think we should support other craftsmen and artisans.
If you buy directly from an artist, you are able to make a certain personal connection with him or her. You can ask questions about it–you can find out about the processes, the materials, the inspiration for the designs. You might spend a few more dollars (or might not!), but you’ll have the satisfaction of purchasing something truly unique and helping to support your local economy as well.
Perhaps you might choose to make your gifts yourself. Maybe you could knit some special Christmas stockings, create a holiday table decoration, offer several hours of home handyman efforts or be a driver for an elderly person who needs to get to medical appointments. There are many possibilities–the point is to try to make conscious, mindful choices instead of just heading out to the nearest big box store.
And enjoy the process as you go! Thinking of the various ways that you can express your love for those you care about is as much a part of the season as carols or cookies or finding the perfect wrapping paper.