Gift-giving can be a tricky business, but my decision on what to get for the recent birthday of a friend was a no brainer: a selection of 35mm camera film for his 1980s, point and shoot camera.
On the surface this choice of gift might seem stuck in the past: why wouldn’t I send something that allows my friend to take more photos of a higher definition that can be available instantly?
The answer all comes down his reason for taking up the hobby in the first place. In an age where we can take thousands of photos on our phone (storage space allowing), but don’t really do much with them, he wanted to rediscover the value of a well-captured moment that takes time to be developed into a lasting memory. Efficiency isn’t the point. It takes patience and attention to detail, and it’s as much about enjoyment of the process as the final product.
To me, these are the markers of any quality gift. When we give people something made with thought and pride, it speaks to the value we hold for the person receiving it. It takes the pressure off finding that one, perfect present, because the thoughtfulness shines through in the product itself. We can introduce people to gifts they might never have considered before but can enjoy all the same or possibly even develop a newfound passion. We can find gifts that cultivate our friends’ interests and skills, encouraging them to become artisans themselves.
Choosing gifts in this way also transforms the process for us as givers. Instead of a departing colleague, a passed exam or an upcoming birthday bringing us a sense of panic as we frantically try to find a gift that works, we can have fun researching brilliant businesses that prize quality over quantity. We get the double-whammy of bringing joy to our friends and supporting people who love the products they sell.
When businesses prioritise taking care of both their products and their people, we can take pride in our association with them. Instead of having interactions that end at a purchase confirmation page, we become a part of their story. Our consumer choices shift from a need to accumulate more ‘stuff’ towards a desire to champion the independent and the artisan, be it pottery, clothing or craft beer.
Practicality is great, and none of this is to say we need expensive taste, but I rarely buy gifts for people just to meet a need – I want them to enjoy the gift itself for what it is. I realised how important this was for me a few Christmases ago, when I received an individually wrapped pack of batteries from my sister! Thankfully, this ended up being one half of a present – the other half being an old fashioned, 35mm point and shoot camera of my own…