This is something that I espouse all the time - buying something handmade instead of something "off the shelf." I enjoy the diversity that handmade objects bring and I surround myself with them.
This is something to do all year round, not just at the holidays. I believe in supporting your local artist - buying books and cds count, too, in my opinion, since my mother writes and my friend Victoria records. You are still supporting an artist.
Oh, and by the way, buying handmade beads certainly falls into this category.