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CHA and the Indies
Okay, then - let's get down to the big question: where did the online, indie craft community fit into this whole CHA thing?
CHA made some effort to create a presence for indie craft at the show: there was an Indie Craft booth where crafters led demo sessions, and CHA invited folks like Faythe Levine of Handmade Nation and Tina Barseghian of CRAFT Magazine to give presentations. CHA also hosted a public contest, where people could submit samples of indie crafting to be displayed at the show.
So, CHA knows we're here. But, as you'll see, there's still a gulf of understanding to be crossed.
That Indie Craft booth is a good place to start. The photo above shows Ed Roth of Stencil 101 giving a demo session there. It was a mostly empty space, with seating for about a dozen people. To Ed's right, you can see a couple glass display cases housing the winning Indie Craft Contest entries (more pics of these are below).
Also in the booth was a large display wall, printed with a CHA Trend Report about Indie Crafters. I'd highly recommend that you read the full text of this report online, but I'll give you some highlights:
As you can see above, Adorn Magazine, which has been out of print for over a year, is cited as one of "our" magazines.
This section talks about the materials we supposedly use. Homeopathy? Aromatherapy? Organic teas?
And who is this "most" that thinks we're reminiscent of hippies?
...And here's a list of "our" books. How much do I love that Ed tagged the display with a postcard for his own book?
Anyway - the report is unfortunately riddled with misconception and outright error (and typos). This is my very favorite excerpt:
"Almost all [indie craft] sites include a tag line like "Not your grandmother's crafts." Some are even more hip by stating, "For those who really do run with scissors." These crafters don't want to be associated with what we consider "normal" arts and crafts."
When I first read the report, I was frankly a bit frustrated. I even posted, "Miss the point much?" on Twitter. But after some thought, I realized that getting upset isn't productive.
For one thing, we all know that our community is infinitely more rich and varied than this report portrays. But it's also that very kaleidoscopic nature that makes it challenging to boil us down to a few marketing keywords.
The people who compiled this report may reside outside our community, and perhaps didn't research us too deeply - but they had a hard task. I sure wouldn't want to be tasked with describing our whole vibrant movement in two pages to an audience who isn't all that internet-savvy!
I think that one of the main reasons CHA sees us as this odd little subculture is that they're an organization whose goal is to help make the craft industry money. And in our online community, we're much more about connection than money. Consider this telling statement from the report:
"Experts within the craft industry acknowledge that this movement hasn't been fully embraced due to a lack of awareness. While many of the artists use craft supplies such as paint, glue, embellishments, and beads, a lot of it is recycled and not produced by traditional manufacturers in the craft industry."
In other words, the perception is that we don't buy enough stuff from CHA member companies.
Except, we really do! It's true that we do a lot of reclaiming and recycling, but I think even the most frugal of us has likely bought something from a craft store in the last 30 days. Every recycled-sweater scarf requires a needle and thread. Every recycled paper vase requires glue and varnish.
And what's even more important is that we are tightly networked online. When we buy craft products and like them, we can spread the word to other crafters with dizzying speed and efficiency. But most craft manufacturers haven't quite made this realization yet (as you'll see in an upcoming podcast).
So, we represent huge and untapped potential as an engaged market. But it's clearly up to us to help the craft industry learn what that means.
I'm working on a couple future podcasts to address how we might go about introducing ourselves properly to CHA. So stay tuned. Meantime, I'd love to hear your comments.
Tomorrow, we'll be talking about Paris Hilton as Crafter.