The Crafter’s Box offers a curated craft subscription box delivered monthly
Photo courtesy of The Crafter’s Box
Disclosure: the author taught workshops on a freelance basis for The Crafter’s Box in 2016 and 2017.
Curated craft kits and craft workshops are experiencing a digital renaissance. A new crop of ecommerce retailers are offering high-quality craft materials and online education direct to consumers. Could the craft subscription box model usher in new opportunities for craft educators and craft supply manufacturers?
Many craft retailers, like Paradise Fibers, Darn Good Yarn, and Stampin Up, have created branded craft subscription boxes. But some craft startups are going a step further. Companies like The Crafter’s Box and Bluprint are creating kits that directly connect to their library of online creative workshops. The Crafter’s Box founder Morgan Spenla understands the appeal of craft in our digital age. “One of our members shared how our monthly workshops have recreated an incredibly special bond between her and her mom – how their time together and the art of learning something new as a pair has changed their relationship. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
Jen Hewett teaching silkscreen printing
Photo courtesy of The Crafter’s Box
Collaborating with Educators
New craft kit company Joone launched this summer, promising beautiful creative projects without the risk of a #Pinterestfail. Founders Lauren Vanell and Whitney Chiu frame Joone’s artist partnerships as an opportunity for established craft teachers to expand their reach, without the production, marketing, and fulfillment expenses of a creating your own craft subscription box.
“Working with Joone as a Featured Artist is similar to working with a publisher. Featured Artists receive an advance against future royalties to develop a new project. Joone takes care of sourcing, packaging, selling, and shipping the kits. Once the advance is earned back, artists continue to earn royalties for as long as the kits are sold,” says co-founder Chiu.
Chiu acknowledges this isn’t always the industry standard. “It’s an unfortunate reality that many artists and crafters are asked to do work for free, or on spec, with little guarantee of any financial reward. We believe in paying artists for their creative work, creating a mutually beneficial partnership.”
How can craft teachers and craft supply manufacturers collaborate with craft subscription boxes? Chiu shared what she looks for in partnerships for Joone: “We’re interested in creating kits where the technique is accessible but the finished project is really unique. To do this, we work with outstanding craftspeople who push the boundaries of their medium(s) while understanding and appreciating the history of their craft.”
Spenla expects similar teaching expertise in her instructors for The Crafter’s Box. She adds, “We’ve worked with wonderful instructors of all kinds over the years. It’s probably fair to say that most have a few things in common: patience, a dash of charisma, humility – but equal parts confidence, the ability to have a ‘forest through the trees’ perspective of their work, and definitely the mastery of practicing their craft at ‘super slow speed’ when needed.”
Vickie Howell doesn’t outsource the education component for YarnYAY!, her craft subscription box. She creates the knit and crochet pattern for every box, but there’s still opportunity for collaboration. “Sourcing for my boxes always starts with the yarn. Often I’ll reach out to friends and colleagues whom I’ve met over the course of 17 years of working in the industry. Other times, I’ll visit my local yarn shop and wander the aisles for potential finds. Sometimes, I’ll see an inspiring fiber or colorway on Instagram and message the dyer directly to see if they might be interested. My goal is to introduce my customers to small batches of great yarns from independent companies,” Howell says.
Howell plans her supply partnerships for YarnYAY! as far in advance as possible. In fact, she has already secured her yarn orders for 2019. “I try to work with smaller, indie (and mostly women-owned) yarn companies whenever I can, who often require long lead times to produce the quantity YarnYAY! needs.”
For Howell, supply partnerships can be complicated. “The [non-yarn] items in the box are more of a challenge. My goal is to support at least one, non-yarn small business in every box. To do so, however, means I also have to source a margin builder (so that more of my budget can go to those small businesses) from China. Subscription box businesses rely on the subscriber cash flow from one month, to float the next. It’s all a balancing act,” Howell says.
Arounna Khounnoraj teaching punch needle for The Crafter’s Box
Photo courtesy of The Crafter’s Box
Predicting What’s Next
In planning for each craft subscription box, Spenla keeps her eye on trends. “We’re starting to see a wonderful resurgence of paper art. Paper cutting, origami, marbling, book making, and so forth – I think it will only continue to grow in popularity,” says Spenla.
Howell also has predictions for craft trends. “I think we’re going to see more and more rug-punch embroidery because of its cross-genre appeal to needle art enthusiasts, knitters, crocheters, and general crafters. Visible mending, in both fabric clothing and knitwear, is also seeing a huge resurgence. Sustainable textiles, made in large part from recycled materials and non-animal fibers, are becoming more mainstream. Hand-dyed product popularity continues to grow, with a rise in the use of marbled techniques and natural dyes,” shares Howell.
Joone is taking their time developing new kits. “We’re working on our fall collection for Joone right now. Since we’re a young company, we want to stay flexible and incorporate what we learn from one collection into the development of the next collection,” co-founder Chiu shared.
In searching for partnerships, Chiu is less focused on specific craft trends than creating an inclusive atmosphere. “We’ve been really excited by the long-overdue conversations about diversity (and the lack thereof) in the crafting world and hope to see a lot more action in this area. We are very committed to creating a diverse and inclusive community of both makers and artists and look forward to partnering with others who share this focus and commitment.”
Howell sees similar movement within the industry. “As craft companies, small business owners, and community builders work on doing better with inclusion, I believe that in 2020 we’ll see a marked increase in BIPOC craft professionals and their products being featured in magazines, websites, and hopefully subscription boxes,” says Howell.
Enjoyed this peice? See our other article about subscription boxes which includes tips for getting your work featured and for vetting subscription box companies.
Erin is the textile designer and artist behind the home décor company, Cotton & Flax. She licenses her surface designs for fabric, home décor, stationery, and other clients. She’s also a teacher, writer, and enthusiastic advocate for small creative business owners. She lives in San Diego, California.