Creativation 2017 in Phoenix AZ.

Photo by Kristin Link

The size of the creative industry in the United States was a staggering
$44 billion in 2016,
up from $30.1 billion in 2011.
The Craft and Hobby Association released its new study of the U.S. craft market along with a new name to reflect its more expansive scope: the Association For Creative Industries (AFCI). They also rebranded what was known as the CHA Mega Show as Creativation. “It’s a really good time to be in the creativity business,” says Jamie Gallagher, CEO of Faber Castell USA. His company, based in Cleveland, was one of hundreds of exhibitors in Creativation’s trade show.

The new AFCI study, completed with market research firm MaritzCX, will be released in full to association members Feb. 1, but data collection is ongoing and updates are expected later this year. The study didn’t make direct comparisons between the data from 2011 and 2016, marketing and PR manager Kristen Farrell told me, because the research methods changed.

The study estimated the size of the U.S. creative industry by sampling nearly 10,000 residents and asking if anyone in their household had participated in any creative activities in the past 12 months — 64 percent said they had, up from 56 percent of households in 2010. The respondents shared which activities they’d participated in, for how much time, and how much they spent on their activities. The survey was conducted over the course of a year to avoid seasonality.

Respondents reported how much they spent on their activities, and that was extrapolated out to the American public. Creative activities were broken down into 10 major categories:

  • Paper crafts (including traditional and digital scrapbooking, card making and Artist Trading Cards)
  • Beads & jewelry
  • Floral crafts
  • Edible arts (including cake decorating, candy making and vegetable carving)
  • Wood crafts & home décor
  • Knitting & crocheting
  • Needle arts (including cross-stitch, embroidery, weaving and needle felting)
  • Sewing & fabric (including quilts, apparel and home décor)
  • Painting & drawing (including paints, inks, pastels, charcoal, pencil, watercolors, calligraphy and printmaking)
  • Kids crafts
  • Other (includes any activities not explicitly included in other categories, holiday crafts, or mixed-media projects, such as candle making, stenciling and doll making.

The biggest takeaways

Crafters are younger than the average American

“The DIY movement probably inspired a lot of the younger generation,” Farrell says. Seeing creative activities on social media encourages people to build their creative confidence.

US Crafters by Age

Cross-category participation is major

Creative people don’t stick to just one area. While 63% of households reported participating in at least one craft activity, a quarter of households participated in five or more activities in the past year.

Households by Participation

Makers are dedicated

People spend a lot of their time on their craft activities: Half report spending 5 to 20 hours per week on creative projects. Another 40 percent spend more than 20 hours per week on crafting. Only 10 percent commit less than 5 hours per week to making things.

Time Spent Crafting

Men are makers, too

AFCI believes male participation and Hispanic participation in creative activities were underreported in past studies. The new report shows that while 16 percent of the total people surveyed were Hispanic, 20 percent of crafters were Hispanic. And two craft areas near gender parity are painting and drawing and wood crafts and home décor:

U.S. Crafters by Gender

Crafters aren’t afraid to try something new

Perhaps because there is so much cross-category participation, many makers identified themselves as “beginners.” This points to major opportunities for education:

Experience Level by Activity

Interest is growing

Most crafters anticipate spending at least as much or more time this year as last year on their creative endeavors.

Anticipated Change in Participation

As the creative industries in the United States grow, Farrell says, she’s seeing manufacturers becoming more consumer-facing than ever before, with lots of attention paid to social media. The show also added an innovation focus, with a $10,000 pitch competition for new products. This year’s winner was Let’s Hang, an easy picture hanging tool. “True innovation is going to change the industry and how we sell products,” Farrell says.
Grace Dobush

Grace Dobush


Grace Dobush is a freelance journalist and the author of the Crafty Superstar business guides. She’s also the co-organizer of Crafty Supermarket, an indie craft show. Grace has written for many print and online publications including Wired, Quartz, The Economist, The Washington Post, Writer’s Digest, and Cincinnati Magazine. She’s also worked on the editorial staffs of HOW, Print, Family Tree Magazine, The Artist’s Magazine and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

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