Registration table for Craftcation 2017 at the Marriott Beach Hotel in Ventura, Calif.
Whether you are a successful entrepreneur or a creative mogul-in-waiting, there was much to learn at this year’s Craftcation: Business + Makers Conference, a five-day mix of business, skill-building and creativity for all levels of makers, designers and artists.
The event, held April 26-30 in Ventura, Calif., and organized by Nicole Stevenson and Delilah Snell of Dear Handmade Life, attracted about 450 attendees, including presenters, sponsors, staff and volunteers, many looking to start, build or refine their business, all while having fun and learning new skills.
“There were more craft classes (and more presenters) than ever before and more variety with craft genres,” Stevenson said. This was also the first year the event included a craft supply swap, think tanks, and sewing on sergers.
The business-building sessions included advice on finding your niche, deciphering analytics and SEO, battling burnout, bookkeeping, online selling, branding, website building, licensing, book writing, marketing, pricing, contracts, defeating copycats, etc.
Instructor Jessica Marquez shows how to set up a product photo shoot during her workshop on iPhone Photography.
Social media was a hot topic, with workshops such as The Power of Pinterest, Social Media 2.0 and Branding on Instagram. There were also plenty of chances to hone photo skills.
Makers also could enhance their creativity with hands-on craft classes. Fabric arts were trending, with lessons in sewing (creating a simple shirt, a reversible sun hat, a zippered pouch, quick serger gifts, and more), dying, weaving, fabric bowls, crochet, and arm knitting. Jenny Hart, keynote speaker and embroidery designer at Sublime Stitching, and Robert Mahar, host on the Crafted YouTube channel, led embroidery classes and embroidery groups.
Who would believe these beautiful roses were made from crepe paper? Thuy Le taught them how.
Hand lettering was also popular, with such workshops as chalk lettering and brush lettering. Other classes included paper marbling, watercolor, block and screen printing, leather work, art journaling, crepe paper flowers, felt-banner making and making a succulent terrarium.
DIY dyers could create a scarf or a fan using the dyes and products from Dharma Trading Co.
There was much buzz about green crafting – upcycling used items into art, using up scraps, etc. – and using art to support charitable causes.
Closing speaker Tiffany Han, a business coach, branding strategist and host of the Raise Your Hand Say Yes podcast, exhorted attendees to find their own voices and not let fear or lack of resources (be it time, energy or money) hold them back.
“Think about the end game,” she advised. “One year from now, what do you want to have accomplished? When you see what the end game is, your brain starts thinking of how to get there.”
Three happy weavers learning working on a wall hanging in Paige Kent’s beginning weaving workshop.
Look at the big picture, Han said, then figure out what baby steps to take to get there. “Find your ‘crazy faith’ Find the ideas that light you up so much you say, ‘I don’t know how but I have to do it.’”
Other tips included: embrace rejection (“rejection is your friend. It means you are trying.”); be “nervous and excited” (“a perfect formula for success”); stop doing ‘pretend’ work (“put down the iPhone, stop looking at Facebook”); and make marketing fun (“We have to market our work. Do whatever it takes to make it fun for you.”)
“Let your craft develop and evolve,” she continued. “Nothing evolves until it starts.”
Most of all, Han said, just do it. “Doing something beats waiting to figure out the right thing to do. This is the crux of it.”
It was a happy mess in Amy Tan’s travel journal class.
When she is stuck, Han added, she turns to an unlikely source for inspiration. “I think, ‘what would Kanye do?’ He would unapologetically do what is best for Kanye.”
Besides learning and playing, attendees, who came from across the United States and from Canada and Australia, quickly bonded. There was “a general theme of sharing,” said second-time participant Jane Platt of Los Angeles. “There was sharing of time, rides, information and friendship.”
It was a great mix of learning, creating, and community-building.
Roberta Wax is a writer by trade, a crafter by accident. She was a contributing writer with The Rubber Stamper Magazine since its inception and now holds the same position at Crafts ‘n Things. Find her on Instagram @robertawax.