Every other week, the Craft Industry Alliance podcast talks with designers and makers about what it really takes to build a creative business. 2020 has been a challenging year on many fronts and the craft industry is no exception. Host Abby Glassenberg spoke to 24 successful artists, makers and entrepreneurs about the current state of their businesses and how they got there. Here are some of our favorite insights from this past year of podcasts.
Refine Your Style To Be Just Yours
Kathy Cano-Murillo of CraftyChica spreads the gospel of glitter – literally through her DIY projects and figuratively through her speeches, workshops, books, and essays. Through all of her work, whether it’s mass retail product lines or collabs with Coca-Cola, HSN, HP, WordPress, Disney and many others, she has defined a style that is just hers. Kathy attributes a lot of her success to her persistence, but her distinctive bright and bold style certainly helps as well.
“Really refine your style, your design, so people can look at it and know it’s your design and your product. Make sure it fits together with who you are.” Then when large retailers reach out for partnerships, she can simply consider, “How can I Crafty Chica that?” And once you’ve developed a style all of your own, Kathy reminds us to stand by it and not to cave to pressures to change for mass retail. Sometimes you’ll have to say no to an opportunity that is not a good fit, but another great opportunity could be right around the corner.
Stand in the Gap
Gaye Glasspie a.k.a GGmadeit, better known as GG is a 50 something-year-old who fell in love with knitting late in life – in just the last 9 or 10 years. As her hobby evolved, and with the encouragement of friends, Gaye began to share her knitting online. She built a following through her blog GG MadeIt, on Instagram and Etsy; a following helped along by her natural ability to coach and connect with others. GG discusses her experience as a Black woman in the knitting industry and about the powerful video she recorded this year called Stand in the Gap, in which she calls to people to stop turning a blind eye to racist acts. “Don’t turn your head, don’t say I’m shocked, don’t say I didn’t know, don’t allow racist acts to take place in your prescence, stand in the gap.” She also talks frankly about what it’s felt like to be a Black knitter on Instagram this year, getting waves of new followers and attention.
Learn to Say No
Emily Reinhardt of The Object Enthusiast creates functional objects that elevate the everyday. Over the last year, the focus has shifted from mass production to a slower pace of creation – making sure each piece is brought to life with love and intention.
From 2018 to 2019 Emily found herself with four full-time employees, business partners, and debt, plus a big studio space. She realized she was saying yes to too many things and had become a manager rather than a studio artist. She just wasn’t happy and needed to make some major changes. Although it meant letting go of revenue, she cut way back and now has a smaller scale art business that she really loves again. “I’m trying really hard to make good work and that’s my number one concern, and not the quantity of orders or money coming in.” This is such an important conversation about not feeling guilty and letting go and learning to say no.
There is Space for All of Us
Toni Lipsey is the designer and instructor behind TL Yarn Crafts. Through her printable patterns and cheery video tutorials, she strives to make crochet accessible to makers of every skill level. Toni is really great at collaborating with brands and fellow makers, and she explains how she goes about forging these partnerships and why she feels they are important to her business. She talks about the increasing saturation within the crochet industry, but rather than focus on competition and self preservation, she looks for opportunities to support her fellow makers. “That’s how you become part of a community.” Toni regularly calls out makers she admires on her Instagram that she has grown and nurtured to over 80k followers. She’s built a loyal following through her social media accounts, newsletter and YouTube channel and wants to turn some of that good energy back into the community to grow together.
Don’t Be Afraid to Share
Following long careers at Apple and as owner of legendary music shop Aquarius Records, Windy Chien launched her art studio in 2015. Her work ranges in size from a knot that can fit in the palm of a child’s hand to majestic, room-sized installations that are sought after by private collectors. She is best known for her 2016 work, The Year Of Knots, in which she learned a new knot every day for a year and posted each to Instagram. Eventually, she realized she had a full scale art installation that she had been slowly sharing the making-of process. “When you share that stuff you’re sending out a flare.” It’s a way of connecting with like-minded people from all paths of life. Chien has always been open to sharing parts of her process; releasing it daily over a year has had a greater impact than just simply releasing the sum total.
Be Ready to Pivot At All Times
Heather Ross is a fabric designer and illustrator. Her critically acclaimed memoir How To Catch a Frog chronicles her childhood spent in a remote corner of Vermont, in a wilderness setting that remains a major influence on her creative work. She is also a celebrated illustrator of numerous children’s books, including the best-selling Crafty Chloe series- winner of the Kirkus Star. Heather Ross was a regular guest on The Martha Stewart Show and one of the most-viewed artists featured on the how-to video channel Creativebug. She regularly speaks on a wide range of topics that include creative living, the modern craft movement, and handmade. Throughout her career, Heather has managed to be adaptable and nimble in her focus, and she speaks about the importance of always being ready to pivot in both her business and personal life. “I think being determined to not let go of the way we do things now is a short sighted approach.” Instead of trying to find a static, consistent place she supports need to react and respond to our ever-changing world.