Wow! I've already gotten such a great response about blogging here! The kind words from people on Twitter (I'm @karichapin) and on The Handmade Marketplace Facebook Fan Page really mean a lot to me. Thank you!
I want to highlight some other people from my Creative Collective today. Even though I won't be able to finish up my list today, I'll continue to add people to the bottom of each post the rest of this week. Reaching out to these makers and asking them for advice for all of the people who will read the book was one of my favorite parts of writing The Handmade Marketplace. It gave me a good excuse to reach out to people whom I've admired from afar, people I buy handmade from again and again, and real-life friends whose work I support and whose crafty business struggles I've been able to see first hand.
I really believe that building community around yourself and your business can be a big part of whether or not you are successful. Connecting with other like-minded artistic people, joining a local craft group, or making friends with local shop keepers who are a good match for what you make are all good places to start. Once you build up community, you'll find that the more boring parts of running your crafts business can become more pleasurable. Having additional resources, support, and even just plain ole camaraderie when it comes to the tough stuff like bookkeeping or sourcing supplies can result in all sorts of good things for your bottom line.
A few members of the Creative Collective who really stand out as shining stars when it comes to reaching out and building community around their passions are:
Tara Swiger is one amazing lady. Not only did she quit her day job in 2009 to follow her handmade business dreams — in less than one year she has gone on to open a retail shop, A Novel Yarn, selling the yarn she makes herself and the handmade yarn of other people. She also designed and began selling a Learn to Knit Kit and she began facilitating conference calls aimed at telling the story of how she made it all happen, which have been really popular. Tara has really reached out to people through her blog and social media and she sets a really good example of how building community can build your business.
Kim Werker is someone featured in my book who doesn't actually sell her crafts. I think it is important for people to know that you can be in business in the handmade world and not actually make anything to sell. Kim began her exciting career in crafts years ago when she noticed a shortage of hip, cool crochet patterns. Not one to be stopped by a small detail like that, Kim began one of the most popular crochet websites ever, www.crochetme.com, from there she went on to be the editor of Interview Crochet magazine and along the way she has written numerous crochet books — my favorites being Interweave Presents Crocheted Gifts and Crochet Me: Designs to Fuel the Crochet Revolution.
Leah Kramer is the creator of Craftster. Talk about building community! Craftster is the first place I found online that spoke to me as a maker. For so long, most of the craft I saw was either the kind of country craft I grew up with (you know what I mean, geese with bows stenciled on a welcome sign) or really "high end" crafting that I wasn't interested in personally trying, like exquisite quilting — but nothing like what I was doing. I still remember the first handmade thing that caught my eye on Craftster, a tee-shirt embroidered with an Elvis Costello album cover image. I promptly printed it out and posted it on my refrigerator for inspiration and thanked my lucky stars for leading me to Leah's site. She also wrote a book: The Craftster Guide to Nifty, Thrifty, and Kitschy Crafts. Check Craftster out, there are loads of good threads in the forums, swaps you can join, and endless inspiration.
Elizabeth MacCrellish is another example of an artist who turned her creative drive into a business without selling something she makes by hand. In 2008, Elizabeth started an art retreat where people can take classes with incredibly talented teachers, eat good food, and relax in a breathtaking environment in beautiful New England. If you're a regular reader of craft/creative blogs, then surely you've heard of Squam Art Workshops. Attending a retreat like this has lots of benefits such as joining a community, forming new friendships, gaining new skills, and reviving your soul. In 2010, Elizabeth is offering workshops for fiber lovers, families, people who love to read, and more. Check out all of her offerings here: 2010 S.A.W. Sessions. (Side note: Can you imagine? A retreat just to read? Where the only expectation anyone has of you is just to read books? Haven!)
Another example of creative people crafting a successful handmade business without selling handmade items are Jessica Marshall Forbes and Casey Forbes. You may know them better as Casey and Jess, the duo behind the knitting and crochet super site Ravelry. The community these two have built is incredible. Forums, pattern sharing, yarn swapping, book clubs, business advice — Ravelry offers it all. If you work with yarn and you're not connected there yet — get going! I think you'll enjoy the behind-the-scenes glimpse Casey and Jess give us in The Handmade Marketplace.
Whew! Thanks for sticking with me through this long post. I just am so excited to introduce you to these people and again, I'm so thankful they are a part of The Handmade Marketplace. I promise to post something a bit shorter tomorrow. Stay tuned for my favorite craft online resources, which will be tomorrow's post — plus five more members of the Creative Collective. Tomorrow, I'll highlight crafts people and artists who I buy handmade from again and again.
Do you know of an amazing handmade business person I should know about? If so, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment here or email me at hitherekari (at) gmail dot com. I would love to hear from you.
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Kari Chapin has spent the past 15 years in the professional world incorporating marketing, publicity, buyer, freelance writer, community relations and stylist as various job titles. As someone who spends a great deal of time with artisans and craftspeople, it wasn't surprising that one day, a compact fluorescent light bulb went off above her head, and she sat down and wrote The Handmade Marketplace.
Books mentioned in this post
Kari Chapin is the author of The Handmade Marketplace: How to Sell Your Crafts Locally, Globally, and Online