Crafts and the Creative Muse
You Can Do It Too
by Laura Gordon-Murnane, M.L.S.
I rose from the dining room table and walked over to my husband, sitting in the living room listening to music and reading the Sunday New York Times. I thrust the bracelet in front of him and said, “What do you think of this?” He looked up, took the bracelet, and said, “Very pretty, very nice. I like the colors of the beads. They work really well together.” He handed it back to me and asked, “Where did you get it?” I looked at him, smiling broadly, and said, “I just made it.” His response? “Really? Wow! How did you do that? That is so cool.” And now, 4 years later, it is this incident that I remember when I recall the beginning of my love affair with making beaded jewelry.
National Craft Organizations
American Craft Council (ACC)
National organization for professional craft artists. See the Resources list for additional craft organizations, museums, magazines, and universities and workshops.
Craft and Hobby Association (HIA)
The result of the merger between the Association of Crafts & Creative Industries (ACCI) and the Hobby Industry Association (HIA). It offers a broad range of member services, including market research, education, and consumer branding initiatives, as well as two annual international trade events that attract more than 25,000 industry professionals.
The Bead Museum in Glendale, Ariz.
The Bead Museum was founded to establish a safe haven for a permanent collection of beads and adornments of all cultures, past and present. It provides an enduring opportunity for the study and enjoyment of magnificent examples of art and ingenuity.
The Center for Bead Research
The center, maintained by the Bead Museum in Glendale, Ariz., was initially run by Peter Francis, Jr., who had an enduring passion for the history and ethnography of beads. Since his passing, the museum has taken over the collection.
The Bead Society of Greater Washington
BSGW is a nonprofit organization founded in 1983 as a forum for the study and exchange of information on beads and related subjects. The Bead Museum of Washington, D.C., is located in the same building and offers new exhibits, such as a recent one, called The Sacred Bead and Other Symbols of Faith, as well as the permanent exhibit, The Bead Timeline of History. If you are visiting D.C., stop by; you will be glad you did.
Crafting Blogs, Forums, Magazines
GetCrafty.com and Blog
Jean Railla’s site for all things crafty.
Craftster was started in August 2003 by Leah Kramer, a computer programmer and self-proclaimed craft junkie. This user-driven forum focuses on archiving actual projects with pictures and step-by-step instructions.
Founded in March 2004, The Switchboardsis a nonprofit organization set up to support and publicize creative women in business through the use of an online community forum, product displays, mutual links, and joint advertising.
Kathy Cano-Murillo has created a funky and fun Web site/blog that shares craft ideas, offers craft projects, and showcases her books, podcasts, and crafty creations.
SuperNaturale is an independent site dedicated to the Do It Yourself culture in all its glorious forms.
Craft Magazine and Craft Blog
Quarterly magazine for crafters. Carla Sinclair edits Craft.
Robert K. Lui and Carolyn L. E. Benesh edit Ornament. This beautiful magazine showcases professional crafters and artists in the areas of jewelry/metalworking, beads, and fiber and wearable art.
Ganoskin Orchid Forum
This is an online forum that addresses questions about every aspect of jewelry-making today.
Jewelry Business Blog by Rena Klingenberg
Rena Klingenberg’s blog is all about setting up and running a successful home-based jewelry business.
This is the largest of the online crafting sites, with 50,000 sellers.
Cut+Paste is an independent online shop that specializes in offering innovative and cute handmade clothing, jewelry, and gifts from crafters, artists, designers, and makers worldwide.
CraftMall.com offers a fun and creative craft mall that features unique arts and crafts from crafters around the world.
Brian Appell runs this site. He has created a community where artists and crafters share ideas with one another and have access to an easy and inexpensive way to display, as well as market, their creations to a much wider audience.
High-End Craft Shows
American Craft Council Wholesale Show
SOFA (Sculpture Objects and Functional Art) New York, Chicago
Smithsonian Craft Show
Alternative Craft Shows
Billed as “not your granny’s craft fair,” this is held in Boston, Cleveland, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
Renegade Craft Fair
Held in Chicago and Brooklyn N.Y., this fair caters to the burgeoning DIY craft community.
This is Make magazine’s craft and DIY craft show. San Mateo, Calif., and Austin, Texas.
Crafting on TV
HGTV (Home and Garden TV)
PBS also has many craft shows, including the documentary Craft in America [http://www.craftinamerica.org].
Top-Selling Crafts Categories
General crafts ($12.3 billion in sales)
Needle and Sewing Crafts ($7.1 billion in sales)
Painting and Finishing Crafts ($7.0 billion in sales)
Floral Crafts ($3.1 billion)
Source: CHA Attitude and Usage Study of 2006. 11
The joys of working with your hands, learning new skills, and relying on your own creativity, enthusiasm, and passion have been embraced by millions of Americans, who express their ideas in myriad craft activities, including scrapbooking, jewelry-making, ceramic pottery, knitting, sewing, quilting, woodworking, painting, etc. — all adding up to a $29.5 billion industry. No small potatoes. The most recent Craft and Hobby Association (CHA) study found that 57 percent of U.S. households (62 million households) participated in crafts and craft activities in 2006. The same study reported that 4 million new people come to the crafting craze each year and that the crafting industry has experienced a 43 percent growth during the last 3 years. 1 CHA’s study also found that craft participation is highest among households with high incomes, households with three or more people, and households with children under the age of 18. How many enthusiastic hobbyists do you know, at work or outside of work? How many people do you know who like to make things? Do you like to make things? Thought so.
Why are crafts like jewelry-making, scrapbooking, and quilting so popular? “The most popular reason that people craft is the desire to learn new things and express creativity.” 2 Jean Railla, founder and editor of GetCrafty.com (an online forum and blog site for crafters of all persuasions) and a contributor to Craft Magazine [http://www.craftzine.com], lists four other reasons why Americans have so enthusiastically embraced crafting and the latest crafting movement: 1) It allows us to make art out of everyday life. Choosing a pattern, knitting it, wearing it — a full creative process. Crafting allows us to embody this bohemian ideal while paying the rent. 2) The triumph of feminism in the 1960s-’70s “opened the door for all of us to value typically feminine art forms.” 3) We work at computers all day, “making something that you can touch, wear, or inhabit is satisfying on an almost spiritual level.” 4) Crafting is a political statement, a move to get away from a corporate, one-size-fits-all mentality and embrace individuality, creativity, and uniqueness. 3 For me, making jewelry combines the creative enterprise of matching the colors of semiprecious stones with the myriad textures and sizes of beads and putting it all together to create a necklace, bracelet, or pair of earrings. It’s — well — fun, exciting, and sometimes even glorious.
People love to tinker; they love to put things together; and they love to talk about what they’ve done, display it, and share it with friends, family, colleagues, and strangers. As librarians, we can see creative explosions in our daily work space. Witness the explosion of new ideas and new inventions in the digital world with blogs, Flickr, podcasts, vlogs, wikis, YouTube, MySpace, and Second Life. The digital tools have unleashed creativity. We see it with new mashups, new tools, and new ways to create and share ideas, as described and showcased by Mashable.com and Programmableweb.com. We have also seen the widening acceptance and adoption of Creative Commons licenses that offer flexible copyright options that support sharing and the combining of all kinds of creative works — “websites, scholarship, music, film, photography, literature, and courseware.” 4
This same creative explosion occurs in the physical craft world. Take a look at Make magazine [http://www.makezine.com] and Craft Magazine, the creative inspiration of the husband and wife team of Mark Frauenfelder and Carla Sinclair. Frauenfelder, co-editor of BoingBoing [http://www.BoingBoing.net], “A Directory of Wonderful Things,” is Make’s editor-in-chief. Sinclair is the editor of Craft Magazine. Together, the two magazines cater to the tinkerer in all of us, whether in the digital or physical worlds. Sinclair expressed this insight when she launched the first issue of Craft in 2006. In it, she wrote: “[T]he new craft movement encourages people to make things themselves rather than buy what thousands of others already own. It provides new venues for crafters to show and sell their wares, and it offers original, unusual, alternative, and better-made goods to consumers who choose not to fall in step with mainstream commerce. Crafting empowers people by allowing them to create something useful. If you need something, just make it yourself.” 5
Putting their view of the new craft movement to the test, Frauenfelder and Sinclair recently branched out to establish Maker Faire [http://makerfaire.com] — a 2-day DIY festival now entering its second year and attracting more than 400 makers and 40,000-plus fans and enthusiasts. As Dale Dougherty, editor and publisher of Make, explained, “People are doing something they love, and they love talking about it. It’s one thing to do a project, but the real satisfaction is to share it with other people. That’s what Maker Faire is all about.” 6 Crafts, physical or digital, inspire individual learning experiences that reward today and tomorrow.
Jewelry-Making: Beaded Jewelry
In its most recent Attitude and Usage Study of 2006, the Craft and Hobby Association reported that beading and jewelry-making was the fourth-most-popular craft in the country (right behind cross-stitch/embroidery, crocheting, and scrapbooking/memory crafts). The most recent Craftrends survey reported that, for the “fourth year in a row, beads and jewelry making had the greatest customer participation among the ‘General Crafts’ sectors with 42 percent of all crafters now purchasing beads annually and 25 percent purchasing jewelry-making supplies annually.” Craftrends also reports that “jewelry making reaches out to all ages and incomes because everyone likes to wear something they made — or give a special gift of jewelry.” 7 Jewelry-making accounts for $1,032 million in sales and the hobby grew 5.2 percent among U.S. households, up from 4.7 percent in 2005. 8
Beaders are a pretty diverse and interesting group. In October 2005, Bead&Button Magazine [http://www.beadandbutton.com] published the results of a Web poll asking its readership the question: “If you are currently in the workforce, what field of employment are you in?” 9 Here are some of the results:
- 23 percent other (responses ranged from archaeologist to market researcher to wedding planner)
- 22 percent retired/not currently in the workforce
- 11 percent healthcare
- 10 percent bead or jewelry-related
- 9 percent education/training
- 6 percent accounting/finance
- 6 percent computers/Internet/technology
- 4 percent retail
- 3 percent government/military
- 3 percent arts/entertainment
- 3 percent legal
I came to beading 4 years ago. Although I’m not sure where the idea came from, I do distinctly remember when the idea popped into my head that I should begin to explore beading as a hobby. It was a couple of days before Thanksgiving and I was on the D.C. Metro going to work when the idea just appeared that I could make jewelry and give it away to friends and family for the holidays. I debated with myself for a couple of days, but finally took the plunge and went over to my local bead shop, Beadazzled [http://www.beadazzled.net], and met a very helpful, friendly, and professional staff who guided me on my way — answering questions, showing me techniques, and offering strategies on how to use tools, purchase the right materials, and select books and educational materials for additional insights and ideas. Your local bead shop is an absolutely terrific source of information for all things beading. Many hold classes and workshops where you can learn the techniques to create beaded jewelry.
I must say I have found beading and jewelry-making completely and totally addictive. If you ask other beaders, you will get the same response: “I live to bead.” Learning about the beads (semiprecious stones, glass, pearls, corals, bone, ceramic, seed beads, and ethnic and trade beads) takes you on a fascinating journey, one that does not quit. There is always something new to learn, to try, to create. It has been a love affair ever since and has led me to launch my own small jewelry business, Stranded Bead [http://www.strandedbead.com], and to begin to explore the world of metalworking by taking classes with a local goldsmith, M.E. Trozzo.
From Hobby to Small Business
Pursuing a hobby is one thing, but turning a hobby into a small business requires careful and thoughtful consideration. One resource that I have used over and over again is Penny Diamanti’s small but useful book The Bead Business. Penny is the owner of Beadazzled (the shop where it all started for me) and she wrote this book to assist small-business entrepreneurs who want to get into the bead or jewelry business. She explains all about setting up a business, pricing issues, retail selling, wholesale selling, and all the things you need to consider if you want to take the plunge. She also has a very useful bibliography of books and resources that you might want to consult if you want more information. The one book that she recommends above all others is Paul and Sarah Edwards Working from Home. She has had many customers come into her shops as novice beaders and migrate from hobbyist to small entrepreneur. Often beaders begin by making pieces for friends and family and then move on to selling the jewelry they have created. In fact, she has found that 50 percent of her customers have sold something or aspire to sell their creations. She looks at her business as a way of empowering women and serving as a microbusiness incubator. It is also a way to support that addictive beading habit that I know so well.
For another useful resource, try Rena Klingenberg’s the Jewelry Business Blog [http://www.home-jewelry-business-success-tips.com/jewelry-business-blog.html]. She provides useful articles on selling jewelry, setting up a Web site, marketing your site and business, and what you need to know to show your wares at craft shows and art fairs. One resource that serves as a constant source of ideas, inspiration, and creativity is Ornament magazine [http://www.ornamentmagazine.com], published by Robert K. Lui and Carolyn L. E. Benesh. I absolutely love this magazine. Editors Lui and Benesh have created a terrific, thoughtful magazine that explores the professional side of the craft by showcasing artists in jewelry/metalsmithing/beads, fiber arts, and wearable arts. Equally fascinating, they publish educational pieces focussed on the ethnographic, archaeological, anthropological, and historical traditions of human cultures around the world, illustrating how those cultures have been expressed through personal adornment, whether through jewelry and beads or clothing, textiles, and fabric. The high-quality photographs and the accompanying articles make this a must-see magazine in the field. (Lui also wrote the book Collectible Beads, an invaluable resource for those interested in learning more about beads and their historical, cultural, ethnographic, and spiritual place in human history.)
The Web has created a welcoming place for crafters to find others who share the crafting passion, as well as an opportunity to showcase creative energies through Web sites; blogs; community forums such as GetCrafty, Craftster.org, and Ganoskin’s Orchid; and online shopping sites such as Etsy.com and Artsefest.com. Here, small business crafters, jewelry-makers, and others offer what they make to those who want to buy hand-crafted items. Etsy.com bills itself “as your place to buy and sell all things handmade” and, although only in its second year, has already attracted 250,000 registered members and 50,000 sellers. Since its launch, Etsy has sold nearly $10 million worth of “handmade goods,” with jewelry the top category in both listings and sales. 10
The following lists represent only a selection of blogs, forums, and crafting organizations that can help you identify individuals and organizations actively involved in crafting in general and jewelry making in particular. They should get you started, but are by no means comprehensive.
The crafts world is a rich, messy, thrilling place. Find your niche, your passion, your muse. Create, learn, and share. You can do it.
1 - “CHA Attitude & Usage Study Update Unveiled During 2007 CHA Winter Convention & Trade Show,” Feb. 20, 2007 [http://www.craftandhobby.org/cgi-bin/pressrelease.cgi?func=ShowRelease&releaseid=195] (accessed June 17, 2007) and “The Craft & Hobby Association (CHA) Discloses Crafts Industry Sales at $29.5 Billion,” May 1, 2007 [http://www.craftandhobby.orgcgi-bin/pressrelease.cgi?func=ShowRelease&releaseid=210] (accessed June 17, 2007).
2 - Email correspondence with Kristin Degnan, Craft and Hobby Association, jewelry-making statistics from the 2006 Craft and Hobby Association’s (CHA) Attitude and Usage Study. Received on June 7, 2007.
3 - Jean Railla, “Why Making Stuff is Fashionable Again,” Craft , vol. 1, p. 10 [http://www.craftzine.com].
4 - Creative Commons, About, History and Mission [http://creativecommons.orgabout/history] (accessed June 16, 2007).
5- Carla Sinclair, “The Crafting of Craft: Welcome to the new magazine for the new craft movement,” Craft, vol. 1, p. 7 [http://www.craftzine.com].
6 - “Maker Faire 2007: 400 Makers, 40,000 Attendees, 200,000 Square Feet of DIY Mayhem,” May 19, 2007 [http://makerfaire.compress/highlights] (accessed on June 17, 2007).
7 - “Beading Hobby Takes Off Across US: Three Industry Surveys Report Growth in Beaders,” Dec. 13, 2006, Interweave Press [http://www.interweave.comPressRoom/PR_bead/state_of_beading.pdf] (accessed June 17, 2007).
8 - Email correspondence with Kristin Degnan, June 7, 2007.
9 - “Beaders at Work,” Bead&Button, October 2005, p. 10.
10 - Kerry Miller, “Etsy: A Site for Artisans Takes Off,” BusinessWeek, June 12, 2007 [http://www.businessweek.comsmallbiz/content/jun2007/sb20070611_488723.htm] (accessed June 17, 2007).
11 - “CHA Attitude & Usage Study Update Unveiled During 2007 CHA Winter Convention & Trade Show,” Feb. 20, 2007 [http://www.craftandhobby.org/cgi-bin/pressrelease.cgi?func=ShowRelease&releaseid=195] (accessed June 17, 2007) and “The Craft & Hobby Association (CHA) Discloses Crafts Industry Sales at $29.5 Billion,” May 1, 2007 [http://www.craftandhobby.org/cgi-bin/pressrelease.cgi?func=ShowRelease&releaseid=210] (accessed June 17, 2007).