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Phone: 785-760-5071
Email: mike@clnonline.com

 

 


Your Business Commentary

Mike's often irreverent, thought-provoking analysis of the industry.

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Thoughts on the Changing Nature of Crafts

Vendors, retailers, reps, and designers share their views.

By CLN Subscribers (November, 2003)

(Note: In the Oct. 20 issue, CLN reported on Crafts magazine changing its name to Paper Crafts and asked readers if this was a sign that our industry had changed in some fundamental way. The response was overwhelming. Many of the comments are published here; others are in the Nov. 3 issue itself, and still more are in the Memory, Paper & Stamps column.)

The Paradigm Has Changed.

In 1986, paradigms were once described to me as this: When Christopher Columbus discovered that the earth was round, not flat, the whole world had to change its belief system.

Our crafts industry, too, is going through a paradigm change. I liken this change to describing a single color. For example, when I say "blue," you may think aqua, sea foam, or even teal, while I may want you to envision navy, sky blue, or cobalt blue. When I say "crafts," you might think plastic canvas or color by numbers, while I want you to think beyond that with fibers, feathers, and fabrics.

Color, like crafts, has many shades, and it is my belief that there are many different definitions (shades) for crafts.

As children we crafted with paper because it was accessible and easy to manage. As adults we craft with paper because it's accessible and easy to manage, yet there are so many more choices, colors, patterns, motifs, textures than we could have ever experienced as children, and that's exciting to me.

Paper crafting has become high profile and it's just one more shade/definition to help expand our belief system.

I'll betcha a sawbuck that this new publication will crossover from "paper crafting" to "crafting with paper" without letting the reader even know it! Collage, paper mache, decoupage, tissue paper flowers - ahhh, didn't we call this "crafts" in our yesteryears? Today, everything old is new again but with a new name tag. Perhaps this belief system will give crafting a "hip" name, adding more definition and clarity to our industry rather than just a single overall perceived view of crafts in general.

So what's next via this craft paradigm? Shall we call floral arranging "petal crafts"? Hmmm. Sounds like a paradigm to me! - Kathy Peterson - designer, author, television host www.kathypeterson.com

Crafts: Simply Following Society.

I have noticed over the past ten years that consumer magazines are becoming more and more niche. The days of the general interest magazine such as the Saturday Evening Post, Life, and Look are long gone. Reader's Digest may be the lone holdout. The specialty magazines reign: Cigar Aficionado, Skateboarder, Teen People, Home Office Computing, etc.

This trend has also spread to cable TV: Game Show Network, Food Network. It looks as though this fragmentation trend, which is already entrenched in magazines and TV, is hitting the craft market as well. I don't think it is cause for alarm or a foreshadowing of the death of crafts. It does, however, illustrate a specialization trend which is appearing across many industries. (Try to find a general practitioner MD these days!) The industry is evolving; it's a good thing. - Michelle Temares, a leading trend expert in the industry

Where Does a Novice Try a New Category?

The House of White Birches also changed its Creative Crafter magazine to PaperWorks as of April 2004. While I don't want to cut my nose off to spite my face as I'm writing articles for them, I hear your concern.

Perhaps the special interest publications that reach out to specific segments of the population are meeting the needs of beaders, needleworkers, painters, polymer clay artists, seamstresses, etc. I hope so, because as much as I love paper and all its texture and nuances, I know that there are a myriad of wonderful mediums that I have never explored and may not have the benefit of magazine instruction for a "trial" project. - Leslie Frederick

Specialization = Better Customer Service?

I noticed weeks ago that there are fewer general holiday craft magazines on the racks than in years past. Most of the magazines are geared toward one craft theme (quilting, beading, cards, paper, ornaments). I feel if stores were geared toward specific craft categories as well, it could only mean more experienced sales help and guidance for the customer. - Lisa Diemer

New Is Nice, But...

I always relate crafts to our country's beginning, when most things were done by hand and were done from the creativity of someone's mind. I have seen many successes from just an idea. I like change, but I like the old also. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. That's how I look at crafts: new ideas that everyone can try. Scrapbooking is great, but as Janet Parker said, how about our beginning crafts? I guess husband and wife both working has changed the entire world. - Jim Tierney

"Crafts" Defies Definition.

If you read Fiberarts magazine or The Crafts Report, you will see an ongoing discussion on defining "craft" as opposed to "art." It is a huge gray area and provokes some passionate arguments. If only there were more English words to describe what we do with our hands to make beautiful and useful objects, and then move along the continuum toward items which have an historic basis in utility but are created to express an idea or grace a wall (art quilts, decorative baskets, etc.).

My shop, Springwater, is actually a nonprofit fiber art school, also affiliated with The Art League in Alexandria, VA in that we promote some of our classes through their annual catalog along with watercolor and other "fine arts." The supply store pays the rent, which is quite steep in Old Town Alexandria.

So some of our teachers/customers consider themselves to be artists and exhibit internationally, while many of our knitting/crocheting/felting customers/teachers are just happy to make nice gifts or garments/accessories for themselves.

I also belong to a co-op gallery and at each monthly jury session, we struggle with items that look "crafty." We accept only items made of fiber (paper, yarn, fabric) or a fiber technique. So some of our members are weaving with glass, knitting/weaving with wire, making quilts with Tyvek, and pushing the definitions of fiber.

Nothing is simple and everything defies categorization. - Jane Butler

Crafts: Changing To What Sells.

I think Lynn Carlisle hit the nail on the head when she said Crafts was changing to capitalize on potential advertising dollars. I agree with you that it is hard to see old basics change. Time will tell if it is the right thing for the company.

As for crafting, one magazine is not going to change the customer who still wants "basics." I like A.C. Moore's statement: "Our customers want us to be a craft store."

I think that name crafts means a lot of different things to many people. We just have to keep changing our merchandise mix to what sells for us in our stores.

I was in a competitor's store last week and found it hard to find any ideas for the customer to develop. There was just "stuff" stacked to the roof with no one in sight or earshot to help you.

For sure we are not like the variety stores of the years past. We are changing daily as are many of the retail stores.

Thanks for the good articles that help keep us up on what is happening in the world of crafting, whatever that might be! - Adrian Taylor, Taycor, which operates an independent craft store in Monroe, WA.

Magazine Strategies.

Relative to your question about the word, crafts, in magazine titles: The prevailing wisdom is that newsstand magazine buyers are younger, and may have found their way into a craft store looking for something else. The word, crafts, isn't sexy on newsstands and I do think that publishers are trying to shed that image as they attempt to capture the attention of that 26-year-old knitter or the 30-something scrapbooker. As an overall umbrella word for this industry, though, I don't think we can discard it.

I guess the best comparison is in the cooking magazines. We'll always have a Gourmet magazine, but that won't stop the plethora of other titles from Cooking Light to Texas Barbeque magazine. - Industry veteran with a strong public relations background.

History Repeats Itself.

This news sounds like where I came in. In the 70's there were specialty craft shops including macrame, decoupage, and tole painting. I became successful in a small town by having the best overall craft store. Now the magazines are repeating history. My bet is on the craft magazine. If the reason for these changes is the number of advertisers, how big is the vendors' advertising budget? How many magazines can they advertise in? - Veteran Sales Rep (Note: We're certain this discussion isn't over, or settled. Feel free to contribute your thoughts on what is happening to our industry - and whether the changes are positive or negative. Email your comments - on or off the record - to mike@clnonline.com.)

xxx

 

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