Monday, June 04, 2007

CRAFTCHAT T.O.: meeting notes


CraftChat T.O.
Sunday May 27th, 2007 2-5pm

Trinity-St. Paul’s Church

After attending Craft Congress 2007 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Toronto crafter Leah (Toronto Church of Craft), Becky (Good Catch Craft Fair) & Jen (Toronto Craft Alert) were inspired to invite Toronto makers & craft enthusiasts to attend CraftChat T.O. in order to share their Congress experiences as well as open up the discussion to local issues. The following is a summary*** of what went down.

What do we want to come out of this meeting?

-Try and get an open dialogue going between crafters in the city
-Brainstorm ideas on how to promote our businesses
-Share resources and ideas with one another

Topics Discussed

What was the Craft Congress meeting all about?
We didn’t go into this too much as the discussion veered away from it. Becky and Jen talked a bit about the fact that some of the “indie” (debatable term) craft fairs in the States seek corporate sponsorship. This was acceptable to many of the American Craft Congress attendees and was in fact one of the workshop topics. The “danger” of indie fairs in
Toronto “going corporate” was considered. Conclusion: Not likely! They aren’t big enough.

Is it possible to be crafty and profitable? What are the pros and cons of selling at craft fairs? How helpful are websites like Etsy to crafters?
It was suggested that the market is saturated – there are too many craft fairs in Toronto! Some participants noted that when your skills develop to the point of your work looking professional or “perfect”, craft fair goers don’t want to buy your stuff because it doesn’t look “handmade” enough.

Many people are frustrated with the cost of participation as well as low sales at craft sales and are turning to internet selling to get their work out there. The effectiveness of was debated – it’s clear that instant success on Etsy is unlikely, though it may be a good place to make connection with stores.

Several chatters asserted that the face-to-face interaction with customers is important & positive feedback keeps them motivated and inspired.

Is there a sizeable market in Canada for handmade goods?
The Canadian market is much smaller than in the U.S., largely because the population is smaller. Some makers have greater success selling to the States for this reason, plus it is more of a culture of spending vs. a culture of thrift like in Canada.

Are Guilds and other organizations helpful?
Most Guilds are found to be too expensive, though exceptions do exist.

Why is there so little dialogue between Toronto crafters?
People seem to like to spectate vs. joining in. They also like to be affiliated with things (e.g. Church of Craft) but many don’t actually show up! Re: online participation (e.g. commenting on Toronto Craft Alert blog posts), it was suggested that there is so much going on online (email, messageboards, facebook, our own websites) that no one has time to be active everywhere.

Ideas proposed

-Hosting a regular Show and Tell/ friendly critique session where people can show what they are working on and get feedback
-Starting a skill sharing group where a different crafter could lead the group in learning their skill of choice each time
-Founding a permanent space to hold meetings, craft fairs, workshops etc.
-Using a site like Tupalo or Torontopedia to share crafting resources in
-Trying to organize more social events w/crafts (& drinking)
-Getting a craft fair section going at the City Hall Farmer’s Market
- Possible places suggested for future meetings/craft related events; TPL, 401
Richmond, Galleries and City Parks

Some other things we talked about

Toronto Church of Craft
Toronto Craft Mafia
Toronto Strategy Meetings
Good Catch Craft Fairs
Circle One Advisory Group (One of A Kind Show)
m.a.d.e. show
Speakeasy show
Toronto Design Guide on Design*Sponge
Year of Craft Seminars
One of a Kind Show

***Thanks to Mandy Forbes for her contribution to these notes


Blogger Sweetie Pie said...

hey jen,

aside from how totally awesome this recap is (and it is - thanks mandy, thank jen) some of the links at the bottom are messed.

they seem to have consolidated.

love from brooklyn,


10:41 p.m.  
Anonymous Johanna said...

I attended the CraftChat and appreciated the opportunity to be with other, different creative types. Met some wonderful people, and the conversation was excellent (could have gone another three hours...)
There was an emphasis on "indie" craft... I came away asking myself, what is the definition of "indie craft"? Does this term refer the the intentions of the maker, or a certain (young) target audience for the goods, or the type of goods? Does it refer only to non-corporate-ness? A "made-on-the-fly" feel in the crafts?
Is there anyone who would like to share their interpretation of "indie"?

9:50 a.m.  
Anonymous karyn said...

Jen & Becky - thanks for organizing a great little event. I think we opened up a great dialog and i hope that it continues.

Johanna - my interpretation of 'indie' would be based on the maker. That the maker individually produces the craft in a non-corporate, non-mass manufacturing way.

3:45 p.m.  
Blogger Marnie said...

I was there as well, and really enjoyed meeting everybody! The vibe was great, and I hope we do it again soon....
Johanna, for me I think "indie" these days is almost like the Arts and Crafts movement (but on an "everyperson" level) in that it's reactionary to the mass produced everything we see almost every minute of every day. It's about regionality and diversity and collaboration instead of whole-world-predictable-blandness and competition. But for everyone it's different - some people think Urban Outfitters is "indie" (even though they're corporate and rip off real artists' designs) because they think it's a style. I mean, even Pottery Barn Kids has quilts that look a lot like Grandma's handmade (and they say handmade too, but don't get me started on by whom!) I certainly don't think "made-on-the-fly" is a prerequisite, again I think that's just a style. Maybe "indie craft" is just an easier moniker than artisan these days? Or does artisan imply that extra layer of care and expertise? Sorry about the more questions than answers! I just say I "make stuff" but then again, I'm not an expert at anything....yet ;-)

......ooops I should say "allegedly rip off real artists' stuff"! don't want to get sued for slander! :-)

9:06 p.m.  
Blogger toronto craft alert said...

yay comments! craftchatters rule!

the 'indie' topic came up during the craft congress when we were asked to 'define the indie craft movement' (a dubious assignment, to say the least).

one really interesting point that was raised was how this can be an alienating label, since it is more often than not associated with youth, like indie rock (not exclusively a young thing either, but this is the dominant association). it was suggested that this alienates older crafters, who may share many of the ideals & sometimes even aesthetics with younger crafters, but feel that they are too old to participate.

i think this topic of indie = asthetics vs. indie = process/values is really facinating. for those who connect more with the latter association, would you say older ladies making traditional quilts by hand in a quilting circle are indie crafters?

and what of marnie's example of urban outfitters, or h&m for that matter, making screenprinted owl pouches (or some other "indie" style craft) on a mass-produced scale?

10:41 a.m.  

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