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Designing Arts and Crafts for Wholesale

Taking Your Arts and Crafts Business to the Next Level


I just finished a fantastic article in American Craft magazine, "The Craft of Design", by Joyce Lovelace, about taking your craft business to the next level. By that I mean moving from one of a kind (OOAK) hand crafted pieces of art or craft to design for manufacturing.

I know that some artists and crafters out there are going to raise a big hullabaloo about this notion since it does run sort of counterintuitive to pure art or craft. I've discussed the issue of manufacturing arts and crafts in prior articles. In a nutshell, while we are artists and crafters, unless you have been extremely fortunate to have rich relative or win the lottery, you have to be able to make enough net income to put a roof over your head!

Taking Your Arts and Crafts Skills in Another Direction

I just finished writing a series of articles about self-publishing for e-readers. I recommend looking into self-publishing because it's another way to piggyback on your arts and crafts training and knowledge to make money and get your name out there.

Well, like self-publishing, designing for wholesale is just another way to enhance your arts or crafts business earning power. It is no different from changing materials or techniques when they cease to be profitable.

It doesn't mean that you've thrown up the white flag to the mass-marketed goods. Rather, you are expanding your arts or crafts business model merely to introduce another revenue stream. You'll still be making cool OOAK arts and crafts for gallery sales, your online shop, arts and crafts shows or competitions.

Taking Your Arts and Crafts Business to the Next Level

Unless you get to the point that you can charge a tremendous amount of money for each of your hand crafted items, it's difficult to reach the earning power of mass production. A great tag line from the article is , "Craftspeople are joining forces with retailers and manufacturers and finding that they're good together". You aren't so much losing your creative spark as you are modifying it to meet the demands of machine or mass-hand production.

A different take on this process is the modification Amy Flynn made to her FOBOTS. In order to make them creatively child-friendly, she posted instructions on her website on how to make a simple FOBOT with magnets.

Introducing the Showcased Crafters

Not going to go into the whole hoo-hah of the article - you need to read it for yourself. However, here is a brief intro for four of the eight artists/crafters/designers showcased in the article:

  • Francis Palmer: This ceramic artist contacted manufacturer Niagara China and now has her own collection made and marketed by that manufacturer.
  • Alison Berger: Not for the faint-hearted, this artist cold-contacted Hermes who was so impressed with her items that they commissioned a line of bowls and cruets.
  • Annie Costello Brown: Combining mass with hand-crafted, this jewelry artist molds, mass-produces and assembles metal cast parts for giants Urban Outfitters and Yves Saint Laurent.
  • Thomas Moser: Furniture maker who started off small and over a 25 year period expanded into seven showrooms nationwide.

If you don't already have a membership to the American Craft Council (American Craft magazine comes as part of your membership), I highly recommend you shell out the money for one. I honestly don't know how you can run a craft business without a membership to this organization (and no - they don't pay me or give me a free membership).

Not sure you want to add another expense to your payables list? For new members a one year subscription US is very reasonable at only $25.00. Existing members pay $40/year.

This includes free entry into any American Craft Council show. There are four retail and one wholesale show each year. Plus, you get 10% off at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores.

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