irreverent, thought-provoking analysis of the industry.
Thoughts on the Changing Nature of Crafts
retailers, reps, and designers share their views.
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
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
Nothing is simple and everything defies categorization. - Jane
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.)