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Creative Leisure News
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Email: mike@clnonline.com

 

 


Your Business Commentary

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

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Reactions to the Decline of the "Smiling Bunny Syndrome"

But what will replace it?

by Various CLN Subscribers (April 4, 2005)

Finding a middle ground.

Iím enjoying your series of comments on new styles/trends in design, especially the "no more cute" message. What Iíd like to see in needle arts is something in the middle. Stuff like Thomas Kinkade paintings (or other super-detailed designs) are just too hard for the average cross stitcher. Itís not cute, but itís too hard.

And the rest, frankly, is dreck. I donít even want to carry cross stitch any more. In needlepoint, itís either all floral, or way too far out (which I love but donít think the majority of needleworkers would want to spend $150 on because they canít use them anywhere in the house). And really, how many people can use a needlepoint vest?

Iím not sure where the middle is. After all, Iím the retailer/marketer whose job it is to find efficient ways to get the product to the consumer at a price theyíre willing to pay. But I sure would like a really creative person to get a finger on the pulse and find a way to make cross stitch and needlepoint designs that are relevant to a younger demographic.

I had to tell my web designer to change some parts of my new web site design because the average age of a stitcher is something like 50 or more and they couldnít read the darn thing. Yikes! When the eyes get older, cross stitch drops off the radar.

Needlepoint is more eye friendly but currently very expensive. So embroidery and cross stitch need to appeal to people UNDER 50 or they will be in big trouble. We canít keep relying on increasingly older people to carry the craft. I remember when I was a teenager (back in the late 60ís, early 70s), there was a fad of girls embroidering chambray workshirts for themselves and their boyfriends. When was the last time you saw a teen do something like that? How do we get back to that?

Keep on bringing the message to the creative side of the business that we need their skills sharpened, and keep preaching to the manufacturers/distributors that if they get that new product out there, and get it discovered, it will sell. (But maybe not right away; they must persevere.) And of course, you can always hope someone famous will take your product home from jail and get captured by the camerasÖ. Catherine Bracken, www.discountneedlework.com

New designs: chicken or the egg?

This is the first time I've been exposed to your ideas about "the smiling bunny"; believe me, it was very timely.

I am currently experiencing a bit of frustration trying to introduce designs that are contemporary and more modern in style. I feel like I've been like witnessing a chicken-and-egg situation. I hear, "We want something new," but when offered something new it is met with timidness. Our Spirit Series was designed for younger, contemporary stitchers. The response from stitchers is whole-hearted enthusiasm; they want it and they want more! The response from stores and industry is cautious. "It's different. Won't sell to my customers."

I wonder, how many stitchers leave stores empty handed? If there isn't a wide, diverse selection in stores, what will prompt their return? Are shops taking advantage of every opportunity for sales and widening their client base?

What keeps me optimistic for the craft industry? I look to the younger crafters Ė the knitters, scrapbookers, whatever. I know that every person who is capable with their hands will be capable in a number of ways. Knitters will learn to quilt, quilters will learn needlework, and needle workers will learn beading. The young knitters of today are the stitchers of tomorrow. My job as a designer is to give them something worthwhile to stitch.

About creativity: I love creating. I believe that creating anything demonstrates a personal resistance to a mass consumer society. Any creative endeavour is an antidote to stress in high-tech work or work of any kind. It's important to have quiet reflective times, to contemplate, de-compress in our fast-paced world. Creating does all that.

(Editor's note: To read more on creativity being an antidote to stress, click on Kate's Collage for an excerpt from the new book, Craft To Heal: Soothing Your Soul with Sewing, Painting, and Other Pastimes.) 

There are people who make things and people who buy things. It's important to realize that everyone can make something. It's important to realize that all cultural things are made Ė news, music, music videos - all produced. When you are involved in the act of making things, it helps you realize that the culture in front of us is only one perspective. It's not carved in stone. And if you don't agree, you can make your own response. Ė Michelle Edmonds, Great Bear Canada, www.greatbearcanada.com

The basics come first.

I wanted to respond to the ideas put forth by designers about doing wildly creative projects. Have any of you ever tried to teach an abstract or "off the wall" project? Have you tried to get across an idea which is a "do you own thing" or " do what you feel" thing. I find it very difficult.

Have you forgotten that crafters, be they scrapbookers, decorative painters, or knitters, etc., need to learn the language of the craft and they need to learn basic skills for that particular craft?

I can remember wanting to learn to knit. I got all the stuff and low and behold, I could not read the pattern or figure out what they were talking about? Did I learn to knit? Yes, but I took a basic skills class; I never got good at it but I assumed I just needed more practice.

I think there is 2 to 5% who have special creative gifts; they generally turn out to be the creators of the patterns or the authors of instruction books. I like the idea of "thinking outside the box" but unless there are basics, you will run off more crafters than those who stick. Of course, you may get sales but not long-time fans with repeated sales and satisfaction.

This is one reason the chains need to teach. They would sell a lot more supplies if people knew how to use the supplies.

One other thing: I have seen many craft categories come and go in the last 30 years. A lot of the crafts were simply "killed off" by negative thinking and negative observations put into words by buyers, newsletter writers, shop owners, and manufacturers. If you say if often enough, most anything will come true. You have a lot of power. The chains and their buyers have a lot of power. Ė Doxie Keller (one of the industry's genuine bright lights in decorative painting) doxie@southwind.net, www.packetemporium.com/products.php?aid=48

Latino crafts.

My name is Kathy Cano Murillo, I'm a national craft columnist (Gannett News Service/Arizona Republic), an artist that makes and sells Latino-theme crafts, a craft book author, and I run a DIY web site, www.craftyChica.com.

I liked your "Smiling Bunny" article in the new issue of CLN, and am happy the mainstream is finally noticing the new crafty revolution! But I wanted to point out that cool crafters are not new at all, and not necessarily "young" crafters. It's people of all ages who are noticing, "Hey, crafts these days aren't as corny!" or "Hey, there is a way around having to buy all that expensive stuff in order to make something cool".

This trend has been around ever since the late 90s and really came into full swing in 2001. BUST magazine, Ready Made, Budget Living, Rescue Mag Ė all these magazines have been tapping into it. When I launched my site in 2000, www.GetCrafty.com was already big and going strong. There is a another big site, www.supernaturale.com.

The tricky angle to this market is that they are not into buying expensive supplies Ė we are all into re-purposing and thinking clever. There is also a strong feminist angle to the crafts. Many are crafty rebels and vow never to buy store-bought embellishments, etc. Some don't do it just for the sake of trying to save money, but still wanting a cool personal style to their decor.

As a craft columnist and book author, I like to show the best of both worlds. However, my designs and my personality fit much better with the non-mainstream side. I'm doing a double whammy Ė trying to appeal to hip Latinas that are into cool crafts. There are a lot of them! Ė Kathy Cano Murillo, www.CraftyChica.com; kathymurillo@cox.net

(Note: To read the original report and column that inspired these letters, read "What Happened To the Smiling Bunny?" in the 3/21/05 edition of Creative Leisure News Ė click on CLN Archives in the right-hand column of the main page. To read the column with more comments on the changing nature of our industry's designs, click on Designing Perspectives, then "How and Why Craft Designs Are Changing" in the right-hand column. To read previous Business-Wise columns, click on the headlines in the right-hand column of this page.)

xxx

 

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