Insights on business -- and life.
The Craft Fur Duck
The old image of crafts needs changing.
by Mike Hartnett (May 21, 2007)
Why does the Wall Street Journal think we're a
"dowdy" industry? The answer goes back to the early days
of the industry, when it wasn't an industry as such. There were no
craft stores as we know them today.
Needlework, knitting, florals, sewing, quilting, and framing were
separate industries. Scrapbooks were simply photos glued into
Back then "crafts" were little more than what Scouts
did on a rainy day. A major category was "basics" –
glue, chenille, pom poms, wiggle eyes, and plastic foam.
For many people, that was their first – and lasting –
impression of what crafts are. It was my impression, too, and my
early days in the industry did nothing to dispel that image.
I joined the industry in 1979 as Assistant Editor of Profitable
Craft Merchandising, one of the leading trade magazines. I
didn't know anything about trade magazines or the craft industry,
but I was hired anyway.
Soon after I arrived, the editor gave me a how-to article to edit
for the next issue. In those days there weren't many instruction
books, so the trade magazines would occasionally publish such
articles to enable independent retailers to create made-ups for
their stores. The instructions for that project were burned into my
brain forever. Title: A Craft Fur Duck
1. Glue two plastic foam balls together.
2. Cover them with yellow faux fur. (Hey, this was a high
class magazine; we didn't call it fake fur).
3. Glue a plastic duck face to the front. (Yes, boys and
girls, the industry used to sell plastic duck faces.)
4. Cut a couple of small pieces of chenille and jam them into
the rear lower portion of the duck.
5. Jam two duck feet into the bottom. (Hey, if you sell
plastic duck faces, you gotta sell duck feet.)
I recommended to the editor that we headline the article,
"Take This Duck and Shove It," but he demurred.
My first trade show.
A few months later I attended my first HIA trade show, 1980, in
Anaheim. I was astonished by the size, but even more astonished by
the made-ups in the booths. I called my wife that night and told her
that I hadn't seen a single project I'd want to have in our home.
It sure took a while for that to change. For a long time the
trend was "cute." Many designs – it seemed like most –
had to fit into what I called the Smiling Bunny Syndrome.
Since then of course the situation has improved. Kid's crafts,
while still strong, are now only a department. Crafts has evolved
into an umbrella term encompassing almost everything a creative
person could want.
And the aesthetic quality of projects – well, there's no
comparison. At the 2007 edition of what's now the CHA show in
Anaheim, every booth I saw contained made-ups I'd be happy to have
in my home.
But for many people, the Scout image lingers, and that's why
Martha Stewart's active involvement in the industry is, in fact, a
good thing. It doesn't matter if you like Martha or her products;
she deigned to appoint our industry as worthy of her interest, which
should give millions of consumers permission to enter our stores and
realize we offer far more than craft fur ducks.
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