Support Handmade this Holiday Season!

Guest post by Sharon Fain of Academy of Handmade Artists and Supporters.

In just the last couple of years we’ve witnessed a growing movement to “shop small” during the holidays. What a wonderful counterpoint to what has become a season saturated by big box stores and corporations. Even more exciting is the increasing attention on handmade businesses as the result of the trend to start looking to support the “local” and “small.”

Through these and other efforts, being a handmade, craft or artisan business has become a viable source of income for many. People are seeing their passion as way to make a living, not just pass time as a hobby. They are no longer amateurs, but are full-blown professionals. However, as these businesses grow in number, many of their business needs will be unmet by current infrastructures and while they might make a living as a craft-artist, the stigma of a “crafter” as hobbyist will affect how people value their work.

Established creative industries like graphic design, film and writing all have professional organizations that support individuals in those fields. These professional or trade associations provide a place for: 1) networking and community building, 2) celebrating achievements through awards programming, 3) the continuing education of members and advancement of the profession, and 4) advocating for issues affecting their members such as new laws or policy changes. Academy of Handmade Artists and Supporters was created this past March with the goal of doing exactly this for handmade businesses.

Co-founders KC Cooper Sears and Sharon Fain began the vision for Academy of Handmade with the idea of creating the “Oscars of Crafting.” As they thought about it more and more, they saw that there was not only a need for a big celebration of what amazing things handmade business people are doing, but also a community that was its own entity that could advocate for and support the needs the group. And so they “made a thing a thing” and Academy of Handmade was born.

Over the past few months they have thrown an Etsy craft party for over 200 people, held an all-day business workshop and worked to provide business support and opportunities to over 30 members. In 2014, they will be on a panel at SXSW in Austin titled “Navigating the Handmade Economy” where they will talk about issues affecting handmade artists. They are also going to be throwing that awards show they’ve been dreaming about in April.

All of this requires a bit of money because they work with artists and as you know artists aren’t rich. In everything they do, they try to keep costs low because they no most handmade businesses work on a hairline profit margin. So, they’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign to gather support from family and friends. If you’re so inclined, they could use your support too. Here’s how you can help:

  1. Become a Member:  If you make and sell or are a business (like a graphic designer, craft store owner, business coach, etc.) that works with those who make and sell, you are eligible for membership! One of the “rewards” on the crowdfunding campaign is a membership for $60 (includes app fee). This price goes up $15 after the campaign is over.
  2. Give to the Campaign: The goal is $5,000 which, when broken down, is only $25 from 200 people. This is totally doable if everyone can give just a little bit.
  3. Tell Your Friends and Family: This is probably the most important way you can help. Handmade businesses only exist because there are people who support and believe in them. It’s vital that more and more people understand that handmade businesses are a vital part of the economy and that they need resources and to be celebrated. (Also, they can think of donating to the campaign as “penance” if they got crazy with the big box shopping. Kind of like carbon credits but for handmade)

It’s exciting to think about what the future holds for this industry… this profession… this movement. As it grows, it’s good to know there will be support for it from organizations like Academy of Handmade.