Craft Con 2008: Help me. Help you.

Craft ConLast March in Pittsburgh, the first annual Craft Congress was held. Fifty organizers and icons of the indie craft movement gathered over a weekend to share knowledge and eat cupcakes. I was lucky enough to be one of them. The cupcakes were delicious.

As my plane took off from St. Louis that Friday morning, I anticipated someone there would explain how to promote a craft show into the stratosphere and run it like clockwork. The feeling crept in that my event was a speck of dust in comparison to what others had accomplished, regardless that we had nearly 100 vendors for Strange Folk‘s maiden voyage. Certainly, I questioned the validity of my involvement in what seemed a definitive moment of this growing subculture.

Much to my surprise there was not a mogul among us, despite the presence of successful start-ups like Etsy, The Sampler, and CRAFT magazine. All were submersed in their own projects and genuinely supportive of others.

As a loose-knit network, we had already gathered around the idea to reclaim crafting and catapult it into pop culture. Interestingly enough, this has been accomplished largely through the internet. Now, face to face for the first time, we attempted to define the genre and eagerly exchanged resources. There was even talk of forming an umbrella organization for the benefit of small businesses and events.

Craft Congress

Notwithstanding exceptional comradery, our opinions were vast, and we took pride in the fierce independence of our endeavors. Much had been realized, but very little accomplished from an organizational standpoint.

Jenny Hart of Sublime Stitching made one resonating point in the final minutes of a hurried session to decide how we would go forward. She stressed that we were not chosen by the community at large to govern as the event’s name would suggest, and therefore should not try to assert authority over them.

By the end of the weekend, it was exceedingly obvious: the indie craft movement will not mobilize and model itself after “distinguished” visual arts associations. We are Rock and Roll. We are the grass growing up through the cracks in the sidewalk.

This year’s summit takes place April 4th-6th…under new management and a slightly different name:

“Craft Con 2008 heralds huge growth for the project. The event in San Francisco has been planned via the internet by crafters from all over the world. April’s conference will welcome participants from all areas of crafting, making a special effort to connect younger and upcoming crafters with the experience and savvy of their antecedents. Craft Con will facilitate much broader discussion and planning in key areas of concern for the movement, in particular the viability of sustainable business and enterprise and expanding the influence of crafting in society.”

If you are interested in attending, please visit for more information. Applications will be accepted online until all spaces have been filled.

That’s not all, I need your help. It’s my privilege to be giving a presentation on the environmental impact of the craft culture. I wish to acknowledge the ingenuity of those who upcycle and re-purpose, but also paint a realistic picture of the rising tole our manufactured supplies take on the planet. It’s blatantly obvious as you stroll through the aisles of any corporate run craft store that popular hobbies require substantial amounts of imported and unsustainable goods.

We need only make ourselves aware to begin a larger effort of demanding earth friendly supplies. For starters, be sure to join my Fake Plastic Flower Death Squad, but more importantly, I want to hear your thoughts and ideas. If you have resources, opinions or experiences to give me further insight as I create my presentation, please don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments, or you can e-mail me at

Written by Autumn Wiggins

This 2008 interview pretty much sums it up:

1. How would you describe yourself?
An oddly situated performer of thought experiments

2. Do you have any anecdotes about your work (how you got started, frustrating moments, or funny stories)?
At this year's Maker Faire in San Mateo, I gave a presentation on how the trend of green crafting can ultimately address the problem of consumption and waste. Dale Dougherty,the publisher of Make and Craft, later had a gift delivered to me, a staple bound book of poetry: Music Like Dirt by Frank Bidart. This is the last thing one would expect to take home from an event so focused on renegade technology. To my surprise, it was an existential reflection on the human need to make things that I now find myself going back to whenever I need some inspiration to look beyond the materials and processes of crafting.

3. What kinds of things do you do for fun?
In my spare time I enjoy amateur astronomy, outdoor adventures, collecting domain names, and hanging out at coffee shops.

4. What interesting projects are you working on right now?
I'm working to organize community involvement in upcycling, and have a few top-secret website projects up my sleeves!

5. Where do you live? Kids, pets, spouse, occupation?
O'Fallon, IL, a suburb (and I mean a totally typical suburb) of St. Louis, MO. Rather than moving to the more culture friendly urban environment, I am staying put and annoying the heck out of Wal-Mart by throwing a massive indie craft show(Strange Folk) in their backyard. I have a husband, Doug, and two sons: a 7 year old mad scientist named Jack, and 6 year old Max, who we think is an aspiring tattoo artist since he's so fond of drawing all over himself with markers. To pay the bills, I do freelance writing, mural painting, and website design, sell my handmade crafts, teach art classes for kids, and work part -time at a local coffee shop.

6. What new idea (in or outside of your field) has excited you most recently?
The concept known as "Cradle-to-Cradle" is a blueprint for sustainability that states everything we manufacture should be either biodegrable, infinitely recyclable, or intended to be upcycled. This is the basis for many of my ideas of how the crafting community can be more widely involved in solving the environmental crisis.

7. What is your favorite food/color/tool?
granola/green/sewing machine!


Leave a Reply
  1. “popular hobbies require”

    bzzt. I have to confess to you all that I spend almost zero money on supplies. I support myself full-time making things and spend less on all supplies, tools, repairs, and everything to keep my business running than i do on food, or beer, or food minus beer.

    It’s easy here in the bay area because of salvage yards and craft depots that gather surplus supplies together, but it’s not impossible elsewhere. Every town has thrift stores and surprising things can end up there (an entire roll of artist canvas? envelopes and reams of paper? last week i got a jug of ink and a fistful of brand-new paintbrushes). Just like everything else look for the mom-and-pop, not chain, establishments; these usually have the best stuff.

    Every time you sit down to craft you’ve got parameters, from gravity and the size of the room you’re working in to your own knowledge and skill levels. All it takes to be a green crafter is to commit to it as something that we all NEED to be doing, and not beat yourself up if the transition takes time.

  2. Autumn,

    This is one compelling post on why it’s important to attend this conference. I can’t wait to meet you there and attend your session!

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