As the organizer of what is becoming a craft show of epic scale, I have a unique perspective of the handmade movement in my region. Participants in Strange Folk are not limited to St. Louis though. This year, we will host 120 vendors from across the country, and even Canada! I’m excited, and very much in the thick of preparations at the moment. There is one glaring issue that I did not anticipate dealing with though…the dismal economy.
First, came the disappointing news from some of our former and potential sponsors that such contributions had been stricken from their budget. Then, I started hearing the various woes of crafters. They couldn’t afford to travel here due to gas prices. They had to go back to working “real” jobs full-time. Their small businesses were no longer financially sustainable. Disheartening as that is, a silver lining is unmistakable.
I see a definite surge in resourcefulness. Crafters who used primarily store-bought materials to make merchandise for previous shows are now integrating reclaimed supplies. In large part, the marketing angle has expanded from “kitsch” and “handmade with love” to “repurposed” and “eco-friendly”. I do not doubt the genuine motives behind the green crafting trend, but simply ponder if this is a perfect storm of necessitated environmentalism. The eco-friendly commercial supplies we desire may still be difficult to obtain, but we have a distinct advantage over corporate manufacturing in the realm of creative reuse.
The negative cliches of mass production and globalization have helped to launch the handmade movement, but all too often I feel like we preach to the converted. Now, as prices on imported goods increase significantly, more people feel that if they can’t get a good deal, they may as well support organic farming or a local business instead. If society is gaining ethical clarity through what they purchase, then indie entrepreneurs may well have a seat reserved on the gravy train.
That’s why despite the fact that patrons to craft shows may have less money to spend this year, I’m optimistic that there will be more of them. Using the right buzzwords(without going overboard in the “green” department) and reaching out beyond the normal target audience could be a pretty effective marketing strategy at this point in time.
What were once inefficient methods of production are now celebrated as vehicles for diverseness. Buying handmade imparts lasting satisfaction, and is increasingly a more eco-friendly choice. So, it makes sense that we should thrive in today’s economic landscape.