The Crafter’s Box
The Crafter’s Box
Imagine a trip to the craft store for jewelrymaking supplies with a baby, a toddler, and a preschooler in tow. You manage to keep them from upending everything in sight, but you buy too much. Weeks later, even though you need to return some items, you just aren’t ready to relive that ordeal. That was Morgan Spenla, who decided there had to be a better way.
In 2015, she founded the Crafter’s Box, a subscription service for like-minded makers, who receive a curated kit delivered to their door, with all the tools and materials to complete a maker-designed project each month. A video workshop with the originator is available online.
Projects vary widely, from watercolors to woven wall hangings to wooden cutting boards, and accommodate different skill levels. “Whether you’re coming in brand-new or you’re coming in as an experienced artist, you’re going to gain something from the maker that we’re featuring that month,” says Spenla, 32, who lives in San Diego. The workshops are available indefinitely, so, months later, if you’ve forgotten how to prepare your loom or cast on for your knitting project, you’re covered.
Ample lead time – six months to a year – allows for sourcing the best materials and working efficiently. Spenla seeks out makers who are comfortable teaching a workshop on camera, which is key to the whole process. She’ll gather a group of six or so upcoming artists for “crafter’s retreats,” where she and her small team shoot the workshops and final products; she collaborates with each maker to create the ideal kit. She also works hard to include materials that are sustainably sourced.
Spenla describes a weaving project with fiber artist Maryanne Moodie. “We said, OK, if we could design a loom that would be perfect for this workshop and that would fulfill all of the needs that you, as the artist, have in executing this workshop and future workshops, how would that look?” she recalls. “Then we worked with a local woodworking husband-and-wife team to build a really beautiful, functional loom.”
Costs are always a challenge. Collaborating with the artists for the specialty items helps. “A lot of suppliers work with us on that, knowing that we have a consistent cost of every single workshop box, and we can’t adjust that as part of our program,” Spenla explains. “So they work with us on delivering some really wonderful materials” – for example, finding ways to create the looms in bulk, “or whatever it might be on their end that makes it more sustainable to offer to us.”
The month before each new kit ships and workshop launches, Spenla releases a podcast with the project’s featured maker. It’s a chance for participants to get to know more about the maker, the upcoming project, and its materials. Participants have 10 days each month to subscribe to the next month’s box or sign on for three months at a discount.
Spenla and her team put together around 600 projects a month now. Included in a membership is an online how-to workshop, access to an online forum, and the chance to join in an hourlong “maker chat” with the featured artist streaming live from their studio at the end of the month. It’s a chance to ask any last questions or watch the maker demonstrate a particular technique.
Kymona Tracey of Elmont, New York, has subscribed since 2016 and loves it. “Morgan and her team introduced me to so many different crafts that I would not have tried on my own,” she says. “I made a leather clutch, for goodness’ sakes.”
“There’s a mentality in the crafting world right now that sharing just helps to spread awareness to artists in general, and that is always a good thing,” Spenla says. “For me, however I’m able to be creative despite the busyness of life, that’s something that’s really huge; it keeps me grounded and it enhances my life so much that I just really believe that there are a lot of other makers out there who feel the same way.
“To let creativity be a part of their life, despite how busy life is – that’s a message that I want to keep sharing again and again.”