What Will Have the Biggest Impact on the Craft Marketplace?

What Will Have the Biggest Impact on the Craft Marketplace?

Published on Monday, September 19, 2011. This article appears in the October/November 2011 issue of American Craft Magazine.

In each issue, we ask members of the craft community to answer a question...

Our collective comfort level with change and our ability to evolve ideas of craft within a 21st-century context. In the not too distant future, everyone will have access to technologies that can create customized objects. If we don't participate in technological innovations, who will carry craft traditions forward? Studio practitioners and craftspeople can influence new ideas of function and production that include maintaining craft values and aesthetics at the same time we are evolving them.
~Fo Wilson, furniture artist and assistant professor at Columbia College Chicago

The craft marketplace is evolving. Arts festivals and craft shows still have a draw, but [because of] fewer sales due to the economy, some craft people I know have stopped traveling and dropped out of active participation. A few of them have now ventured into the Internet craft marketplace and are doing quite well. As much as I love the face-to-face contact with customers and the excitement of exhibiting (I'm not ready to quit yet), I believe the Internet craft marketplace will attract more "retiring" artists, continue to grow, and will have even a bigger impact in the future.
~Ron Cook, artist and luthier, Santa Cruz, CA

At Etsy, we're looking forward to seeing more of an international exchange. Connecting through craft could entail having a meaningful conversation and/or supporting the work of someone halfway around the world. Distinctive cultural differences and unique traditions will be layered onto individual artistic points of view. Is this so different from trade that has happened for centuries? No. But such easy and unmediated connections have never been as immediate as they are with new technologies. Language is the final frontier.
~Vanessa Bertozzi, director of community and education, Etsy, Brooklyn, NY

The obvious answer is an impro­ving economy, but I think it is more than that. We have had a systemic change in the way consumers spend their money. Now we must show the value in fine craft and help educate budding collectors and craft enthusiasts by sharing interesting stories and creating desire around pieces through growing mediums such as Facebook, Twitter, and, of course, traditional advertising. Artists need to convey that fine craft represents beauty, craftsmanship, and lasting value.
~Marge Gambow, co-chair, American Craft Exposition, Evanston, IL

We are fortunate to live in a time when the art world is virtually at our fingertips. I think that the growth of secondary-market and virtual galleries is a challenge, because ours is a gallery working to support the artists we represent while they are working. Undoubtedly, the firsthand experience with any work of art is what ultimately speaks to the viewer. Museums, galleries, and public installations are important sources for the art-viewing public, though I love the way the Museum of Glass in Tacoma and the Corning Museum have incorporated online streaming of artists working. It's great to use the Internet as a tool, but let's not forget to experience reality!
~Kim Saul, owner/co-director, Schantz Galleries, Stockbridge, MA

The crash of '08 demonstrated that economics and government policies are beyond our control, but have profound effects on the craft marketplace as well as [on] the luxury retail space. Going forward, what will have the biggest impact? What we can control best: the message. That crafts from designer-makers are more luxurious than mass-produced luxury goods. That crafts are inherently rare and increase in value over time. That "American craft" means "made in America."
~Ried Knapp, managing partner, Wantoot.com, Mineral Point, WI