Stacy Jarit and Artrider-part 2

9 December 2006

See part 1
Evolution of the Designer Craftsmen Movement
Jarit explains that the USA Designer Craft Movement started in the 1960’s as an alternative lifestyle. The rebels made their wares and sold them outdoors on a card table covered with a hippy cloth.
The movement grew, the American Craft Council started its shows in 1966 in Vermont (American Craft Council history). The movement grew more and retailer started to open craft galleries to satiate the appetite for handmade objects created by these first makers. In 1977 the American Craft Council held its first Winter Market in Baltimore with 300 exhibitors.
In the early 1980’s Wendy Rosen founded the Rosen Group with a goal to bring business expertise and infrastructure, such as wholesale shows and magazines, to the crafts market. The crafts people began wholesaling and saw a big improvement in their life styles, now being able to afford braces for their children’s teeth and an occasional stimulating vacation. The crafts market grew in the 80’s and 90’s. The globalization of the market place and the rise of retailers whose handmade aesthetic was pioneered by the crafts people made for some rough patches, but by enlarge the crafts makers adapted.
CODA has documented the size and economic impact of the crafts’ market, in 2000 the market was $13.8 billion. 93% of the craftspeople were Caucasian, 64% female and the median age was 49 years. Most work at home.
Jarit thinks that history will see the flowering of the craft movement and market place as a phenomenon of the late 20th century.
No one is doing as well as they were in 2000. After 9/11/01 the wholesale market collapsed. The retail market continued to do relatively well with a strong patriotic component, Made in the USA. There has been lots of attrition in exhibitors since 2000, especially in the middle ranks. But craftspeople are resilient and adapt, those who were doing wholesale only have moved back into the retail market. They do more shows, travel farther–what ever it takes. This means that the good shows are more competitive– more applications for the same number of spots. The Smithsonian Craft Show can have 1200 applications for 120 booths.
It is very different to brake into the market today. In the 60’s one could start on a shoestring; a card table, cover, and hippy dress. Today one must have the same talent plus make and investment to have effective photography to jury into the show, a striking display, a merchant account to take credit cards….
So now one works their way into the top tier of shows. Jarit feels that part of her mission is to steer exhibitors to right show or festival. And she pointed out that although she organizes shows in the top tier, the more open and accessible shows are an integral part of the marketplace. Exhibitors start with a simple booth and grow. People stumble on a craft show in a park and have their first encounter with handmade American crafts and the passion starts.
To be continued in part 3– The Sea of Gray


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