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November 2009

Should I link to my Etsy shop on my web site?

EricaMILLERearrings
Earrings from Mio Studio
Sterling Silver, Ebony
Artist: Erica Miller

Dear Harriete, I have been reading your blog and your posts and I was wondering if it is a good idea to have a link to my Etsy site on my website.  My website has a shopping cart but I have sold only seven items off the website in two years and over 100 on Etsy in a year.  My galleries also look at my website so Etsy and the website and the gallery prices are all the same.  What do you think? Thank you, Erica

EricaMillerNEVELSONpin
Nevelson Pin from Mio Studio
Wood, Paint
Artist: Erica Miller

Erica,
The answer is a definite "YES."  Links are one of the most powerful aspects of the Internet.  You want to give potential buyers every opportunity to find you.  Etsy is an easy convenient online marketing site that most anyone can use.  So use it to your maximum advantage. In addition, links between your site and Etsy, back and forth increase SEO (Search Engine Optimization). The more traffic the better. Search engines use traffic as one method to rank your site.

I took a look at your Etsy shop and web site and have a few other comments.

On your web site, I would recommend a simple sentence like Shop Online Now  instead of an Etsy icon or widget EtsyE. These motifs (like an Etsy E) may not be recognizable to all viewers of your site or match the aesthetic design of your web site. Note how this is one short sentence is so effective on Kate Cusack's web site by CLICKING HERE.



There was another problem with using the Etsy EtsyE on your website. When the page opens, the Etsy "E" was below the edge of my screen, below the "fold" to use a newspaper nomenclature. I didn't even see the Etsy "E" the first time I looked on your site.

When I went to your Etsy site I also noticed that you are not using your full tags or writing a complete descriptions on every image. This is very important for SEO. In fact, it is an absolute necessity. Tags and descriptions are how search engines find your work. If search engines can't find you, neither can your customers. Etsy has tons of informative posts about this topic of the Storque. Here are two great topics that will be helpful to everyone even if you don't sell on Etsy. Seller How-To: Optimizing Your Etsy Shop for Search Engines

Shop Makeover Series: Google PageRank Tips for Your Etsy Shop

EricaMilleroriginal photoeTSY Erica Miller necklaceeTSY I also noticed a fabulous necklace on your Etsy shop (left image). I made some adjustments using PhotoShop (right image) by brightening the image and increasing the contrast. When selling your work online, your photos are the primary vehicle you have to sell your work and they are not doing their job unless they are fabulous photos. Learn to use PhotoShop or some other photo editing software.  It is an essential skill in this digital age and necessary for successful marketing.

EricaMILLERwindPENDANTEricaMILLERwindPENDANTimproved
Necklace
Ebony, stainless steel,
Artist: Erica Miller

I also worked on the two photos below, the left image is from your Etsy site. The right image is brightened and I added a speck of contrast. Don't you think it looks better?

Bnr_120x60-lynda-border
I learned PhotoShop using Lynda.com. It is so easy with their online video tutorials. I love Lynda.com.In the past three years I learned how to work on my web site with Dreamweaver, Illustrator, and there is even tutorials on social networking like twitter, Facebook, and Flickr. The money I spent on my subscription has saved me tons of money and time; this is the reason that I signed up to be an online affiliate.(A purchase from Lynda.com helps keep this blog going.)

Hope this information is helpful. There will be no post on Thanksgiving...but wishing everyone a thankful holiday. Become my friend on Facebook to see last year's Thanksgiving table. I will be posting pictures of my 2009 Thanksgiving table as soon as the table is set. This year'S theme is a "classy, brassy, gold and grassy". Wait till you see it!

Harriete
CLICK HERE to become my friend on Facebook


Pricing and the Dilemna of discounts, coupons, or reduced prices?

TimothyAdamChair
Chairity © 2006
steel
Artist: Timothy Adam

Recently I listened to a program by Timothy Adam of Handmadeology about using the Internet and social networking to give more visibility to your art and craft. He has lots of great ideas and really knows about working the system of online social networking sites. On the other hand, a recent post at Timothy Adam Designs about "Search trends during the holiday shopping season" is very disconcerting as he focuses on discounts, coupons, and free shipping as promotional strategies.

TimothyAdam
Living Steel Jewelry Display
steel
Artist: Timothy Adam

I think discounts, sale coupons, holiday sales, etc. have little effect in stimulating a sale of art or craft and instead have a negative impact that adversely erodes your retail prices permanently.  I believe it is a fallacy to think that a buyer who is already considering a purchase of your work will change their mind just because of a small discount or not.  And anyone who wasn't interested in the first place won't care about discount offers whatsoever.  Furthermore, lowering your effective price with discounts or coupons sends a signal that all your work can be discounted and that this lower price is the true market value of your work.  In effect you are saying that the original retail price was inflated to begin with.[For more information about Discounts read the Professional Guidelines document.]  

It is vitally important that we should not fall into the trap of appearing to be just another mass produced commodity. The arts and crafts market can not afford and should not adopt discounting and similar pricing strategies that are frequently used in the general consumer market like K-Mart and Macy's.  First of all, don't kid yourself, all of these giant chains double or triple the wholesale price to absorb these discounts.  They have designed their products to be easily mass produced and cheap.  It may be a great value for the consumer, but it lacks any differentiation from what thousands or millions of other people buy.   

PinkDotOrbit_Red72GREEN
Pink Dot Pin
Recycled tin cans
Harriete Estel Berman

Instead, the handmade object should be promoted for its unique attributes or value.  By its very nature, a handmade object is a limited edition or one of a kind object. Ideally, art and craft exhibit skilled craftsmanship, personal attention to details, and distinctive creativity.  A buyer is attracted to the work because it reflects and reinforces the buyer's desires, self-identity, and expression of character that they wish to show to the world.  It is unlikely that a small shift in price will alter these perceptions.

Stimulus-Plan72GREEN
Stimulus Plan Pins © 2009
Recycled tin Cans
Harriete Estel Berman

People who buy from the local artist (whether on Etsy or The Artful Home or at the local crafts festival) are making a decision by their very action. Their purchase creates an identity for themselves.  They may want to know the artist or know the inspiration behind the work.  They may admire this alternative lifestyle and want to participate, even vicariously, just for the afternoon. Every time they wear or use their handmade item, they feel richer for the experience.

2Rosesbrac20
Forest Spirit Bracelet © 2009
polymer clay
2 Roses

John Rose from 2 Roses offered this observation:
"We did indeed see a lot of discounting this year. Much of it panic motivated. Anecdotal surveys reinforced that buying volume was equal or above last year's for most artists we spoke to. However arbitrary discounting reduced profits. 

This really points to a fundamental lack of product offering flexibility by the artists we spoke to. Instead of adjusting their product offering to offer lower priced lines and protecting their margins, most simply discounted their regular lines. This is one of those textbook "business 101" mistakes. 

Our reaction to the shift in the economy was to analyze buyer behavior relating to luxury goods and discretionary purchasing. What we found was that there was plenty of buying going on, but shoppers were placing much higher emphasis on "value". By augmenting our regular priced lines with items manufactured to specifically offer a high value at a lower price point AND maintain normal margins, our sales exceeded last years in both volume and profit. The introduction of lower priced lines allowed us to pick up market share and maintain the value perception of our regular priced lines.
BTW this is a classic Fabrege tactic.

A lot of artists just don't understand how badly they hurt themselves and the entire industry when they resort to arbitrary discounting." END QUOTE

Leaves72GREEN
Green Leaves © 2004
Recycled vintage doll house
Harriete Estel Berman

Sell the appeal of your work at its full value.  The mass market chains really can't compete at this level.  

Harriete Estel Berman
Riding the Long Tail on a grand adventure (without discounts.)

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flickr
Facebook

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Make a Living Riding the Long Tail - Part 3

AskHarriete72green
Bringing Value and Commitment to a Community

This is the third and final post on three major insights from the ACC Conference that seemed to be most relevant to make a viable livelihood from your art and craft.   The first two are:

1) the impact of the Internet and shifting marketing channels,

2) the role of "filters" from curatorial selection and peer review to online search.

3) The need to bring value and commitment to a community.
I am concerned that my readers will think this is a boring post, but in some ways, it is the most IMPORTANT! We need to think about how we can build our community and bring value and commitment for the future. Understanding and supporting your community is also a key to making a living from your art or craft. This was illustrated in multiple ways during the conference and several additional examples are shown below my signature.

 

RileyCritical Mass Necklace
Critical Mass Necklace  © 2009
Sterling silver, 14k. gold filled, nylon-
coated stainless steel
Artist: Meghan Patrice Riley
Urban Renaissance Exhibition

Too many people think that their local or national craft and art groups don't have anything to offer them.  Or worse, they think that the group doesn't want them. Nothing could be further from the truth!!!  An individual CAN make a difference and each step in leadership creates a community and a network.

 

Dhein_tribal_elegance_web
 Christine Dhein, Necklace
Rubber, sterling silver

Exhibited in Urban Renaissance
ACCI Gallery, Berkeley, CA

JOIN at least one or two art groups either at the local or national level.  Along the lines of what JFK said in his 1961 inauguration speech, Don't ask what you will get out of it.....think about what you can do for your art/craft group.

Your joining means you are giving to the organization, linking yourself with a broader community. Giving not just membership dollars but another voice, an idea, an action plan, a range of expertise. You will likely find ways to participate or opportunities presented that you haven't considered. 

 

Urbansmith-righter_JENNIFERchain
Chain Necklace,
Jennifer Smith-Righter
Exhibited in Urban Renaissance
ACCI Gallery, Berkeley, CA

An example: On Friday, I went to the ACCI Gallery in Berkeley, CA where the local San Francisco Metal Arts Guild had a show for the members titled, Urban Renaissance. It was an opportunity for the ACCI Gallery to introduce their space and inventory to an entirely new group of people.

 

MAGUrbanRen
Metal Arts Guild members at the open-
ing for the show Urban Renaissance
ACCI Gallery, Berkeley, CA.


For the Metal Arts Guild, every member could choose to participate and gain exposure for their work, exhibition experience, and another line on their resume, maybe even make a sale. Every participant was so inspired by the chance to be in this show -- it renewed their excitement for their work. But this show didn't happen without a lot of work behind the scenes by hardworking volunteers. These diligent individuals put in a lot of hours over the previous months to create opportunities and potential sales for the members, and visibility to a broader community.

 

URBANschmid_Monica.winter
Winter by Monica Schmid
Exhibited in Urban Renaissance
ACCI Gallery, Berkeley, CA

What are you doing to help create opportunities for your arts community?

What can you do?  Offer your time and expertise to your local arts group, guild or museum. Teach an art class for your children's school.  Help organize a show for your local guild. Even during hard economic times, we have something to share with our community to make it stronger. Below are truly inspiring examples of community and commitment that I saw at the ACC Conference.  Each example achieved success financially and enhanced respect and visibility for the arts. These examples didn't start with self-serving motives but resulted in rich rewards for the individual and the community.  This is the subject of philosophers and many poems and songs.  I think it was John Lennon, who misquoted Paul McCartney, who paraphrased Shakespeare, "the love you get is equal to the love you give."

Harriete Estel Berman
a member of Crafthaus, SNAG, San Francisco, Metal Arts Guild & more.

EXAMPLES OF COMMUNITY FROM THE ACC Conference and more below:

4015277881_6e4de29d49
Harriete Estel Berman in front of
Eons of Exodus,
Minneapolis Institute of Art
Gift of Howard and Eloise Kaplan

During my visit to Minneapolis for the ACC Conference, I witnessed the importance of bringing value and commitment to a community on many levels.  Several examples range from well-known institutions to small businesses and individual efforts. 

On my first day, I visited the Minneapolis Museum of Art. This remarkable museum has achieved prominence through the support of the broader community including wealthy patrons to individual membership.  For instance, a new Judaica Collection room was sponsored by one donor and my work at the museum was purchased through the generosity of another donor.  Almost the entire crafts collection is a result of generous donors and corporate collections donated to the museum.  I hazard a guess that what I witnessed in one afternoon reflects the basis for the success of the entire museum (and probably parallels the support of many other museums).

MinneapolisSOFA
Sofa c.1820
Mahogany, maple, ash, pine,
polychrome, gilt, upholstery
Gift: William Hood Dunwoody Fund and
gift of funds from Harry M. Drake

In a conversation, I also heard about how the state and local governments and local corporations in the Minneapolis area collaborate to offer artist grants. The support for the arts in the area is really impressive....another pattern of a community fostering an environment for the arts to thrive and flourish. No wonder the ACC is moving to Minneapolis!

During the ACC Conference, I also heard from a number of speakers about the importance of their community in their livelihood.

Petrovic
Robin Petravic

Robin Petravic and his wife Catherine Bailey made a commitment to continue Heath Ceramics and to value the tradition and vision of the original company by building their company with a community of craftspeople.  They deliver not only beautifully designed products but a vision of artisan-made goods to the consumers who want to support the arts.

 

Natalie-Chanin
Natalie "Alabama" Chanin

Natalie "Alabama" Chanin developed her whole business around a community of unemployed sewing ladies of her native Alabama. Ultimately she has been able to offer employment to a cottage industry throughout several states in the southern U.S. Without thoroughly understanding and working personally with this community, she would not have the seamstresses she needed to produce her unique clothing and they would not have employment.

 

Faythe-Levine
Faythe Levine

Faythe Levine found the artists featured in her film through her online indie community. While other filmmakers wonder how she networked her film into national notoriety, she only approached this as a natural way to get in touch with her community. This movement may be beyond simple definition, but I think everyone would agree that they are churning with energy and enthusiasm for each other and a shared passion.

 

Adam-Lerner
Adam Lerner

Adam Lerner developed a supportive community, initially with an audience of only 20 (family and friends) to regular sell out crowds of over 300 people.  He started with nothing more than a vision and ended up with a job at MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) in Denver.

The commitment to a community was also illustrated by Susan Cummins and the other organizers of the Conference.  After months of planning and effort, they brought together a diverse group of speakers, tried to engage a new vision for the ACC Conference, and succeeded in creating a provocative and inspiring experience.

An individual can make a difference and each step in leadership creates a community and a network. There are many examples that I haven't included in this post, but you are welcome to suggest others in the comments area.

Harriete

 


Make a Living Riding the Long Tail - Part 2

AskHarriete72green
There are 
three major insights following the ACC Conference that seemed to be most relevant to making a viable livelihood from your art and craft.  They are:

1) The impact of the Internet and shifting marketing channels,

2) The evolution of "filters" from gallery/curatorial selection to peer review and online search.

3) The need to bring value and commitment to a community.

Now for more depth on Part 2.  The evolution of "filters" from gallery/curatorial selection to peer review and online search continues to accelerate.  But the role of filters has always existed.  Human brains are wired to categorize stuff.  Whether consciously or not, we naturally place things into groups like blue or red, big or little, jewelry or sculpture, even superior craft or mundane. 

Accordingly, gallery owners, curators, editors, etc. have exercised their judgment to bring together groups of selected (implying the best) art and craft work.  Consumers and collectors have relied upon the time, effort, and expertise of the galleries and exhibitions to filter the most interesting work worthy of special attention.  Ultimately, the audience and buyers exercise their own personal filters to opine what is most interesting or perhaps even decide what to buy. 

The role of filters is not only helpful, filters are essential.  The physical limits of space, proximity to potential visitors, time, and convenience, all force galleries, curators, editors, casual viewers and buyers to use filters to choose how to expend their limited resources. 

1.26.5.AOL72gr
AOL Bracelet © 2007
Recycled tin cans
Harriete Estel Berman
View both sides of this bracelet

As mentioned in part 1, the Internet has impacted everything.  Traditionally, the most important value that galleries offered as a "filter" has been as a voice of taste, knowledge and expertise.  They selected the best merchandise to display in limited show space, shelves, and pedestals.  Retail locations will continue to provide this value, but the Internet extends the virtual display space to near infinity on the Long Tail. 

The online show space has no limits - but buyers still need filters to zero in on the small subset of merchandise that is of interest to them.  The algorithms and parameters of search engines are the new filters.

XfactorSimpleLoriPetty-b2
Lori Petty
Illustration by Jose Cruz
X-Factor e blog
Little Known Actors series

In addition, the Internet has spawned the online taste makers like Great Green Goods, Stylehive, Daily Art Muse, and X-Factor E Blog. DailyCandy.com (with 12 city editions) can zoom the popularity of a featured item or business into supernova in a day. These are the new filters of the Internet world.  Yet, I can't think of even one conventional gallery or art/craft related site that has extended its online presence to acting in this "virtual taste maker" role.  I don't know why.  Perhaps, like Blockbuster versus Netflix, the people in the traditional "brick and mortar" model are concerned about cannibalizing their gallery marketplace.

Paper_Filters Online filters are adapting with new fluidity and the egalitarian momentum of the Internet. The ease of sharing a link with your friend can launch a funky YouTube video to stardom.  Where will this take art and craft?  Don't really know yet, we're still in the early stages of a huge transition.  Will it be peer reviews, virtual curators, sheer popularity?  Somehow I don't believe it will depend on "friending" or "hearting" your fellow makers.  I do believe that quality, innovation, or provocative content will be recognized on its own merits. 

With the Long Tail, filters are still necessary and will definitely further evolve in the future marketplace.  We will soon take for granted emerging filters that don't yet exist. More effective search technology and improved consumer characterization will help search engines "know what the consumer likes."  Online filters will further enhance the opportunities for artists and makers to connect with potential online customers without traditional intermediaries such as galleries, magazines, and exhibitions.

Search_engines What can you do now?  Help the search engines find you and your work.  Use tags, titles, and descriptions effectively and as much as possible on every site that includes your work. These text elements are the critical hooks for you to communicate with potential buyers in the online world.  Under-utilized tags and descriptions are like having a storefront window in a fantastic high traffic locale with nothing displayed in the window.  If the shoppers can't "see" what you have, they won't walk in.

Storefront_ copy I consider every one of my online sites a potential  storefront.  Does your storefront invite folks in or leave them guessing (or worse, never connecting)?  Learn to work effectively with current and new filters as they emerge. I'd love to hear your ideas and comments either as a comment or privately through the email link below my photo.
Harriete Estel Berman
FIND ME ONLINE riding the long tail like a wild bronco at:
Etsy  
Twitter
Objectfetish
crafthaus
flickr
Facebook


Make a Living Riding the Long Tail - Part 1

AskHarriete72green
There were many insightful and provocative presentations at the 2009 ACC Conference.
  After thinking about all that went on, I want to focus on three major insights that seemed to be most relevant to making a viable livelihood from your art and craft.

1) The impact of the Internet and shifting marketing channels.

2) The evolution of "filters" from gallery/curatorial selection to peer review and online search.

3) The need to bring value and commitment to a community.

This post will focus on the first item.

Crash72
Crash Brooch © 2009
Recycled tin cans
Harriete Estel Berman
Available on Etsy

The Impact of the Internet and shifting marketing channels.
The Internet has demolished the monopoly of the gallery as an exclusive representation system. Anyone (any artist or maker) with a keyboard and a mouse can show their work online to anyone interested in looking. And any collector or buyer can look at art and craft from around the world while simply sitting at a desktop or notebook computer. The Long Tail is indeed very long.

This straightforward fact has dramatically opened opportunities for artists and makers to make a living, if they use this channel effectively. The Internet enables a wide variety of opportunities, but no guarantees. New sites come and go. Old sites evolve, some improve and some get stale. My key message here is that artists and makers should utilize these opportunities to enhance their marketing and to increase their potential to sell their work.  If you sit on the sidelines, the opportunities will pass you by. 

OnceUponA_Time72
Once Upon a Time  © 2009
Recycled Tin Cans
Harriete Estel Berman

You are in control.  You don't have to hope for a gallery or exhibition to select your work.  You can show any part or all your work on your own website or any number of other sites like Facebook, Etsy, or Flickr.  Or submit your work for a degree of peer review with Crafthaus or The Artful Home, as just two examples.  

But you must be diligent.  The Internet keeps changing in the blink of an eye.  Adjust your mindset to be ready to further adapt and keep an eye out for newer web business models.  Be ready to enjoy something different when it comes along.

More than any time in history, the individual artist and maker can directly reach the consumer market. 

In 2003, I put up the first pages of my web site...at the time I thought I was late. How ironic since so many people are still working on getting their web sites going, or others with no web site at all. In March 2008, after the Professional Development Seminar regarding New Marketing Trends and Web 2.0, I jumped into Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, Crafthaus, Etsy, and ObjectFetish/Jewelry.  Quite a few crafts people questioned me the whole way.

Who knows where it will go, but I know for a fact that each one of these platforms builds on one another.  The HTML that I've learned (teaching myself how to work on my web site) now helps me on my blog or social networking sites every day. Every one of these sites links to the others, literally. Tomorrow I am listening to another online class on marketing. There are tons of information out there and lots of it is FREE!  

My lifestyle and livelihood are now linked forever to the 21st century tools of the Internet. Let's grab the Long Tail and go for the ride. 

Stay tuned for the next two segments in the next few days:

2) the evolution of "filters" from gallery/curatorial selection to peer review/online search; 

3) the need to bring value and commitment to a community.

Then we will get into some practical tips for online marketing.

Harriete Estel Berman


Long Tail - Blockbuster versus Netflix, and the art/craft world.

On October 24, 2009  I posted a review of the panel discussion at the ACC Conference titled, "Riding the Long Tail: Marketing Craft on the Internet."

That post offered this definition:
Long TailThe "long tail" is a catchphrase about how the Internet enables consumers to easily find and connect with relatively obscure and widely dispersed suppliers. It allows anyone, anywhere, with unusual interests or taste to find items from the smallest niche suppliers, makers or manufacturers.  This is in stark contrast to the limitations of a "brick and mortar" store that must restrict its inventory to only relatively popular items and the physical limits of its shelf space. Long_tail_graph

Both Amazon and Netflix are examples of the near limitless inventory available through the Internet.  They can offer an enormous number of products from the most popular down to extremely unusual items.  

Compare Blockbuster to Netflix. They are both in the movie rental business, but Blockbuster built its business model on neighborhood stores renting the most popular ('blockbuster') movies. For years Blockbuster filled their shelves with hundreds of titles.  In contrast, Netflix has no stores and offers tens of thousands of movies and videos (virtually unlimited).  Netflix offers many more choices and has less operating expense.  Years ago, even Blockbuster recognized that Netflix had a better business model for the long run, but was reluctant to change for fear that they would cannibalize their existing revenue model.  Are they changing too late? Is Blockbuster doomed because it stuck its head in the sand for too long?

 

Fabrication_redsideB
Fabrication                         © 1987-88
Recycled tin cans, brass,
Harriete Estel Berman
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

The craft world is experiencing this same issue.  Like Blockbuster, traditional galleries and stores selling craft have the physical limit of space and real "brick and mortar" expenses.  In contrast, online art and craft websites offer access to an enormous variety of work (i.e. the Long Tail). 

This issue even arises when websites like The Artful Home feature a self-limiting inventory by being more selective.  By acting as a filter for the consumer (i.e. limiting the selection of merchandise available on their site) they run counter to the Long Tail.  Rather than limit the potential inventory, a more effective search engine would enable  customers to zero in on their "likes" and pass over (or rank lower) the consumer's "dislikes."  

The Internet offers an unlimited (or nearly unlimited) selection of merchandise.  In the past, galleries provided the most efficient path for collectors and buyers to find and select work.  It is infeasible for collectors to personally visit studios in search of work.   Galleries provide a centralized concentration of pre-qualified "good" art for collectors to quickly and easily see a range work.  But it is a limited inventory. The Internet and the ease of search engines have radically changed this situation.

 

Matrlid_full72
Material Identity                      © 2001
Recycled Tin Cans
Harriete Estel Berman
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

This unlimited inventory of merchandise will not overwhelm the consumer of the future.  In fact, the consumer of the future will expect the search engine to "know" the consumer's likes and dislikes. With proper search filters and algorithms, the search engine will make "suggestions" based on earlier interactions with the consumer (e.g. the right color, style, theme, and price range).

Think about what YouTube, Amazon, and Pandora all offer the consumer. An almost unlimited selection, but we aren't overwhelmed. We find new ways to use these resources and enjoy the potential. The Internet search engines are offering much of the benefits or filters that the gallery and store once provided to the consumer.

In the next few posts, we can talk about the impact of the internet on the future of galleries and opportunities for selling your work.

Harriete
FIND ME ONLINE riding the long tail at:
Twitter
crafthaus
flickr
Facebook


ACC Conference - Why the ACC is more famous for football than craft?

DevilInsideFRONT72grbk
The Devil Inside Brooch,  Recycled tin cans,  Harriete Estel Berman

A rude awakening.  When I told a distant relative that I was blogging for the ACC Conference she was blown-away impressed, shocked, surprised!!!!!.....until she found out it was not THE ACC, the Atlantic Coast Conference (college football), it was just the American Craft Council Conference. (Although a D.I.Y. jewelry maker, she had never heard of them.)

A second blast to my ego arrived upon finding out that the blogger who writes "Monday Morning Quarterback" gets 1 million readers each week. (I'm not sure if it's per day or per week, I'd take a million either way.)

Homemade72.green
Homemade Handmade Brooch
Recycled Tin Cans
Harriete Estel Berman

The Point
Our society spends tons of money and time on many other discretionary purchases even in this tough economy. People spend $80 for a football ticket and not on a pair of earrings or a handmade ceramic bowl. And I ponder how the arts end up being such an orphan.

While it is very entertaining to see Helen Drutt saying that "Martha Stewart doesn't belong at this Conference" (visualize Helen standing at the podium, indignant, proud and outrageous all in one moment), I think we make a big mistake trying to be exclusive in the arts and crafts club.

Handmade-nationbK
Handmade Nation Graphic

Why does the established studio craft world feel threatened by the D.I.Y. movement? Why do the art and craft elite feel a need to divorce themselves from Martha Stewart and any other amateur craft effort? Why were the ACC Conference Convenings "by invitation only?"  Who are they afraid might come? 

Groupthink2
Groupthink graphic from Wing. TV

Breaking Out of GroupThink
Let's break out of "groupthink," the tendency of an insulated group to rationalize its own actions and to dismiss any divergent thoughts, ideas, and concepts as "alien" and not worth consideration. (Read the Symptoms of Groupthink below this post.) Any organization that defines itself strictly within its existing membership profile without reaching outside for new members will eventually shrink and wither.

Let's take football for a comparison.  Football has Pee-Wee football, high school football, college football, professional football, and tons of money and visibility. No professional football player is worried about amateur players in a pick-up game or a high school football game stealing their market share or diminishing their credibility.  In fact, all of these organizations tend to support and reinforce each other. Individuals migrate from one to another.  The respective groups literally feed on one another.  They intuitively understand that they each represent different groups within a larger whole.

Spin 180 degrees back to Craft.

Famous72
Famous Selection from the series:
"The Deceiver and the Deceived"
Harriete Estel Berman
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen
Collection: Renwick, Smithsonian

Craft has many dimensions, forums, and levels of participation.  From Martha Stewart to D.I.Y., the museum world, Michael's Craft Store, and Rio Grande, they all have a place in creating energy and visibility for the joy of making by hand. The American Craft Council seems wrapped up in groupthink, especially when it "disses" other groups and cultural movements that develop from the bottom up. 

PencilProjectMakerFaire72_b
Harriete working on the Pencil Project
during the Maker Faire, San Mateo,  
Ca. 2009 at the Metal Arts Guild booth

The ACC needs to get used to the reality that there are multiple craft communities.  The broader community is represented by a menagerie of participation without judgment, the importance of social networking, blogs, twitter, Facebook, and on and on. The ACC advertised the ACC Conference to only their members (...at least that is where I saw it the most). Could they attract more audience with posts on Crafthaus or Etsy, just to name two examples? Why weren't there signs or sponsored ads at Maker Faire?  Yes, there is an ACC Conference Facebook page, but I didn't find that until after the conference.  I also found over 30 Facebook groups for the other ACC (sports).

AskHarriete72green

emiko oye and I volunteered to blog for the SNAG membership and anyone else who wanted to listen. We thought there was merit in sharing the information with a new level of immediacy. And indeed, the 2009 ACC Conference was an inspiring event. The organizers produced a superb conference.  But is it just preaching to the choir?  Why weren't more artists and makers at this event?  From my personal observation, far too many artists and makers think it isn't relevant to them. This is unfortunate.

Pure72.2
Pure Pin
Recycled tin cans
Harriete Estel Berman

Ultimately, I believe with all my heart that superior work, quality craftsmanship and  thought-provoking content will always be recognized on their own merit.
The essence of the community is not contaminated, but cross fertilized by connecting with other makers from the D.I.Y., Michael's Craft store, Martha Stewart crowd, etc. These other groups add to a spectrum of opportunity for the public to enjoy and can develop a larger marketplace and political support. 

The ACC has stated its intent to be an umbrella organization for all the crafts, but has functioned primarily as a sponsor for wholesale/retail shows. Advocacy for the larger craft community means inclusion of all facets of that community and taking responsibility for adapting to its evolution. The ACC does have a lot to offer but cannot retreat within and hope to maintain any relevancy.  It too must step out into the messy, chaotic, and divergent real world. 

Harriete Estel Berman

Excerpt from Wikipedia - Symptoms of groupthink
Irving Janis devised eight symptoms indicative of groupthink (1977).
  1. Illusions of invulnerability creating excessive optimism.
  2. Rationalizing warnings that might challenge the group's assumptions.
  3. Unquestioned belief in the morality of the group, causing members to ignore the consequences of their actions.
  4. Stereotyping those who are opposed to the group as weak, evil, biased, spiteful, disfigured, impotent, or stupid.
  5. Direct pressure to conform placed on any member who questions the group, couched in terms of "disloyalty".
  6. Self censorship of ideas that deviate from the apparent group consensus.
  7. Illusions of unanimity among group members, silence is viewed as agreement.
  8. Mind guardsself-appointed members who shield the group from dissenting information.

Groupthink, resulting from the symptoms listed above, results in defective decision making. That is, consensus-driven decisions are the result of the following practices of groupthinking.

  1. Incomplete survey of alternatives
  2. Incomplete survey of objectives
  3. Failure to examine risks of preferred choice
  4. Failure to reevaluate previously rejected alternatives
  5. Poor information search
  6. Selection bias in collecting information
  7. Failure to work out contingency plans.