The Craftcation Army: Vive la Revolution!

Last month’s sold-out Craftcation event, a three day indie business and DIY workshop conference, mobilized crafters across the country and highlighted the value of buying handmade.

Can crafting save the world? In our post-industrial culture, the rising appreciation for handmade, original, one-of-a-kind goods – in direct correlation with a growing sense of dissatisfaction with our consumerist lifestyles – is a sign that hope is on the horizon.

“Craft can make the world a better place,” says Nicole Stevenson, co-founder of last month’s sold-out Craftcation event, a three day indie business and DIY workshop conference held in Ventura, California. “I’ve been teaching for years and the feeling one gets from making something with their own hands is irreplaceably empowering.”

Bringing together emerging artists, crafters and designers to retreat and join forces, Craftcation is the brainchild of Stevenson and her aunt and business partner Delilah Snell, co-producers of the Patchwork Indie Arts & Crafts Festival, a biannual Southern California event now in its sixth year.

Featuring panel discussions and DIY workshops with leading industry professionals on art, craft and food-centered small business, the first Craftcation was a decisive victory for a generation looking for greater personal fufillment and a craft-based balance of economy.

Craftcation’s Nicole Stevenson and her Aunt and business partner Delilah Snell

We caught up with Stevenson recently, here’s what she had to say:

Why is craft so important, and why especially now?

I think people are moving towards a more conscious way of living. We’re more aware of the impact our individual choices make on the world around us. We’re asking questions previous generations didn’t ask, like how does buying a product made overseas affect our local economy? What materials are used to make the things we purchase and are those materials harmful for us or to our environment?

Everything we spend our dollars on reflects our personal philosophies. Although we are in a recession many people don’t mind paying a little more for something if it’s organic or local. Value is returning to handmade goods as well as to our time.

The accessibility of information means that knowing what happens in other parts of the world is at our fingertips. We see how fragile human existence is with the environmental crisis, political turmoil and natural disasters. We no longer want to waste our time doing things that don’t matter. Technology has not only made the world ‘smaller’ but also made business more accessible. Anyone can go online and order business cards, open up a shop on Etsy, create a website or blog or learn how to sew. The internet has made it easy for anyone to gain skills and put themselves out there. The return of handmade things stems from this new way of living consciously coupled with convenient access to tools people need to make, buy and sell things.

 Why did you personally decide to start Craftication?

When I started my own handmade business Random Nicole, eleven years ago in Los Angeles, the Handmade Movement didn’t exist the way it does now. There were lots of people creating things in makeshift kitchens or dining room home ‘studios.’ Indie craft shows hadn’t surfaced yet. When I would meet a fellow maker at a farmer’s market, flea market or church craft show, we would frantically exchange information on suppliers, places to sell and the business side of crafting.

I started Patchwork Indie Arts & Crafts Festival in 2007  to provide a venue for emerging makers to showcase their goods. At our Patchwork shows Delilah and I noticed that same frenetic information sharing between crafters that I’d engaged in when I began Random Nicole. We saw a need for an event bringing makers together to connect and share information.

Tell us about the event?

It’s hard to describe the awesomeness that Craftcation was! Attendees were so hungry to learn how to start and grow their businesses, gain new skills as well as connect with their fellow crafters. Since everyone there had similar goals, there was this overwhelming sense of community and togetherness. The days were chock full of workshops in business and hands-on making. We had meals catered by local chefs who prepared local food in the gorgeous atrium at Ventura’s City Hall. At night, attendees joined us for after-hours networking and events like the 80s dance party, happy hour meet and greet and our opening BBQ celebration held at a working artist loft space.

What were some of the most popular activities at Craftcation?

The financial workshops on bookkeeping and accounting were hugely popular. Sometimes it’s hard for creative minds to get a handle on the numbers stuff. The food and sewing workshops also were well attended. Attendees that filled their schedule with lots of business classes had a chance to unwind for an hour or two while making pie, cheese, a skirt, jam or learning how to sew a zipper. Marketing and PR courses also drew in the crowds. It can be daunting to try to ‘sell yourself.’ It’s hard to know where to start, but our workshops tried to demystify marketing and let people know that if you don’t think your stuff is amazing, why should anyone else?

For the stressed out, overwhelmed modern woman who would like to start crafting, what activity would you recommend?

Crafts that require a small amount of supplies, little initial investment and that have quick project completion time are best for those of us that feel like we need to make something but don’t know where to start or don’t have the time. Knitting is always a good place to start because it’s pretty simple and you can do it anywhere. Paper arts and collage require very little investment-a little glue, a bit of paper and you’re good to go. there is a great website called that offers affordable online classes and workshops that you take at your own pace to get you started, teach you basic skills or expand what you already know.

All photographs by the Coco Gallery.

Rowena Ritchie

Rowena is EcoSalon’s West Coast Fashion Editor and currently resides in San Francisco, CA.