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Which Crafts Sell?

How do you know which arts or crafts items will sell at all and which handmade work is really hot? You can learn about trends in sales from reading magazines like The Crafts Report and Sunshine Artist which feature industry news frequently. See specific articles linked to below.

A challenge with relying on trend information, however, is that by the time you, the artist or crafts person learn what's "in," the trend is already peaking and on its way out. 

The trend issue is confusing if you put too much stock in what you hear or read. Popularity can be seasonal, geographic and/or demographic to name a few qualifications. Be cautious when evaluating news about hot selling crafts. 

* Crafts related to gardening will be more popular in Spring months. 
* Christmas craft sales will swell the three months before December. 
* Craft sales will be higher in tourist areas than metropolitan shops. 
* Seniors purchase more toys as gifts than young adults.

Many craft artists say they don't follow what sells nationally because to do so would make them manufacturers, not artists. A friend of mine has grown an exceptionally good business selling her wearable art to stores in tourist areas. If she stopped creating her original designs in favor of a popular craft, she would quickly be out of a business she enjoys and find herself on the endless road of chasing after the next hot trend.

There's nothing wrong with being a manufacturer if that's your thing, but let's not confuse that with art or craft. Mass production involves mass marketing of products -- this is opposite to the nature of those who sell what they make through artistic inspiration.

The popularity of well made craft, regardless of the medium, is the attractiveness to the consumer of owning a piece made by the craft person. This has always been the draw for thousands of customers of hand made craftwork.

Several craft industry leaders were asked what they expected to be the "big seller" in the year 2000. Not one named a hot selling craft, although one did say that glass art may have reached its ceiling. See the full article. 

The industry experts seemed to agree that the real trend is the Internet and how it will affect your ability to sell. If you aren't already selling online, see my book.

If you really want to know what's popular, wear or display something you have made and keep track of how many people ask you where you got it! 

For those who want to see what the color trends were for this 
year 2000, read this report.

One big attraction for those who buy and collect arts and crafts is the originality of such work. Given that there is and will be for a very long time, a market for handmade items, below is a suggested list of consumer products that can be handcrafted. Craftwork is divided into categories of use.

Categories of Use:

Crafts & Garden: candles, placemats, napkins, curtains, towels, potholders, coasters, fire screens, baskets, pillows, quilts, room dividers, coverlets, throws, wall hangings, carvings, floor rugs, lamps, chairs, swings, stained glass, birdhouses, wind chimes, clocks, mirrors, cutting boards, pottery, plant holders, window boxes, potpourri

Clothing: dresses, shawls, blouses, aprons, suits, kimonos, children’s clothing, men’s and women’s: shirts, vests, ruanas, sweaters, jackets, coats, painted sweatshirts, t-shirts 

Accessories: handbags, purses, belts, sashes, babushkas, mittens, mufflers, house slippers, men’s ties, men’s and women’s: scarves, hats, caps, bandannas, boots, sandals, moccasins 

Interior Design: paintings, wall hangings, rugs, upholstery fabric, throws, curtains, passementeries, pillows, room dividers, screens, window frames, furniture 

Corporate: rugs, tapestries, wall hangings, sculpture, furniture, stained glass, paintings, batiks, folk art, carvings, flower arrangements 

Graphic Arts: stationery, books, calendars, gift cards, note cards, posters, caricatures, buttons, bumper stickers, photo prints, signs 

Toys: stuffed toys, dolls, puppets, animals, teddy bears, wooden trains, puzzles, building blocks, toy boxes, kaleidoscopes 

Special occasion: bridal gowns and shawls, baby blankets, greeting cards, Christmas ornaments, stockings, Easter bunnies, heart pillows for Valentine’s day, wreathes 

Religious: altar objects, vestments, tapestries, chalice palls, baptismal towels, banners, stoles, stained glass, candelabras 

Jewelry: earrings, bracelets, necklaces, rings, anklets, headbands, jewelry cases, leatherwork, nose rings 

Other: tote bags, duffel bags, backpacks, garment bags, saddle-blankets, musical instruments, dried flowers, book ends, confectionaries, key holders, seat covers 

That’s over 120 items from a partial list. Of course, it’s impractical to try to produce this many different craft items yourself. For a one-person crafts business, it’s more reasonable to concentrate on one or two markets and a focused line of craft products aimed at particular buyers. If you try to make too many different items, or try to sell to those who don’t want your products, you dissipate your momentum and waste time and money.

Craft Media:

Here's a list of a few of the kinds of crafting media: 

ceramics, stained glass, woodwork, pottery, woodworking, glass blowing, lapidary, basket making, jewelry, gift baskets, rubberstamping, candle making, rug weaving, gem working, metal smiting, flowers, potpourri, doll making, leather, quilting, iron tapestry, knitting, needlework, crochet, gourds, egg painting, sewing

The practical approach is to find a few arts crafts items that sell well and concentrate on building a ‘bread and butter line.’ Choose crafts that sell steadily to earn the money to stay in business from month to month. Once you have established that wonderful menu of income-producing handmade crafts, you can expand into other craftwork and develop new designs. If you are the type of person can adjust to working with employees, hire others to produce or do the finishing process.

About the Author
James Dillehay, author of seven books, is a nationally recognized expert on marketing arts and crafts. Artist, entrepreneur, and educator, his articles have helped over 15,000,000 readers of Family Circle, The Crafts Report, Better Homes & Gardens, Sunshine Artist, Ceramics Monthly, and more. James has appeared as a featured guest on HGTV's popular The Carol Duvall Show and he is a member of the advisory board to The National Craft Association. He is editor of www.Craftmarketer.com. This article is copyrighted and excerpted from James Dillehay's The Basic Guide to Selling Arts & Crafts. 



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