A Dot Can Do a Lot


This is a sponsored post by Glue Dots.

At Glue Dots, our mission is to build community through creativity. That’s why we couldn’t be more excited to be exhibiting at this year’s Mixed Media Event.

Proudly made in Germantown, WI., Glue Dots has been providing designers, DIYers, teachers, busy parents and craft store owners with the most innovative make-this-stick-to-that solutions. We provide a large variety of permanent and removable ready-to-stick-right-out-of-the-package glues that can be used for just about every type of project imaginable.

Art or Junk Journals

Journal-joining, art-attaching, creative-sharing

Ultra-thin dots are great for layering without adding bulk, ensuring signatures stay nice and slim. If you’re thinking of adding some hearty embellishments, Multi-Purpose Dots will help keep your creative additions intact.

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Planners

Creative-connecting, schedule-sticking, on-the-go-memory-making

Available in both permanent and removable, Glue Dots’ perforated sheets are perfect for creative planners. Tuck a couple of sheets into a planner pocket and you can instantly make creative updates anytime, anywhere.

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Kids crafts

Fang-fastening, googly-eye-gripping, imagination-encouraging

Make your next family bonding night special with a fun, creative project. Safe and non-toxic, Glue Dots allows your little one’s creativity spill over, not their glue!

Mixed Media Art

Medium-merging, surface-securing, abstract-attaching

Whether you are making a mosaic or creating a unique three-dimensional piece using multiple mediums, Glue Dots’ Glue Squares and Multi-Purpose Dots are strong enough to bond virtually any two surfaces together.

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Craft and Classroom Kits

Easy-joining, fun-fusing, creative-outlet-time-saving

Classroom projects and crafting kits make it easy for everyone to have a creative outlet. Simple and effective, Glue Dots will make your project assembly fast and easy, while helping keep your classroom or creative workspace sticky-free and make clean-up a snap.

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Everyday Uses

Instant-bonding, time-saving, decorations-done-in-five-minutes

Make decorating for your next party fast and easy. In this video Mom is getting ready for her daughters 6th birthday, a great idea that can easily be applied to the next private party you book for your store’s creative classroom. Your customers can decorate and clean up in a flash, without worrying about damaging your studio.

 

There are so many ways that our products can help you build your creative community, we would never be able to list them all here without taking over the AFCI blog posts! If you would like to collect more ideas on creative projects to make and share, be sure to visit our Inspiration Blog. We would also love to connect with you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.

Be sure to stop by booth #404 at the Mixed Media Event to have a little fun at our Make N’ Take table. It’s the perfect way for you to experience our products first-hand. Our Glue Dots team will be available to answer any of your questions or to discuss any creative ideas you may have for us. We’re looking forward to seeing everyone at the show!

From our family to yours, keep crafting and sharing!

Experience the Magic in Artesprix Markers with a Hands-On Workshop


This is a sponsored post by Esprix Impressions.

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Artesprix Markers

Esprix Impressions is sponsoring a hands-on workshop during Mixed Media Event 2018 on Monday, July 16 from 4:15pm to 6:15pm where you can experience the magic inside Artesprix Permanent Heat Transfer Markers.

Just launched in January, Artesprix markers are taking the sublimation world by storm with resellers signing up each week and arts-and-crafters scrambling to get their hands on a box. Why all the excitement? What’s so special about these markers?

The latest craze in sublimation, Artesprix Permanent Heat Transfer Markers allow you to transfer your artwork from plain paper to any polyester or polyester coated substrate. Imagine the possibilities! From t-shirts to coffee mugs to tote bags, you can create your own custom-designed, one-of-a-kind, sublimated products.

Whether you want to unlock your inner artist, organize a craft project for your students, or build your Etsy empire, Artesprix markers are sure to up your game. And if you’re in the business of selling sublimation blanks, there’s no better product than Artesprix Permanent Heat Transfer Markers to keep your customers coming back for more.

Watch this video to see how the sublimation process works with Artesprix Permanent Heat Transfer Markers and a Cricut EasyPress:

Workshop attendees will receive their own box of Artesprix Permanent Heat Transfer Markers (a $35 value) and learn how to transfer their artwork from plain paper to a tote bag or wine bag using a Cricut EasyPress. Space is limited so register online today for W116: Artesprix Markers for Creative Thermal Transfer.

For more information about Artesprix Permanent Heat Transfer Markers, or to inquire about becoming a dealer, check out Esprix Impressions online, or stop by booth #214 at the show.

July Trends Report: 4 Creative Trends We’re Seeing


This Trends Report is brought to you by the AFCI Trends Committee. Interested in submitting a trend? Contact Kristen Farrell at kfarrell@afci.global.

The Association For Creative Industries (AFCI) Trends Committee is always on the lookout for creative trends to keep your business in the know about what’s popular on the Internet and with crafters and DIYers. From outdoor decorations to junk journals, here are the four trends you need to know about right now.

1. Outdoor Celebrations, DIY Party Decor & Fringe!

Submitted by Jennifer Priest, Smart Fun DIY

Outdoor celebrations are at the forefront this summer and fall. Beer garden parties and patio parties decorated with painted terra cotta pots, wood slices, and hand-woven or embroidered fabrics are popular on Pinterest and Instagram. Bright colors are showing up in craft and party decor with a nod to the simple, random geometric patterns of the 1980s. DIY party decor is still a major trend, from balloon arches to handmade party poppers and DIY photo back drops. And finally, fringe is in … from the fringed tissue paper on pinatas to long fringe on shirts, purses, and jackets at festivals, fringe is popping up everywhere.

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Outdoor Celebrations, Smart Fun DIY

2. Wood Embroidery Hoops

Submitted by Debra Quartermain, Debra Quartermain Design

One of the DIY trends I have been following is the renewed and continuing interest and use of wood embroidery hoops. From pretty welcome wreaths to colorful hanging pocket storage, embroidery hoops of all sizes are being transformed by the creative maker. There are many examples of beautiful and intricate embroidery to fun stenciled phrases all embellished with dimensional elements like flowers and trims. Fabric pockets, wood words, mixed media elements all contribute to unique creative expression with a simple wood embroidery hoop!

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Wood Embroidery Hoop, Debra Quartermain

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Wood Embroidery Hoop, Debra Quartermain

3. Clay

Submitted by Kathy Cano-Murillo, Crafty Chica

Everyone is playing with clay! Do a search on Etsy and almost 800,000 entries come up. Ceramics used to be known as Aunt Lydia’s late night hobby, but these days more and more people are indulging in the art form. Millennials are embracing a zero-waste lifestyle and that means no more disposable dishware; they are investing in handmade ceramic pieces from local makers. This, coupled with the bohemian trend still going strong, clay pieces are everywhere, even on mainstream TV, such as the popular show Queen Sugar, where one of the main characters is always seen drinking from handmade mugs. Working with clay is very organic and universal. Add in a variety of new accent products such as image transfers, silkscreens and glittered low fire glazes – and it’s suddenly cool again. Visit any maker’s event to see more and more handmade bowls, cups, pottery, and jewelry.

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Ceramic mugs featured on Queen Sugar

4. Junk Journals

Submitted by Candy Rosenberg, A Vintage Girl

You’re a scrapbooker, card maker, art journaler, perhaps a mixed media artist…you have a desk full of parts and pieces. Paper, ephemera, tags, oh my! You ask yourself, what do I do with all this? A trend was born of junk journals out of the need to use up our bits and pieces. What a great way to put all these elements together and create a book that we can record our travels, our stories and so much more. They have become increasingly popular with a great variety of vintage ephemera kits, printed digital kits and for those that want the creativity of others, handmade journals that are made just for you. A true testament to the pure joy and inspiration of creating without rules, a junk journal can be anything you make it, literally.

Made from nearly any material, the possibilities are endless. Small, medium and large, thin and chunky, it’s all there. I am a part of several junk journal Facebook groups with endless inspiration, one of the largest is Junk Journal Junkies; it has over 15,000 members and is a well administered group. This is where I procured the following inspirational junk journals to share with you. Other groups and resources can be found at the end of this article.

Additionally, as AFCI members this hot trend offers a great way to utilize all the great supplies that we have on hand and is a great way to show a variety of uses with your manufacturers products. Manufacturers have a great avenue to offer products that make creating junk journals easier as the most often comment I hear is that they are intimidating to make.

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Junk Journal by Sigita Grunte

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Junk Journal by Sigita Grunte

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Junk Journal by Sigita Grunte

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Junk Journal by Liz Caranci @lizthepaperproject

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Junk Journal by Liz Caranci @lizthepaperproject

Junk Journals by Marina Wilson
Marina shared with us a bit about her process:

“I have a few ways of doing it, I cut patches out of any number of fabrics like upholstery, old clothes, scraps, new fabrics, etc. After putting together my main layout I sew it to interfacing and add any extras at that time. I pick what I want for the inside and then sew that together. I add my eyelets and elastics then pick out a number of papers I want to use. Vintage book pages, coffee dyed paper, music sheets, etc. I may sew and add embellishment from there.”

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Junk Journal by Marina Wilson

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Junk Journals by Marina Wilson

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Junk Journal by Tyler Nappa

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Junk Journal by Tyler Nappa

Junk Journal Groups
These groups are typically closed groups and you will need to ask to join; you may be asked some questions to make sure that you are a good fit. This keeps these groups tight and keeps the drama to a minimum.

There are a lot of great Etsy Stores that offer ephemera or kits that have everything you need to create your own junk journals or have one made for you.

What trends are you seeing? Leave a comment below.

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: MEET KARI CAPONE


Meet AFCI Member, Kari Capone. Kari is the owner of Kari’s Kits and the founder of Knitters Unwind.

We interviewed Kari about her business endeavors for an article in the Summer issue of Gradient, AFCI’s quarterly magazine. Below is a portion of the interview.

Tell us about yourself.

I balance life as a single mom, and as a full-time manager at a publishing house, with the joys and demands of growing a creative business. My career path until now can best be described as circuitous. I’ve taught elementary school music; worked at a talent agency; processed invoices for a chocolate import company; and owned and operated a coffee shop – before I embarked on a career in publishing.

Tell us about your businesses.

Several years ago, as my (now 15-year-old) son grew more independent, I found myself with abundant free time outside of working hours. I often taught knitting at the local yarn shop. To assist with teaching brand-new beginners, I designed a garter stitch buttoned cowl kit, complete with knitting needles, yarn, the pattern, the button, and a tapestry needle. The shop owner asked for a few extra kits to stock her shelves, and a business was born!

At first, I sold Kari’s Kits through Etsy and at craft shows. (That’s how I met Jason Baum, Director of Membership for AFCI – at Maker Faire in Queens!) In 2016, I enrolled in a website building course and built kariskits.com. Having creative control and the ability to make updates whenever I like is very important to me.

I’m proud of the product development we do at Kari’s Kits. In 2017, I started the Insider’s Club: a core group of customers who review products. They test patterns, rate and review the yarn and the project itself, and provide feedback via surveys and e-mails. My Insiders love the special treatment and the chance to try products before they go to market.

This year, I’m introducing a subscription community called Knitters Unwind. I’ve heard again and again that women knit for relaxation, for meditation, for therapeutic benefits. They expressed a strong desire for deeper, more meaningful connections in their lives; a consistent creative outlet; and a safe space to share their struggles and successes in knitting and in life.

My dream is to build Kari’s Kits and Knitters Unwind to the point where I can step back from my day job and dive into the creative businesses full-time. I feel so lucky to be able to build a business around my full-time day job. AFCI has really expanded my idea of what is possible.

Learn more about Kari and how to connect with her at kariskits.com.

Picture of Kari Capone

A note on the photograph: The newest addition to the jumbo yarn market is Fair Isle Yarn’s Three Sisters, shown here in Sandstone. Photography: Matt Peyton. Model: Kari Capone.

Read the full interview in the Summer issue of Gradient. The digital version is available to all AFCI members upon logging into your online account. Visit gradient.afci.global.

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Mixed Media Event Sneak Peeks from Art Impressions!


This is a sponsored post from Art Impressions.

Hello from Art Impressions! We are excited to exhibit again at the Mixed Media Event this summer! Visit our booth #313 to be the first to see our NEW 2018 holiday release, including interactive cardmaking products, hilarious character images, and an extensive new watercolor stamping release! Our friendly team is ready to meet you and introduce our awesome new products!

Art Impressions is a rubber stamp manufacturer based in Salem, OR since 1987. The company began as our sole designer, Bonnie Krebs, created and sold educational stamps at craft fairs around the Pacific Northwest. Soon, Bonnie was drawing whimsical images for crafting and her talent has grown over the past 30 years to become one of the major stamp illustrators in the industry today.

A unique characteristic of Art Impressions is our diversity of images and innovative techniques. Bonnie has created new and original stamping concepts, including Watercolor the Art Impressions Way, Windows to the World, Flutters, Twist Ties and PopCards. These interactive techniques create beautiful and matchless ideas for special cards, and are perfect to teach as fabulous classes in your craft store. Our summer release includes extending several of our current interactive lines with holiday images!

Our Watercolor stamps continue to be our most popular line, and we have the perfect opportunity for you to learn our fun and easy technique at our Watercolor Workshop! Join us to create beautiful watercolor paintings using rubber stamps, markers, and a brush! Whether you are a longtime fan or newcomer to the technique, you will learn valuable insight to teach your customers, including the basics of creating stunning scenes such as flower pots, watering cans, structures and more for fall and winter!

You will leave class with three gorgeous card samples and a goody bag valued over $65 of watercolor products from our sponsors, including a 2018 Summer Watercolor Mini Project Series Set! Best of all, you will be prepared to lead your own Watercolor Workshop in your store with our “Rent-a-Class” program! Class is July 16 at 8:00 AM, and you can register here. View our YouTube video to familiarize yourself with the technique and to prepare for class: youtu.be/4mQPcCGM1g

See you at the show! We are sure you will love our NEWEST products, so be sure to stop by our booth #313! We will have a free stamp as a gift for visiting, and a special promotion for your order placed at the show!

To view more of our products, visit our site at artimpressions.com and keep in touch by signing up for our newsletter! As always, we have plenty of inspiration on our blog, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube so be sure to follow us there for the latest projects!

Happy Stamping!

Imagine Fun Flips Folio Album


This is sponsored content by Graphic 45

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Hello, Crafters!

Today we have a fun and interactive tri-fold folio mini album to share with you. This post is full of great tips, a video tour, and just what you’re looking for to start your creative engines. This album has been created by Kathy Clement with Graphic 45’s sumptuous Imagine collection.

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Castles in the Air Trifold Folio
By Kathy Clement

“When I saw Graphic 45’s Imagine collection my mind started racing with ideas on how to use it. Maybe I could fussy cut some of the fabulous images? Perhaps I should dig into those tantalizing patterns and layer up a card? Or, I could focus on one of the enticing collage images on the cut apart page? At the end of the day, I opted to to all of the above, and worked up this whimsical trifold folio to share with you today.

Don’t you want to live in this house, perched high in the air? Imagine the view you’d have of these hot air balloons! I just fell in love with this image and decided to spotlight it in a fun shaker style frame.

Tip: To cover the adhesive edges of this shaker frame, I cut out two of the same image. One served as the base. I cut the center from the 2nd image and set it aside for use later. This left me with the frame, which I adhered to the shaker element top, neatly hiding the foam adhesive from view.

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This handsome Staples Metal Lion’s Head Door Knocker looks perfectly at home on the folio cover.

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To add lots of dimension to the cover collage, I backed my paper layers with foam dimensionals or waste chipboard pieces.

Tip: Fussy cut butterflies add great movement and dimension to the cover design. I’ve cut between the top and bottom wings to add more lift. Then I gently bent the top wings upwards to give them a more dimensional look. I adhered them with dimensionals to add height.

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This folio measures 5” x 7” with ¾” spines and a ribbon closure. I’ve tucked all kinds of interactive features inside.

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If you love flips and flaps, pockets and tags, and fun surprises then this folio will be your cup of tea!

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Tip: Ephemera cards are a quick way to add flaps to a folio. I make a hinge by cutting a 1.5” wide piece of paper slightly shorter than the height of the card. This is folded in half lengthwise to create a hinge with two ¾” wide flaps. I adhere one flap under my ephemera card (matted on kraft cardstock) and the other to the folio base. For a top-loading flap, simply cut the hinge slightly smaller than the width of the ephemera card, and repeat the process.

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These ATC Policy Envelopes also make great flaps! I simply dressed them up with a Staples Antique Bronze Clock Key and labels from the Imagine collection. I hold the flaps shut with this custom paper clip embellishment. These are quick and easy to make: just thread banner flags cut from patterned paper through the paper clip opening and secure with adhesive. Then top with a button, a flower, or as I did here, a gear.

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Tip: Make custom covers for the “buttons” on your Policy Envelopes by punching ½” circles from patterned papers.

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I filled the center pocket of the folio with a trio of Staples Laser Cut Create, Inspire, Imagine, Dream Square Tags. Then I added mini folios to the top of each tag.

Tip: Use your G45 Square Tag and Clock Dies to cut brown cardstock to line the back of each tag. Now you have room to mount a 4” x 4” photo!

Tip: Create mini folios to top your tag! Score a 5.75” x 4.25 rectangle in half on the long side. Fold to make a folio. Line with patterned papers and adhere to tag front.

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Tip: Turn a wide border strip into a pocket by adhering it in a “U” shape. Then fill it with 3” x 4” mini folios. This gives you a great place to add wallet sized photos.

Tip: A waterfall feature allows you to load lots of pictures in to a small space. It’s a great addition to any folio. Each individual element in this one measures 3.75” x 5”.

To help you get a feel for the way all these moving parts come together, I’ve prepared a short YouTube Project Share. Enjoy!” ~Kathy

Graphic 45 Imagine Tri-Fold Folio Video Tour

So what will you create with Imagine? With hot air balloons, flying pocket watches, cliff hung mansions and steampunk ladies, the sky’s the limit!” ~Kathy

SUPPLY LIST:

Graphic 45 Products

Other Products: Kraft Cardstock, Antique Gold Silky Crush Ribbon, Clear Acetate Cardstock, Foam Tape, sequins, seed beads, Prills, Little Birdie Jessica Pastel Palette Flowers, Little Birdie Flowers Pastel Palette Bouquet, Vintage Photo Distress Ink, Burlap String, Scoring Tool, Stylus, Cutting Tools

Thank you so much for joining us for this fun fold folio! Happy Papercrafting!

Planning and Executing an Effective Content Marketing Program in Just 30 Minutes Per Day


This is sponsored content by Stitchcraft Marketing.

By Leanne Pressly of Stitchcraft Marketing

Stitchcraft Marketing has put together a FREE WEBINAR on Tuesday, June 12th at noon EST on the topic of Planning and Executing Your Content Marketing Program in Just 30 Minutes Per Day. Leanne Pressly will be specifically focusing on all the BOLD subjects below:

REGISTER NOW

Who is your customer?

An essential element of content marketing is a clearly defined audience. If you don’t have a clear idea of who your customer is, how can you anticipate what content will be considered valuable to them? Spend some time developing a detailed description of your customer avatar.

Resist the temptation to define your potential customer too broadly. For example: “anyone between the ages of 18 and 65” is too broad a group to address effectively. Consider breaking that down into more specific profiles. “Active mothers under 40 who enjoy crafting with their kids and watching HGTV” is much more useful for visualizing your customer.

Create Compelling Content

Decide what form(s) you want your content to take. Blog posts? Video tutorials? Inspirational images? Free patterns and how-tos? Utilizing a strategy of cornerstone content and evergreen content is best.

Whatever form you choose, be sure your content reflects your brand and is optimized for SEO.

Quality counts! Every piece of content may be a potential customer’s first introduction to you and your company. If you feel the need to apologize for the quality of a piece of content (poor photography, questionable taste), don’t use it.

Distribute your Content Through Social Channels

What social media channels are most appropriate for the promotion and distribution of your content? Where is your target audience likely to be found?

Each social media platform requires a different strategy for success. Be sure to maximize your efforts by following best practices for Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.

Building your Tribe with Newsletters

When consumers opt-in to your email list, they have specifically asked for more of what you offer. What could be better than that? The people on your email list are your richest source of potential sales.

Once customers have joined your list, reward their trust by producing a newsletter worth reading. Consider segmenting your list so you can deliver content specifically targeted to that customer’s interests.

Has enrollment in your list stagnated? Consider using a lead generator to introduce interested consumers to your company.

Continue the conversation beyond regular newsletters. Consider using an autoresponder to generate an email (or series of emails) in response to specific customer behaviors.

Putting the Plan into Action

Your content marketing plan will not be effective if it isn’t implemented consistently over time. That means your plan must include manageable steps and a workable timeline.

Once the initial plan is in place, you can manage a good content marketing program in as little as 30 minutes a day by breaking the execution into specific tasks. Consistency is key: when your calendar says you’re going to spend 30 minutes every Wednesday morning scheduling social media posts for the next week, you’re more likely to get it done.

How will you know if your content marketing plan is effective? Identify some Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to help you quantify the impact of your efforts. Is your audience growing (more followers, more views)? Is engagement growing (more likes, shares, comments)? Did content which featured a specific product result in increased sales of that product? What paths are customers taking to your website? Remember to track these numbers over time. On any given day, you’re just seeing a snapshot – long term trends are a better reflection of what’s working and what’s not.

4 Creative Trends to Watch this Summer


By Keri Cunningham, Senior Director of Marketing & Research, AFCI

It’s June, which means soon kids around the country will be playing while rejoicing “school’s out for the summer”. When the kids are home, both they and their parents seek activities to stay busy. Here are 4 creative trends to try and find inspiration from during the summer months.

Kids playing on hopscotch

1. Sidewalk Chalk Art

Pinterest searches for sidewalk chalk art are up 170% compared to a year ago. The number of ways you can use sidewalk chalk are endless! Parents can watch their kids cruise around handmade chalk roads on their bikes and scooters, DIY some chalk paint or create some innovative outdoor chalk board games to keep their little minds active.

Pom pom decorated sneakers

2. Decorated Kicks

Pinterest is also showing an increase in searches for embellished women’s sneakers. Whether you prefer pom poms, glitter or hand-painted accents, revive your boring old sneakers with a little extra “kick” this summer!

Macrame plant hanger

3. Knotted Plant Hangers

If you’re one of the millions of people that watch HGTV’s Fixer Upper, you’ve seen the Magnolia Farms macramé plant hangers in at least one of the beautiful reveals. Plants hung with knotted rope are popping up everywhere and DIY tutorials are plentiful. From cotton cord to paracord, people are bringing back 70’s home crafts and filling their living spaces with stylish knotted plant hangers.

Colorful paper ice cream cones

4. Ice Cream Colors

I scream, you scream we all scream for ice cream hues! Lilac, sky blue, mint green, light shades and blush tones reminiscent of ice cream are hot in home décor and fashion. They work well alone or together, mix up the colors to suit your taste!

Creating Effective Live Crafting Demos to Build Your Brand


This is a sponsored post by Arkon Mounts.

by Aaron Roth, VP Sales and Marketing, Arkon Mounts (www.arkon.com)

Video: Shown here, Janet Wakeland of RemarkablyCreated.com demonstrates how crafters can use Arkon’s phone and tablet stands for demonstrations and tutorials.

INTRODUCTION
If you have a Facebook or Instagram page, you’ve probably seen other crafters live streaming as they create their next amazing masterpiece. Going live to a global audience may be easy for some, but for many others, the mere thought of public speaking can be truly debilitating. Fear of speaking is the most common phobia, ranking even higher than the fear of death. Embracing the use of live video will help you overcome these fears and will undoubtedly have a positive impact on your business.

LIVE STREAM ESSENTIALS (Tools Required to Go Live)
If you own a business, odds are that you also have a mobile phone. Your mobile phone is arguably the single most important tool for your business. Not only does it serve as the lifeline between you and your existing customers, it can also be used to create compelling content to attract new customers. Some also prefer the use of a tablet computer (iPad) due to the larger screen size, making it easier to see comments. Phones and tablets are basic essentials for every live streamer.

The three best platforms are Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, though their respective features may be slightly different depending on whether you’re an iPhone or Android user. Be sure that you regularly update your apps to ensure that you have access to the latest features.

IMPORTANCE OF A STABLE BROADCAST | Mounts, Holders, Stands, & Tripods
While not required to go live, having your phone or tablet secured in a quality holder is strongly recommended as it will greatly improve the quality (stability) of your broadcast and the viewer experience. Having your device mounted also means that your hands are free to craft or demonstrate during the live video. These types of broadcasts are some of the most popular!

Arkon Mounts offers a full assortment of mounts, holders, stands, and tripods for live streaming. Here are the mounting solutions recommended for your video or live stream demonstrations.

The Remarkable Creators Video Phone Stand Bundle (Model RCBTABLED)

This popular bundle combines the best-selling Arkon Pro Stand, which allows crafters to shoot professional overhead views of their demonstration. It also includes a Tablet Clamp Mount, which attaches to the shaft/pole portion of the Pro Stand and is used to log in to live video apps on a secondary device like an iPad to see comments or to see the view of the phone that’s positioned overhead. Arkon’s LED Ring Light is a fan favorite in the crafting communities, particularly with those who create live video demonstrations. It clips onto the top of your phone, doesn’t block the camera, and features a USB-chargeable battery. Battery life is usually about 45 minutes per full charge.

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ARKON Live Streaming Essentials Bundle
Arkon offers the Live Streaming Essentials Bundle, which features a Phone Tripod with the LED Ring Light and Ultrasonic Remote. The tripod phone mount fits all smartphones up to 4” wide and allows the phone to be positioned in either landscape or portrait orientation. The ultrasonic remote control is designed to work with both iPhone and Android phones and is ideal for using with the tripod to easily take photos or videos from up to 30 feet away. Includes a timer, zoom capabilities, flash on/off, and automatic focus.

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Aaron Roth is the inspirational Vice President of Sales and Marketing and co-owner at Arkon Mounts, the most recognized and respected brand in the live streaming video category. In addition to being a regular speaker at live streaming and social media events, you’ll also find Aaron broadcasting daily on Instagram and Facebook from the Arkon Live Lounge, an office studio at the Arkon headquarters in Arcadia, California. Arkon has an extensive assortment of mounts, holders, stands, and tripods to support your live streaming video broadcasts.

AARON’S TOP 10 LIVE STREAM TIPS

  1. Join, and go live from Facebook Groups related to your business
  2. Create “shareable” content
  3. Use Arkon Mounts to hold your phone or tablet steady
  4. Clean phone or tablet camera lens before going live
  5. Engage with your audience; Say hello to people as they join your broadcast
  6. Always have your branding in view of the camera (something with your logo on it)
  7. Use relevant hashtags on ALL Instagram and Facebook posts to increase your reach (e.g. #crafting, #crafts, etc.)
  8. Utilize giveaways of your product to create excitement around your brand
  9. When an App sends out an update, immediately download and go live to see if there are new features. Facebook and Instagram Live continue to improve on a regular basis
  10. Have fun, and build great friendships!

ABOUT ARKON MOUNTS
Arkon Mounts supplies a wide range of high-quality tablet and phone mounts, tripods, and other accessories designed to enhance the live streaming experience. Arkon celebrates its 30th year in business in 2018.

600+ mounts, holders, stands, and tripods for phones, cameras, tablets

2-Year Warranty on ALL Arkon Mounts

Visit Arkon Mounts at Mixed Media Event 2018 and Creativation 2019!

6 Creative Influencers Spill Where They Go For Inspiration


From their resourcefulness to their ingenuity, makers and creators inspire us on a regular basis. But how do they think of those ideas? What inspires them, and what makes them tick?

In the Spring issue of Gradient, we spoke to six creative industry influencers to better understand where they turn for inspiration.

Angie Holden

TheCountryChicCottage.net

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“At times, I turn to magazines or Pinterest for inspiration. Other times, all I need to do is to start cleaning my craft room. Nothing inspires me more than a pile of unused craft supplies!”

Carolina Moore

30MinuteCrafts.com

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“I love walking through the aisles of the craft or dollar store to find new toys to play with. I have a lot of seasonal projects or crafts that are inspired by new movies.”

Amanda Formaro

CraftsByAmanda.com

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“Everywhere! I can be walking through a store and see something that strikes me, browsing blogs or Pinterest, and sometimes seeing an older design of mine sparks an idea. I just keep my eyes open all the time, as you never know when an idea will hit.”

Hannah and Rosie

TheNewCraftHouse.com

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“We use Instagram for inspiration and follow all of our favorite sewers and creative bloggers there. It’s such an easy way to keep up to date with people’s projects and also get people’s opinions on your own!”

Heather Valentine

TheSewingLoftBlog.com

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“Inspiration can be found anywhere, but the one thing that captures my attention and pulls me in is the vibrant colors found in nature. If you look closely, you will find every color combination imaginable.”

Angel Hickman

FleeceFun.com

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“Having a degree in film studies, I love to look at old movies and vintage patterns for ideas. Whether it’s the gray suit that Kim Novak wore in ‘Vertigo’ or the green velvet dress made from curtains (the original upcycling) that Vivien Leigh wore in ‘Gone with the Wind,’ old movie fashions are the ideal place to get influence.”

Where do you find your creative inspiration? Share your thoughts in a comment below.

Read our full interview with these influencers in the Spring issue of Gradient, the official magazine of the Association For Creative Industries. The digital version is available to all AFCI members upon logging into your online account. Visit gradient.afci.global.

Member Spotlight: Meet Kiki Lally


It’s not every day you meet someone who was the first to do something in her country. Today, we’re introducing you to an AFCI Member who falls into this category. Pretty neat, right?

Meet Kiki Lally. Kiki and her husband, Sameer are the the co-founders of Pinnovate in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Pinnovate is the country’s first do-it-yourself (DIY) studio that combines wine, coffee and crafting! We interviewed Kiki about the business for an article in the Spring issue of Gradient, AFCI’s quarterly magazine. Below is a portion of the interview.

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Pinnovate; Photo credit: Jennifer Chabot Photography

Tell us about yourself.

“Ironically, my background is not in anything crafty or creative; it happens to be in aviation. I have spent the last 17 years as a flight attendant with what was “the little airline that could” that has now grown into an extremely successful company, Westjet Airlines. Westjet raised the bar on customers’ expectations with their “Under promise; over deliver” motto. I have taken their caring and compassionate values into a different type of creative world with Pinnovate. If you haven’t had the chance to fly with Westjet, hop on a flight to Calgary and come for a visit.”

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Kiki Lally, Co-Founder of Pinnovate; Photo credit: Jennifer Chabot Photography

Tell us about your business.

“Pinnovate comes out of a need for more innovative and artistic programming in our city. Having three young children, we find things to do with them, but I was looking for something unique that could appeal to all ages at any time. Our goal is to allow everyone, even those who don’t think they possess a creative bone, the opportunity to create something they can be proud of. We have a multitude of Pinterest-inspired projects to choose from; we supply all of the materials; and we provide hands on help and customization. In addition to fun crafts, we hold monthly workshops that include terrarium making, weave + wine nights, and we also play host to many different groups for splatter paint, date nights, bridal showers, team building sessions and birthday parties.”

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Pinterest-inspired projects at Pinnovate; Photo credit: Jennifer Chabot Photography

Connect with Kiki and learn more about her business at www.pinnovate.ca.

Read our full interview with Kiki in the Spring issue of Gradient, the official magazine of the Association For Creative Industries. The digital version is available to all AFCI members upon logging into your online account. Visit gradient.afci.global.

Will a Facebook Messenger Chatbot be Your New Customer Service Superhero?


By Sandi Rosner for Stitchcraft Marketing

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When you need to get in touch with a person or a company you probably pick up your phone, but not to make a telephone call. You might send a text message or an email or look for the “contact us” page on a website. In fact, you might be annoyed if the only way to get the service or information you need is to actually speak with a person on the telephone.

Consumer behavior is evolving along with our preferred methods of communication. In late 2016, Business Insider reported that the top 4 messaging apps (Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat and Viber) have surpassed the top 4 social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+) in monthly active users.

It’s not a surprise that younger customers have been quick to integrate interaction with chatbots in their daily lives. But Baby Boomers aren’t far behind in embracing the ease and speed of service available through automated communication.

How can you keep up with the increasing expectation for instant response through messaging apps, given all the other demands on your time? A Messenger chatbot might be solution you’re looking for.

What is a chatbot?
A chatbot is a piece of software that uses artificial intelligence, simulating natural conversation to answer questions and provide information. Most chatbots are designed for text input, but some incorporate speech recognition. If you’ve ever been on a website and seen a little pop-up box asking, “How can I help you?”, it’s likely you were being offered the opportunity to interact with a chatbot.

The use of chatbots grows every day, and examples are not hard to find. Chatbots are being deployed to answer common customer service questions, help you hail a ride, provide recipe suggestions, and order flowers for delivery.

How can a chatbot help my craft business?
Anyone who has spent time working in customer service knows that many inquiries are routine.

  • What is the status of my shipment?
  • What are your hours?
  • How do I take care of this product?
  • How should I use this product?

A chatbot can answer all these questions and more, for far less cost than hiring a customer service rep. The chatbot can also provide links to other content on your website, such as product tutorial videos or project inspiration.

Chatbots can also act as virtual personal shoppers, asking questions to hone in on what the customer is seeking and presenting clickable options.

How can I get started?
Chatbots are one of the hottest topics in the tech world today. There are lots of companies and developers who would be happy to charge you a lot of money to create a custom chatbot. Fortunately, there are also some simpler and less costly ways to put chatbots to work for you.

Shopify
Shopify has developed an app that will integrate your product catalog with Facebook Messenger. If you already have a Shopify store, it’s free to download this app.

The Shopify Messenger app brings the entire shopping experience into Messenger, using simple prompts to lead the customer along a decision path. The app automates some notifications, such as shipping confirmation.

To see how one company put Shopify Messenger to use, take a look at this case study.

Chatfuel
If you’re looking for a more conversational chatbot, take a look at Chatfuel. The basic version is free, with more features available with paid plans.

Chatfuel was designed as a no-code tool for creating a highly customized chatbot to run on Messenger.

Why focus on Facebook Messenger?
Messenger wants to be your communication channel. They are actively courting business users with tools for shopping and customer service. And Messenger is the dominant global messaging app, with 1.3 billion active monthly users as of January 2018.

You need to be where your customers are, and your customers are on Messenger.

At the very least, you need to be prepared to respond to those customers who choose to reach out to you via Messenger. Here are 4 things you can do this week:

  • Create a Messenger greeting. Your customer will see this greeting the first time they connect with you on Messenger, before any messages are sent. This is a great opportunity to set a friendly, welcoming tone.
  • Create an Instant Reply. You can’t be watching your Messenger account all day every day. Create an automated reply so your customer knows you’ve received their message and will get back to them soon.
  • Create an Away message. An away message helps manage expectations by gently reminding customers that you don’t work 24/7. You can schedule this message to be sent instead of the Instant Reply at night time, weekends, or when you’re traveling.
  • Establish a routine for responding to incoming Messages. Prompt and courteous responses to incoming messages will help build trust with your customers. Decide who will be responsible for monitoring and responding to Messenger. How often will you check for new messages? Once an hour? Once a day? Set a reminder on your calendar until it becomes a habit.

Once you’ve connected with your customers on Messenger, either through a chatbot or live chat, you can run a form of paid advertising known as “sponsored messages.” This allows you to send targeted messages directly to people who already know you. Since your message shows up on Messenger instead of in their Facebook newsfeed, it’s far more likely to be seen, read and clicked than a standard Facebook ad.

Chatbots will not replace human customer service anytime soon, particularly for craft businesses that focus on the handmade and low tech. You’ll still have customers who want to talk to someone on the telephone or prefer the familiar medium of email. And you’ll need a knowledgeable human to respond to questions beyond the limits of the bot’s programmed responses.

Stitchcraft Marketing can help you integrate Messenger and chatbots into your overall marketing and customer service strategy. Contact Leanne@stitchcraftmarketing.com to learn how we can help you grow your craft business.

 

Computers are learning the art of creativity in more ways than you may know


By Kristen Farrell, Manager of Marketing & Public Relations, Association For Creative Industries (AFCI)

Remember when the Google Arts & Culture App went viral earlier this year? The app introduced a new feature that uses a facial recognition algorithm to match a selfie with a museum portrait.

Google Arts & Culture App

Google has been creating algorithms that recreate art for quite some time. Google’s AutoDraw is an artificial intelligence experiment that helps you draw by combining “the magic of machine learning with drawings from talented artists”Quick, Draw!, another research experiment by Google, trains systems to learn sketches in a way that is very reminiscent of the game Pictionary.

The technology giant isn’t the only participant in this progression. Computer scientists at the Art & Artificial Intelligence Lab at Rutgers University are studying how to use artificial intelligence to replicate “perceptual and cognitive tasks related to human creativity.” Artsy hailed Professor Ahmend Elgammal’s new art-generating algorithm as “The biggest artistic achievement” of 2017.

So, what’s the relevance of all of this?

Computers are learning the art of creativity.

Although algorithms have not yet replaced an artist’s creativity, more research and developments in this area could change that one day soon.

As concerning as this may seem, there is an upside, which is:

Greater awareness and support for art education.

Research commissioned by the Association For Creative Industries (AFCI) suggests that parents recognize creative activity as an essential component of creative thinking. As algorithm art enters the mainstream, it could spawn support for integrating art into STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education.

Kids painting

Are you experimenting with algorithm art? AFCI is interested in learning how you are utilizing it in your creative business. Share your story by sending an email to kfarrell@afci.global.

This is a portion of an article that appears in the 2018 Spring issue of Gradient, the premier magazine publication of the Association For Creative Industries. To read the full analysis of algorithm art, visit and log in to your member account at gradient.afci.global.

Member Spotlight: Cecily Moore


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AFCI Member, Cecily Moore is a graphic designer with an avid passion for scrapbooking, coffee drinking, and all things crafty. She is the owner of The Paper Curator, which is an online shop of artfully designed paper goods for the modern creative.

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In January, Cecily attended Creativation for the first time. We spoke to her and asked her why she attended and to share her experience.

Tell us about yourself and your business.
“My name is Cecily and I’m somewhat of a jack-of-all trades when it comes to crafting, but primarily I am a graphic designer. My business, The Paper Curator, is a handmade stationery and paper crafting company selling artfully designed paper goods for modern creatives. I specialize in hand-lettering and lovely handmade textures and prints throughout my seasonal collections of stationery items and monthly scrapbook kits – all handmade and produced by me.”

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Tell us about your experience at Creativation 2018.
“The entire experience was awesome and kind of a whirlwind. I wanted to cram so much into my short time in Phoenix so I booked my schedule Thursday and Friday with many of the classes available – seminars primarily, but a couple hands-on workshops as well. Because it was my first year at the event, I also penciled in plenty of time to wander the show floor and boy did I need every second. It was breathtaking to walk around and see all the up and coming products for brands that I’ve long admired. Overall the experience left me truly inspired (and a little tired from all the excitement!).”

Why did you attend?
Attending Creativation has been a goal of mine for many years now, so stepping foot into Creativation 2018 was a dream come true. I mainly attended because I’m always looking for ways to improve my business. Aside from the excitement of seeing all the new products on the show floor, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take some great classes at Creativation as well. I think the free entrance for AFCI members really sealed the deal and I knew from the time I enrolled in a membership that I had to get to Phoenix for the experience!”

What benefits did your business see as a result of attending Creativation?
“Overall, the biggest benefit for my business at Creativation was the opportunity to network and make true connections with people that share the same passions and goals as I do. On the show floor, I also got to meet some critical vendors that will help me when I’m ready to expand my business. One highlight was meeting PhotoCentric, a stamp manufacturer on the show floor that I had been researching online. The process had been something I was looking into but wasn’t completely sold on prior to Creativation. Getting to put a face to the company gave me a whole new level of trust in their process and the quality of their products. Creativation gave me more confidence in myself as a business owner when considering new directions for expanding my business.”

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What was the best workshop, seminar or event you attended and why?
“My favorite workshop was a Hands-on Lab called Styling Content for Your Brand with Amber Kemp-Gerstel of Damask Love. She really got us thinking about smart photography for our businesses with excellent detailed tips and examples of photos from her own repertoire. I left the workshop with not only some great photos of my products, but the insight moving forward to better my brand. Plus, she was completely lovely and continued to greet me throughout the rest of the conference when I bumped into her on the show floor! The hands-on nature of the lab let me make some great connections with all of the attendees — another excellent bonus!”

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Who would you recommend attend Creativation and why?
“I think anyone who is in a creative industry (as a buyer, maker, etc.), who runs a creative business, or is looking to get some insight into the world of the creative industries would definitely benefit from attending. The classes were absolutely inspiring and the connections an attendee can make on the show floor can definitely be beneficial to pushing any business forward.”

Learn more about the benefits of attending Creativation at www.CreativationShow.org.

Connect with Cecily and learn more about her business at www.thepapercurator.com.

AFCI Staff’s Favorite Products & Trends From Creativation


Creativation is a big, bright playground for creative professionals to see, touch, test and buy the best new creative products. While AFCI Staff members, Donna Cennimo and Raquel-Alexa Brizzi work on Creativation from 9 to 5, in their down time they are passionate crafters who share the joy and inspiration that attendees feel experiencing the event.

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Raquel (left) and Donna (right) in the Plaid Booth at Creativation 2018.

Donna and Raquel walked the 2018 trade show to discover their favorite new products based on their personal interests in crafts. After two months of experimenting and playing, here are their five favorite craft trends for 2018:

1. Back to Embossing

Heat embossing has been a popular practice among stampers and card makers for decades. Designer, Seth Apter and Emerald Creek Craft Supplies teamed up to invent an amazing product that makes embossing new again. The product, Baked Texture comes in seven varieties of thick powder, each of which creates a unique range of vintage, rusted, textured effects on your art. Seth’s booth demos gave attendees tons of techniques to try at home and in retail stores.

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Raquel’s art journal using Baked Texture.

When it comes to heat embossing techniques, Stampendous remains a leader. Stampendous Founder Fran Seiford’s book, Embossing Powder Techniques from A to Z, is a must-have no matter how long you’ve been embossing. The company’s new stamp releases make a big statement on your art, especially their Deep Impressions Chunky Embossing Enamel and techniques.

2. Sparkle & Shine

Who doesn’t love some sparkle and shine? We all do! But, at what cost? Glitter tends to get everywhere. Plaid created a solution for this problem by releasing two new FolkArt paint lines that help you achieve sparkle and shine without the mess. The Glitterific brand paints feature suspended fragments of glitter in a clear base, while the ColorSHIFT brand paints come in solid bright metallic shades. Each paint comes in 10 new colors. Donna and Raquel completed make-and-takes at the booth.

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Raquel’s art journal using Glitter Kiss.

The ladies at the Ecstasy Crafts booth showed AFCI’s crafting duo another shimmering product without the burden of loose powder. Glitter Kiss is a jarred product (manufactured by Creative Expressions) that can be used to add dimension and sparkle to embossed papers, but doesn’t require adhesives. This water-based product sticks directly to your page.

3. All Things Art Journaling

When it comes to art journaling, anything goes! Just about any products at Creativation can be used to create in an art journal. Donna’s greatest find was Ranger’s latest Dina Wakley Media Journal in its new Large size (10” x 14.25″).

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Donna’s full Dina Wakely Media Journal after two months of playing with new products from Creativation 2018.

Prima Marketing released several new washi tapes, which are lining the pages of Donna and Raquel’s journals.

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Raquel’s art journal using Prima’s new washi tape.

Stamps aren’t just for card making. Visible Image has an incredible selection of abstract clear stamps that are amazing for journaling. Their newest line for 2018 features each of the Zodiac signs in geometric designs and constellations.

4. Hand Lettering Happenings

Hand lettering and modern calligraphy are still top trends that many of the exhibiting companies showcased. Donna and Raquel spent time at the Sakura booth experimenting with their white Gelly Roll pens released in new sizes (05 08 10 mm).

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Raquel using Gelly Roll pens.

Crafter’s Companion came out with a new line of Spectrum Noir dual-tip metallic markers. You won’t be able to resist these shimmering brush pens.

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Raquel hand lettering with Crafter’s Companion’s Spectrum Noir dual-tip metallic markers.

Raquel sat and lettered in the Uchida booth learning the versatility of their Le Plume II dual-tip watercolor markers from blending tricks to stamping tips.

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Raquel hand lettering with Uchida’s Le Plume II dual-tip watercolor markers

The Artisan Fair was also a worthwhile stop on the show floor where the Calligraphic Society of Arizona taught calligraphy using a multitude of pens, markers and styles.

5. Wrapped Up in Jewelry

Donna enjoyed stopping by the Ranger booth to talk wire-wrapped jewelry and Ice Resin with designer, Susan Lenart Kazmer. Ranger’s latest releases to the Ice Resin line include new Jewelry Wires, 3 shades of shimmery Lusters, and Rune Bezels, which are replicas of Susan’s own designs.

Donna and Raquel have loved playing with many of these new releases. See some samples of their creations below!

Join us at Creativation 2019, taking place January 17-21 at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Education begins on January 17. The trade show opens January 19-21. AFCI members attend for free. For more information about attending or exhibiting, visit www.CreativationShow.org.

About Donna and Raquel

Donna is no stranger to crafting; she has been creating her entire life. Her varied interests include painting, jewelry-making, collage, sewing, and most prominently art journaling. Donna’s work can be characterized by bright colors, deep textures, layering and abstract patterns. Find Donna on Pinterest: @blkmoondesignz

Raquel is a lifelong doodler who has recently taken up hand lettering, card-making and art journaling. While she was always creative, it took exposure to AFCI members’ products and techniques along with Donna’s knowledge and guidance to bring her creative hobbies to the next level. Find Raquel on Instagram: @raquelcreates

A Crepe Paper Revival in Full Bloom


By Emily Barnes, LiaGriffith.com

Crepe Paper Daisies (Extra Fine) Lia Griffith

Photo credit: Lia Griffith

Crepe paper was a popular crafting material in the late 1800s, used in the creation of ball gowns, home goods, and paper flowers. Since its popularity began to dwindle in the mid-1900’s, manufacturers have sought ways in which to recapture the glory days of crepe. With paper crafts making up 10.6% of today’s $36.2 billion US creative products industry, you can see why. Enter global manufacturer, Seaman Paper and their German subsidiary Werola.

Seaman’s expertise in manufacturing lightweight papers, coupled with Werola’s passion for innovation saw them develop a line of crepe papers that had never been seen on the US market before 2016.

“For our crepe paper we only choose the best raw materials. We have spent years perfecting a crepe paper with the ideal combination of stretch and stability,” says Bernd Firmbach, Werola.

Free of toxic and carcinogenic materials, this high quality crepe paper comes in a variety of 50 brilliant hues that are ideal for decorating, crafting, artful packaging, and more. But what has really captured the attention of paper lovers, is how this versatile material is being used to create exquisite paper flowers.

In 2015, AFCI Member Lia Griffith was already renowned for designing, making and sharing tutorials for making crepe paper flowers via her website LiaGriffith.com, but she had yet to find her perfect crafting material. When Werola approached her about developing a branded line of extra fine crepe papers, Lia fell in love with the product. It was clear that this would be a natural fit.

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Photo Credit: Lia Griffith

“I was already teaching people how to use crepe paper in their crafts, now I had the opportunity to bring high quality, beautiful crepe paper to the US craft market. It was a match made in heaven” says Lia.

In the spring of 2016, the Lia Griffith crepe paper line was launched to the American market via Pacon, a provider of art, craft and education materials. In a color palette inspired by nature, these papers complimented the art of paper flower making perfectly, and so the revival began!

Through a sustained marketing initiative involving Lia’s daily DIY project tutorials and those of a passionate community of paper flower makers across America (via Lia’s Ambassador Program), crepe paper quickly began enjoying the limelight as a versatile and forgiving craft material. Not only are crafters using these beautiful papers to make stunning works of art, we are seeing on-trend home décor projects, unique gift wrap ideas and party decorations all made with this innovative crepe paper.

Using crepe paper to make flowers Lia Griffith

Photo Credit: Lia Griffith

Due to the success of the 2016 Lia Griffith program, 38 new colors were added this year in both extra fine and heavy weights. The program now features 26 high quality paper products including frosted tissue paper packs, waxed tissue and floral tape.

The “crepe paper revival” continues to grow with over 150k followers on Pinterest alone. With Creativity International picking up the program in the UK, and interest from both Australia and Canada, the 2018 program is set to be a blooming success.

Emily Barnes is the Director of Marketing & Public Relations for LiaGriffith.com. LiaGriffith.com had humble beginnings as a one-person lifestyle blog, and with consistent, quality content has rapidly grown into a go-to resource for all things DIY. Now sharing up to 12 projects a week, the site continues to grow and gain new readers every day. Today Lia Griffith Media employs a team of 12 unique and talented individuals who together are passionate about sharing our knowledge and inspiration for a handcrafted lifestyle. Its daily blog posts and social media engagement focuses on nurturing a loyal community of makers and crafters. As the Lia Griffith brand grows and expands, the personal mission that Lia embarked on this journey with remains as strong as ever – to teach, inspire and reignite creativity. Because everyone can be creative!

Member Spotlight: Tanya Fox


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AFCI Member, Tanya Fox, owner of Crafty Crafters Ltd., is a retailer located in Camrose, Alberta, Canada. You will often find her in her store, apron on and creating new ideas and projects or visiting with the fellow crafters hearing new ideas. In January, she attended Creativation for the first time. We spoke to her and asked her to share her experience.

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AFCI Member, Tanya Fox, owner of Crafty Crafters Ltd.

Tell us about yourself and your business.
“I have been crafting for over 35 years. It has always been a passion of mine. After over 16 years of dreaming I finally took the leap my father told me to and made one of my dreams a reality opening Crafty Crafters in 2014. You will often find me in the store, apron on creating new ideas and projects, working on our YouTube videos or visiting with fellow crafters, seeing their creations and helping solve problems with projects of all kinds. Whether it is a new craft you want to try or help with getting back into it, I am always there to help share my passion and excitement about the crafting world.”

Tell us about your experience at Creativation 2018.
“This was my first year attending. The staff was AMAZING. Registration was like a well-oiled machine, which is nice when you are so excited to get into the venue. The information book in the welcome bag had a wonderful map, but the (Creativation 2018 mobile) app was above and beyond all my expectations! I was able to take so many notes and really track my booth visits with notes, which comes in handy since there were so many wonderful exhibitors and ideas.”

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Tanya Fox arriving to the Phoenix Convention Center for Creativation 2018

Why did you attend?
“My wonderful rep, Laura at Notions Marketing had suggested that I attend as she thought that I would really enjoy being able to see all the exhibitors as well as to help get some new ideas for the store as she knows we are always wanting to expand our lines.”

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Tanya Fox with Laura of Notions Marketing at Creativation 2018

What benefits did your business see as a result of attending Creativation?
“I was able to connect with two new companies. We are now bringing there lines into our store. From seeing them at the show and the new product we will be the first in our area to carry the lines, which puts our business at an advantage. This would not have been able to happen without attending this event. Being able to speak directly with them in person also allowed us to create a relationship with them. This has made the ordering process so much easier and helped create a stronger initial bond, which is important to us!”

Donna with Needleworld Diamond Dotz

Tanya Fox with Donna of Needleworld Diamond Dotz

Who would you recommend attend Creativation and why?
“I would absolutely recommend this to any store owner. Not only does it help you to get ahead of the new trends but also allows you to see the product in person. As the world changes to more online ordering sometimes it is hard to truly know what it is that you are going to get. Seeing it in person helps you to get a better idea of what will work for your demographic. This event allows you to also meet the distributors and form relationships that can only further your lines. Business aside, how as a crafter, do you not get giddy like a child on Christmas morning, walking into a room buzzing with laughter and hands on craft projects to try new things at! It was heaven. I will be making a point of attending each year!”

Learn more about the benefits of attending Creativation at www.CreativationShow.org.

Connect with Tanya and learn more about her business at www.craftycraftersltd.ca.

Regaining Your Retail Edge: Part 1


By Stitchcraft Marketing

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Your sales are flat. You’re holding your own, but your sales aren’t growing and it feels like you haven’t met any new customers, just your loyal stalwarts who are as much a part of your store as the furnishings at this point. Perhaps even some of them have stopped dropping in so often. You know a new store opened about 20 miles away, and crafters are notorious for being willing to travel great distances in search of new products. Is this a moment for panic for the local store owner, or is it an opportunity to clear out the cobwebs, refresh your offerings and regain your competitive edge?

Since you’re reading this on the AFCI Blog, it will come as no surprise that we view a case of the retail blahs as an opportunity for innovation for our retail members. We are all in this business because we love scrapbooking, quilting, and fabric crafts, and competition can help all of us. A bigger slice of the pie for one store doesn’t have to mean another store’s slice gets smaller. Let’s bake a bigger pie so we can all have more.

Who and What is Your Competition?

There’s competition and then there’s competition. Figuring out who and where your competition is the first step in determining how you can compete, then sharpening that competitive edge. It’s impossible to be everything to everyone, but you can differentiate your store and its offerings to highlight the thing(s) you do that no one else does in quite the same way.

As a small craft shop owner (yarn, fabric, scrapbooking) you face three major forms of competition: online sales, big-box retailers, and other local stores. Balancing your product and service offerings in relation to all three is a delicate process, but it can be done. We will look more closely at the challenges posed by each type of competitor and how you can respond. Let’s use the example of a quilt shop to illustrate but keep in mind, these ideas extrapolate to other crafts such as scrapbooking, papermaking, knitting and the like:

  • Online sales. Online fabric sellers may be the most daunting rivals of the digital age. Usually they do not have the fixed overhead costs that a bricks-and-mortar store does. Thus, they can offer the same products at a lower price point and still make a profit. Perhaps most frustrating to someone who devotes time and care to providing your customers with a tangible shopping experience, online fabric stores can still bring customers into your shop where they touch the fabric and make note of the design, then go home and order it delivered to their door. Competing with online retailers based on price is likely to be a losing game for the LQS (Local Quilt Shop) owner, so you need to find a different advantage.
  • Big-box retail. Large-scale craft stores or the craft departments of other large retailers attract the fabric buyer who is looking for convenience, low price, and ease. They can also be the entry point for a lot of new crafters, who start with inexpensive supplies to try a craft before they commit to it. They may not believe they have the disposable income or even the time to shop at your store, not when they can pick up their fabric, buy their groceries and get a new set of tires in one trip. But once they’re hooked on the craft, they will want to upgrade both their supplies and their tools and then they will find you. While it’s comforting to the specialty retailer to dismiss the fabric offerings of big-box stores as lower quality, the quilters who are buying those fabrics care every bit as much about their projects as the ones buying organic, US-produced cottons at your store. Make sure your product mix has offerings that bridge the transition from big-box to specialty store.
  • Other LQS’s. Most often, when we think of “the competition,” we’re thinking of the other local stores in our geographic location. It’s important for your own business and the industry as a whole, not to think of the local store market as a zero-sum game. Having other stores around you increases the overall interest in quilting and promotes fabric crafts to the community at large. Crafting is creative, entertaining, and social for most crafters. They may have their “home” store, but the stores an hour or two away are an opportunity for a destination excursion. Your store is that destination for your competitor’s home customers. Recognize that relationship and you all benefit.

Regaining Your Competitive Edge

Let’s set aside the idea that cutting your prices will help you jumpstart your sales. Discounting can be a trap, as you train your customers to wait for your markdowns, and create expectations for a new baseline with your sale prices. Counting on an increased volume of sales to make up for a discounted price is another pitfall you want to avoid. Instead of lowering your prices, consider offering some combination of rewards for your loyal customers. You can give a one-time discount based on previous purchases (10% for every $200 spent, or a figure that works for you); a birthday shopping pass; or a percentage off supplies when enrolling in a class. You can keep track in your POS system or through a loyalty card. Some stores are even using SMS messaging (texts) as the medium to offer rewards to their loyal customers.

Moving beyond price, though, what are some strategies that will make your shop exciting for your customers and profitable for your business?

In part 2 of our article, we’ll discuss these strategies:
Unique Product Mix, Customer Service, Convenience, Social and Entertainment.

If you’d like to receive part 2 of this series enter your email here:
http://go.stitchcraftmarketing.com.pages.services/afci-competition-article-part-2-feb-2018

Stitchcraft Marketing is a niche agency specializing in craft-centric small businesses. Contact the owner, Leanne Pressly at 719-539-3110 or email Leanne@stitchcraftmarketing.com to learn more.

Interpreting Our Industry Research – It’s Not As Scary As You Think!


By Keri Cunningham, Sr. Director of Marketing and Research, AFCI

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Results from the Creative Products Size of the Industry Study Update are now available for Association For Creative Industries (AFCI) members. We often hear, “I don’t have time to decipher all of the key findings” or “I’m a creative person, not a numbers person”. Well, I’m here to tell you you can do it! If you set aside some time to review the report, you’ll see it as one of your most important member benefits.

Other members have used it to provide an in-depth perspective on our industry and support various initiatives such as: buying and selling; developing business plans; tracking trends; and planning, forecasting, and marketing company products.

I know it is intimidating, but don’t ignore it. This infographic highlights some key stats and ways the data can work for you.

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Putting the Data to Work
What does all of this mean for you? Crafters are busy and cost-conscience so it is important for retailers and suppliers to deliver product and inspiration through an omni-channel strategy that integrates satisfactory in-store, online and print shopping experiences.

Since crafters are participating in multiple crafts, retailers can encourage unplanned purchases with tactical store layouts that place crafts with high-crossover tendency in close proximity. Retailers should show how products work together or how they are used for different applications. Display finished craft projects and keep the products needed to complete the project within easy reach. Online retailers can build impact and shopping basket size by suggesting complementary products.

Stores should emphasize the personalized nature of crafts for gifting and make the shopping experience more experiential. Think creatively and transform your space into a place where people can come to have fun with interactive activities, personalization and technology.

AFCI Members can download the full report for free by clicking here or choosing the Research link under the Membership tab at www.afci.global. You’ll need the email associated with your membership account and password to gain access. Non-members interested in purchasing the report may contact me at kcunningham@afci.global or 201-835-1229.

The full version of this article is featured in the Spring issue of Gradient. AFCI Members can view the digital edition online at gradient.afci.global.

The Trends at h+h cologne 2018: Sustainable and Natural, Colourful and Animal Crazy, Glamorous and Glittery!


This is a press release issued by h+h cologne

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Handicrafts and DIY themselves are on trend at the moment: The expression of individuality paired with the rejection of mass-produced goods, the move towards more sustainability and the return to limiting things down to the essentials are the expression of a counterpole to the fast-moving, digital world and are the reasons why handicrafting is becoming increasingly popular. Also a theme once again this year: Hygge and lagom. The hypes from Scandinavia express the longing for the feeling of security, inner peace and balance and thus hit the nerve of the times as the Managing Director Hedi Ehlen von Prym also confirms: “The love for handicrafting as an offset against the digital world is becoming more and more popular!”.

The products of the exhibitors are following suit here, namely they reflect sustainability and naturalness: Buttons made of mother of pearl, vegetable ivory, horn or liquid wood and also fabrics and yarns made of linen or hemp are en vogue this year. In the sense of the “slow food” train of thought, sustainability is also becoming increasingly more important for the theme of wool according to Lana Grossa for example: “Slow wool” addresses the question as to the origin of the product and the animals. Jersey and tweed were already hip last year and will also be trendy fabrics again this year. The DIY literature is also dominated by this: “Jersey is still the strongest theme in the book section,” stated Dr. Christiane Voigt from frechverlag. The visitors can also look forward to a host of accessories, sewing baskets and storage options as well as colourful tools and patchwork rulers for the young target group. Because this target group is constantly expanding, explained Katrin Jahns from makerist.de: “Among the younger generations the interest in learning to live autark and more economically is increasing – this is evident from handicrafts such as sewing, knitting and crocheting as well as from gardening or the zero-waste movement.”

In 2018 we can once again expect very feminine, girly cuts with plenty of details like 2/3 frills and pleats that are inspired by retro fashion. There are however also clean and voluminous cuts with silhouettes that are based on the purism of the 90s. Materials and natural fabrics like linen are being modernised with sporty details such as jersey cuffs.

Ethno is in – from alpaca and insects through to stamping and batik techniques
It is going to be “beastly” at the stands of the trade fair not only in terms of wool, but also because of the animal motifs on the buttons and fabrics. The extremely popular unicorn remains just as trendy, whereby it is increasingly being replaced by lamas, sloths and alpacas. Flowers, insects and succulent motifs make the perfect enhancement to the ethno theme world. They can be applied to the fabrics by hand. The trend consultant, Gabriela Kaiser, knows: “Creating the patterns on fabrics oneself using stamps or spraying them on is still an important trend. Batik dyeing is becoming an even bigger theme, especially in the indigo colour.” The different techniques are bringing colour into play!

A diversified play of colours thanks to glitter, metallic and gradients
The world of yarns is also becoming colourful, because colour gradients are totally in. In addition to the use of sequins as well as metal and glitter effects, colour gradients are absolutely in fashion and many exhibitors are adding the corresponding items to their collections – among others also ONline Garn: The trend towards colour gradiented yarn is being continually reinvented and further developed using colourfully imprinted, yet also very fine mohair yarn. The trend colour of 2018 is ultra violet, but also different gold shades such as glazed ginger, dusted colours such as green bay or pink shades dominate the palette of colours. In addition to metallic, denim also influences the more special pattern and colour designs. Vegan alternatives to leather are currently also in high demand and particularly items in metallic look are popular this year.

Handicrafts around the globe – trends from all over the world as inspiration
International similarities and differences are under focus at the fair this year. The motto of the event programme of h+h cologne is “Around the world in 3 days” and it shows in many workshops how different the handicraft work of the people all over the globe is and what peculiarities can be observed within the global marketing. One example: Knitting socks that is highly popular in Germany, Austria and Switzerland is reflected by materials, techniques, needles and books dedicated to this theme. Whereby in other countries such as England for instance it is not at all popular, the textile designer, Tanja Steinbach, revealed. There are also differences in comparison to Scandinavia for instance: Here tradition rules, whereas the German market is more strongly influenced by fashion. And although quilting is really taking off in Germany, quilted buttons are definitely more popular in the USA, observed Hans Dill from Dill Buttons.

However, local trends still serve as inspiration of course: In this way the Scandinavian round yoke jumper, oriental influences such as Tunisian crocheting and matching scarves are influencing today’s DIY scene. Playful trends such as pompoms and tassels are still in this year. However, the Southern European countries are overall slightly more colourful than Germany. This year Asiatic influences are having a greater impact in Europe – especially in the winter we can look forward to Indian inspired materials with lovely colours and embroideries finding their way to us. Whether inspired through international differences or the trend development for products, materials and techniques: h+h cologne has plenty of great products, colourful themes and interesting experts in store for its visitors from 23 to 25 March 2018.

This link will take you to the New Products Database of the exhibitors: http://neuheiten.koelnmesse.net/900/2018/us/products/index.

Press information is available at: www.hh-cologne.com/Pressinformation.

3 Free or Almost-Free Digital Design Tools


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In today’s day and age, it’s so important for businesses to communicate in a visual way in order to establish credibility and engage users. However, your business may not have the budget to invest in staffing a graphic designer or design software.

Good news! There are free or almost-free tools on the Internet that are all you need to produce high-quality, visual content that can be used on your website, in your emails, and on social media. Here are three of the many options out there that AFCI recommends.

Canva
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Canva is an online design tool that provides everything you need to create professional-looking presentations, posters, social media graphics, web banners, infographics, and more. The Canva “Free Forever” plan includes 8,000 templates, 1GB of storage, two folders to organize your designs, and access to a selection of free images or the ability to upload your own.

Animoto
animoto.com

Animoto turns your photos and video clips into shareworthy marketing videos and slideshows. You can try Animoto for free for 14-days and see if it’s worth $22 per month of the “Professional” package. Watch videos that we created using this tool by visiting CreativationShow.org/videos.

Pixlr
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Pixlr is a browser-based photo editor that makes it easy to edit images by cropping, rotating, and enhancing through filters. Pixlr is a free alternative to Adobe Photoshop. There’s also a free app available for download from the Apple App Store and Google Play.

For our full review of each tool, read the full article in the Winter 2018 issue of Gradient.

Spring Into Business Success By Tuning In For New iDiscover Chats


Our iDiscover Chats are short, 15-minute informative and exciting inspirational talks broadcasted on Facebook Live for AFCI Members. We have 4 new iDiscover Chats scheduled this Spring, kicking off on Wednesday, March 21 with 3 Instagram Updates to Know Now.

Check out what you can learn through our iDiscover Chats below. To RSVP, log into Facebook and then click here to request to join and/or view upcoming events in our member-only iDiscover Facebook group.

iDiscover Chats Spring 2018 Infographic

3 Instagram Updates to Know Now
Wednesday, March 21, 2018 – 1:00pm-1:15pm Eastern Time
Presented by Anna Ebert of Funnel Cake Social Media

The good news: Instagram continues to release new features that give you more opportunities for creative expression! The obstacle: Staying in the loop with recent updates and how you can creatively AND strategically leverage them! In 15 minutes, you’ll have the scoop on two changes that will take your Instagram creativity to new levels, and one that’s designed to make your life easier, but (cue the dramatic music) will it?

Creating the Perfect Elevator Pitch
Wednesday, April 4, 2018 – 1:00pm-1:15pm Eastern Time
Presented by Kyrsten Sherwood of Copper Kettle Co.

We all stumble through telling people exactly what it is we do every day, so this micro workshop will help you do create the perfect 9 second synopsis of what you do, how you help your audience and why your elevator buddy should be interested in it at all.

Strategically & Creatively Craft Your Instagram Stories Highlights
Wednesday, May 16, 2018 – 1:00pm-1:15pm Eastern Time
Presented by Anna Ebert of Funnel Cake Social Media

What in the world are those circles (Instagram Story Highlights) that have appeared on your Instagram profile? More importantly, how can you leverage this new feature to your advantage? Before you start filling your Story Highlights with just anything, explore best practices for putting your best highlight forward, while still being creative!

How You Can Get Leads For Your Business & Be Top of Mind in 15 Minutes a Day on Social Media
Wednesday, June 6, 2018 – 1:00pm-1:15pm Eastern Time
Presented by Heather Heuman of Sweet Tea Social Marketing

Ever felt that you just feel overwhelmed with social media and just want to know the key things you need to consistently do to not only get results for leads but also stay top of mind? I’ll be showing you exactly how you can do that. And the best part is I’ll show you a simple easy framework that allows you to do this in 15 minutes a day!

All of our iDiscover Chats are archived and available to view at any time in our Facebook group. For a list of archived recordings and/or to submit interest in presenting an iDiscover Chat, visit idiscover.afci.global.

Member Spotlight: Koren Wiskman


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AFCI Member Koren Wiskman of Maryland is a professional crafter, blogger and YouTuber. Over the past couple of years, she has been building a physical and digital presence for her business, including 1,900 subscribers to her YouTube channel. Aside from developing and maintaining new content for various social media, she enjoys selling cards on her Etsy shop, KorenWishmanNCo and in a local bakery.

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Koren was one of our many members who attended Creativation 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona to be inspired and discover new ways to grow her business. We asked Koren to share her experience at this year’s event.

Tell us about your experience at Creativation 2018.
“I could go on for hours about it. In short though, it was terrific. Having the opportunity to learn from some of the industry leaders and innovators, and being able to see and touch the upcoming products was simply incredible.”

Why did you attend?
“I want to grow my business. I know that developing both skills as a crafter and business person/marketer is critical in doing so. The folks at Creativation seemed to have this concept in mind as they developed plans for this event. It really was a great blend of business and instruction with art and function.”

What benefits did your business see as a result of attending Creativation?
“Overall, I think that the benefits will be more evident in the coming weeks and months as the lessons learned at Creativation will have had an opportunity to bring about change and improvement.”

What was the best workshop, seminar or event you attended?
“There are three that really stand out to me, in no particular order: Collaboration seminar with Mandy Evans, who was inspiring and innovative; The design team to influencer with Justine Hovey and Kreative Kymona, as they provided very good transitional information for a business such as mine; and PHD to PHDIY with Damask Love, who makes business successes feel more possible and tangible.”

Who would you recommend attend Creativation?
“Having more access to the industry representatives and sneak peeks at new products is great for everyone with a passion for paper crafting. I think that it is particularly beneficial to brick and mortar shop owners, to be able to get face time with manufacturer representatives directly and also for avid crafters who are anticipating these things, to be able to touch and feel the new products before the public. One of the things that I liked best about Creativation was that it seemed like our core demographic was well-considered throughout. From the assistance with nearby accommodations, a super amenable venue, and incredibly helpful and supportive staff, the experience sets the bar for what should be considered for future events.”

Learn more about the benefits of attending Creativation at www.CreativationShow.org.

Connect with Koren and learn more about her business at www.korenwiskman.com.

10 Cost Saving Benefits for AFCI Retailers


Did you know? Independent and online retailers save thousands of budget dollars annually by taking advantage of cost savings benefits offered through membership with the Association For Creative Industries (AFCI). Whether you’re just starting your business or are in need of tools and connections to grow, we can help you take your business from average to astonishing and save you some money along the way.

Here are 10 cost saving benefits that retail members can use starting the day they join.

Cost Saving Benefits for Retailers

Visit the member benefits page to see the full list benefits and ways to save. If you have any questions about joining, call our membership team at (201) 835-1200 or email membership@afci.global.

Managing an International Social Media Presence


By Stitchcraft Marketing

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Social media networks have flattened the world, and brands need to consider the whole world as their marketplace. Below are some big-picture ideas and tips that will help you take your brand to the world.

1. Determine Your Channels

Find out which social media channels the customers you want to reach use the most by determining which networks are carrying the traffic you want to be part of in the regions you want to reach. For an overview of the dominant networks worldwide, see Vincenzo Cosenza’s annual World Map of Social Networks.

2. Global, Local or Something in Between?

As you build your brand across an international marketplace, you can take a top-down approach by developing a centralized marketing message that is then tailored for specific countries or regions. Or if you’d rather, you can work from the bottom up, creating or hiring local teams that craft a brand strategy specifically for their local markets.

3. Translating Your Brand Message

There may be important regional and ethnic variations in your message when you are speaking to a global community. Social media marketing has to take both of these ideas into account. Style, terminology, local/regional language, units of measurement are just some of the factors you need to consider. Adapt your style of presentation so that your social media posts fit the culture of the customers you are trying to reach.

4. Culture, Custom and Policy

Once you have crafted a campaign and had it translated for your social media networks in your targeted markets, you also have to make sure that it meets local customs, policies, and laws for advertising and e-commerce.

It’s not impossible to launch your brand into new global markets. With careful research in preparation and informed input from local experts, your craft brand can engage with new customer audiences and grow into a global leader.

Read the full article in the Winter 2018 issue of Gradient.

Stitchcraft Marketing is a niche agency specializing in craft-centric small businesses. Contact the owner, Leanne Pressly at 719-539-3110 or email Leanne@stitchcraftmarketing.com to learn more.

How Donating Product to the Kids In Need Foundation is a Business Solution


Kids In Need Foundation

At Creativation, the Kids In Need Foundation (KINF), AFCI’s Charity of Choice, received more than $1,000 from The After Party event. A portion of that event’s ticket price was donated to the Four-Star Charity. Also, attendees were invited to bring school supplies or donate $25 to give a backpack filled with supplies to a student in need.

Did you know Creativation is not the only time of year your business can donate to the Kids In Need Foundation? KINF is pleased to offer your company a business solution that not only impacts your bottom line, but supports your community through a seamless donation experience that you expect from your business partners.

  • Capacity: KINF’s National Network can handle quantities from cartons to truckloads
  • Preparedness: Logistics can generally be arranged within 48 –72 hours of
    notification
  • Accuracy: Fast, easy paperwork process and tax receipting
  • Accountability: KINF is a Four-Star Charity
  • Efficiency: As an extension of your integrated supply chain, KINF help you get things done
  • Complimentary: No donor is ever charged “processing” or “handling” fees

How can KINF we help?

  • Reducing slow or sunsetting stock at key times of your fiscal year
  • Lessening the impact of packaging and logo changes, misprints, or acquisitions
  • Providing a consistent outlet for seasonal inventory
  • Brand consolidation
  • Facility consolidation
  • Philanthropic alternative to closeout

Product donations made to KINF are redirected, free of charge, to teachers from low-income schools across the country. In 2017, more than 6.2 million students were provided with the tools they need to participate and succeed in the classroom and beyond.

To find out how you can elevate your inventory reduction plan from business decision to
life-changing community investment contact Jennifer Lehman at jenl@kinf.org or call direct at 937-545-0028. Need inventory picked up right away? Complete a product donation form online to get started!

Featured Product: Memory Lights


Memory Lights is a simple to use all in one lighting system for the crafting community that was featured in the Innovations Center at Creativation 2018.

We spoke to Keith Grange, the inventor, who shared more information about his innovation and his experience at Creativation.

Tell us about Memory Lights.

“Memory Lights came about from a simple conversation between my wife, Marcy and I. Marcy asked if I could come up with a simple way for people at her store, Memories and More, to bring illumination to their cards and scrapbooking creations. After some trial and error Memory Lights emerged.”

“The truly unique thing about Memory Lights is that the only thing the crafter needs to do is select where to place the light and they are done. Memory Lights are a light, switch and battery all in one. Adding additional lights is very simple with Memory Lights as well.”

What were your initial goals for participating in the Innovations Center and The Ultimate Pitch?

“Our goals with participation at the Innovation Center were to reach as many potential customers as possible and win The Ultimate Pitch. While we were disappointed with not being selected to participate in the finals, we did meet our primary objective of initiating contact with many potential customers. Just being part of the Innovation Center is a huge win! Participating was a great experience and has accelerated our introduction into the market. One of the biggest bonuses was meeting Scott and Teresa Mullins. They were truly inspirational to us, as well as being true mentors to all the participants.”

What’s the next step for Memory Lights?

“We are already in production and actively pursuing leads from the show. We have some larger orders pending and are expecting to see exponential growth for our product.”

Who would you say is your ideal customer?

“We are seeing demand from a broad range of customers, large retailers, craft channels and single storefronts.”

Where can people purchase the product?

“We are selling directly. Retail customers can purchase through our store Memories and More (www.memorycrafts.ca) and wholesale customers can contact us at memlites@gmail.com.”

“We have many other ideas for the Memory Lights system and will continue development on them to help illuminate creativity. The beauty of our enterprise is that we can service all types of customers, right from individual users through our storefront, Memories and More, all the way to large retailers through MemoryLights.ca.”

Click here to see more innovations launched at Creativation 2018 and event highlights.

Staying Relevant in the Digital Age: Key Trends to Watch for in 2018


By Shama Hyder, Chief Executive Officer of Marketing Zen Group and Creativation 2018 Keynote Speaker

Creativity is something that the craft and hobby industry and the marketing industry share in common. It’s the lifeblood of our businesses, the key to our success, something we pride ourselves on and something we’re passionate about. And that’s great news, because in 2018, our collective creativity will be called upon more than ever when it comes to staying relevant in the digital age.

In years past, it was enough to have a website and presence on social media, do some blogging and some emailing, and maybe run some online ads. But that’s begun to change.

So what does this mean for your business? How can companies in the craft and hobby industry flex their creative muscles and tap into this new reality? Here are some of the best places to start.

Staying Relevant In the Digital AgeInfographic_Gradient

Read Shama’s full article in the current edition of Gradient, which is available online at www.afci.global.

The Latest Viral Sensation Hitting Craft Stores Across the Nation


It’s only three months into 2018 and the Internet has already seen many viral sensations, from the Google Arts & Culture app’s face match to Super Bowl Selfie Kid to Pita Taufatofua’s return to the Olympics. Thanks to 22-year-old Kelsey Maggart, the latest viral meme is your local craft store’s floral section. People are taking pictures in the floral aisle in a way that it doesn’t look like they’re in a retail store.

Here’s Kelsey’s Twitter post that started it all.

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AFCI staff members Cassandra, Raquel and Kristen couldn’t resist giving it a try.

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And here are some of our favorite pictures we found on Instagram.

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Join in the fun! We want to see your pictures! Share your floral photo shoot pictures using the hashtag #MichaelsChallenge!

And please, do your best not to leave a mess for the employees of the store!

Got Creator Problems? Enter Our National Craft Month Contest!


For National Craft Month 2018, we’re looking for funny problems that all crafters can relate to!

Share an original “creator problem” on social media using the hashtag #MyCreatorProblem by March 15. You’ll automatically be entered into a drawing to win 4 tickets to In The MKNG™, the creativity festival, September 29-30, 2018 in Bethel, New York! We’ll announce the winner on March 20!

What is a creator problem? See some that we’ve come up with below. You can explore more creator problems on our Pinterest!

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Questions about participating? Contact Kristen Farrell, Manager of Marketing & Public Relations, at kfarrell@afci.global.

Featured Technique – Oil Pastel Smudge


The Oil Pastel Smudge Technique is an innovative technique that was invented by AFCI Designer Member, Carol Foldvary-Anderson and featured in the Innovations Center at Creativation 2018. We spoke to Carol to learn more about the technique and her experience at Creativation!

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Tell us about the Oil Pastel Smudge Technique.

“The Oil Pastel Smudge technique has been favorably recognized by the Nevada State Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts for the technique’s ‘unique ability to encompass’ the use of geometry, spacial relationships, color theory and individual creativity. Handmade templates are utilized, and the basic shapes are explored, in creating beautiful and successful art and images that interest the individual. One is able to create landscapes, florals, abstracts and more in this exciting, and easy to teach and learn technique. For those that need a little more confidence we have predesigned templates to work with too!

The technique is fun in playing and experimenting with color, and can give the final look of artwork the seeming effect of either working in silk painting, colored pencil or pens, and even watercolors. The blending of the various oil pastel colors one chooses to work is the joy, excitement and surprise in experiencing and working in the Oil Pastel Smudge technique.”

What was your initial goal for participating in the Innovations Center and The Ultimate Pitch?

“Obviously the $10,000 grand prize and the recognition of winning the Ultimate Pitch would bring to the technique an enhanced verification, validation and endorsement. The funds would go to the creating of several how to video’s and securing licenses with top players in the industry. Further development of a product line and moving forward in the direction that I see possible with the technique.”

What was some valuable feedback you got out of this experience?

“I received some fabulous valuable feedback! Several AFCI members that stopped by the Innovations Center gave me the thumbs up that I would be the winner. That was most encouraging. A shout out to those who support me and the technique, thank you!

By just being involved in the first round was a definite plus, and just the advantage I needed to getting the word out regarding the technique, and finding the right direction in taking the next step forward.”

What’s the next step for you and The Oil Pastel Smudge Technique?

“The next step…fine-tuning what I have already created. Developing a full complete and cohesive line of products to enhance the Oil Pastel Smudge experience, and securing the sourcing and distribution channels available. I am also working on more then what I have already created in the pre-designed templates “Smudgers” can work with. There is lots to do and be excited about!”

Who would you say is the ideal user of your technique?

“The ideal user would be interested in creating beautiful handmade art with oil pastels in a technique that they may not have considered or been introduced to in the past. Anyone that loves to work with color is a perfect and ideal user of the technique. It has so many possibilities with “Smudging” on different colored papers, fabric and prepared wood. I envision teachers in the K-12 grades being able to help those students that are struggling with math by giving them an ah ha moment to understand math from a visual perceptive by offering the technique in the schools and communities.”

How can a user learn more about the technique?

“Please visit the website OilPastelSmudge.com and Facebook page, Oil Pastel Smudge, or contact me directly at ART@OilPastelSmudge.com or 775-721-5338. I will get back to you as soon as I can.”

Click here to see more innovations launched at Creativation 2018 and event highlights.

FeatureD Product – ShardWorx® Kits for Kids


Mary Hong is an award-winning and successful artist and entrepreneur whose work has been featured in The Chicago Tribune, Coastal Lifestyle magazine, and more. She invented ShardWorx®, which is a new type of craft that uses glass, resin, and a canvas. Mary’s new product, ShardWorx® Kits for Kids, was selected as one of 12 new and innovative products that was featured at Creativation 2018.

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We spoke to Mary, who shared more information about her innovation and her experience at Creativation.

Tell us about ShardWorx® and the new Kits for Kids.

“ShardWorx® is artwork made with glass on a painted surface!”

ShardWorx® Kits for Kids is our brand’s newest art kit geared towards kids 8 years of age and older! It’s a spin-off of our ever-popular ShardWorx® Art Kit that uses epoxy resin to cover the glass on the canvas. An adult must do the job of preparing the resin. But with the Kids Kit, there’s no resin! A non-toxic glue that dries clear is first applied to the canvas, then a child can easily arrange the glass in the design they want, and the next day, they have a glassy masterpiece to hang on their wall! The designs are fun and bright and shiny! It’s like mosaics but better! It takes a child about 30 minutes to complete their design and the kit has everything they need! The kits can be used for an art class, an art party, or just solo creative time.”

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What was your experience in the Innovations Center ?

“I got a lot of exposure to many people. I got a lot of smiles and ‘way-to-go’s’. I had buyers that were ready to buy, but I wasn’t quite ready to sell! I had to explain that we were still in test mode.”

What’s the next step for you and ShardWorx® Kits for Kids?

“The next step is to get better and more affordable packaging.”

Who would you say is your ideal customer?

“My ideal customer is a busy mom that wants a creative all-in-one craft kit that their child can sit down and enjoy doing on their own, and complete it in less than 30 minutes.”

When and where can a person purchase the product?

“ShardWorx® Kits for Kids will launch on our website ShardWorx.com in early April 2018. Our ShardWorx® Art Kits (with resin) are already available on Amazon.com and ShardWorx.com.”

Click here to see more innovations launched at Creativation 2018 and event highlights.

5 Trends in Children’s Crafts in 2018


Guest post by MaryAnne Kochenderfer

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Creativation is the place to be if you want to spot new craft trends! The 2018 Creativation show featured a broad range of innovative products. Today I’m showcasing products that filled five trends I’ve identified in children’s crafts for 2018.

Animals!

Animal themes are very popular for children’s kits right now! From dogs and cats to giraffes, elephants, and mystical unicorns and dragons, there’s an animal for everyone.

Yarn Art

Companies are looking at fun ways to incorporate yarn into children’s crafting. From Big Stitch wood cross stitch kids to Craft-tastic wrapped yarn kits to Bergere dress an animal kits to Hoooked crochet animal kits, there is truly something for everyone! Hooked rug and yarn art kits were also on display, as well as tools for making pom-poms.

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Low Stress Kits

Parents are overloaded with jobs. They want their children to get creative and unplug from screens, but messy play feels overwhelming. Brands are creatively working around this with products that minimize the mess and the amount of set-up that parents need to do. Coloring books have taken off, and Crayola upped the game with vanishing numbers color by number sets. Kits like the Craft-tastic Puppy Love Kit allow children to create a finished looking product with minimal set-up. Diamond Dotz will engage older children through teens without requiring the use of scissors or glue.

Companies are also creating ways to make traditionally messy materials less overwhelming. Sargent Art now offers their paints in six jar trays to make set-up and clean-up easier for parents and educators.

Child Safety

Safety is a top priority for parents. Products like Play Mais allow parents to allow even the youngest children to engage in creative play. This building material from Germany is created using corn grits and water. It is biodegradeable, and colored using food coloring. Children stick the pieces together using water on a sponge.

The Perler H2O line allows children to create from small beads that fuse with water instead of the heat of an iron. Perler Stixels use the traditional beads, but children place them in a no-iron silicone pegboard.

Wood Crafting

It’s no surprise that the resurgence of wooden children’s toys has also led to an increased interest in wood based children’s crafts. The Works of Ahhh…. Line from MasterPieces allows children to paint their own 3D wooden toys. They can also paint their project via an app, and enter to win a monthly contest. MasterPieces caught my eye for offering more kits that would appeal to boys, or come across as more gender neutral. This is an important gap that continues to need filling in the children’s craft world.

What I Hope to See More Of Next Year

As a parent and educator, I hope to see more and more gender neutral craft kits for kids, as well as more opportunities for children to customize their creations. I think that craft kits are wonderful for teaching skills and introducing children to new ideas, but I think there is still room to encourage children to get creative as they develop skill sets. Children surrounded by creative parents and caregivers and educators are typically given this opportunity. Thoughtfully created kits can open up this world of possibilities for first generation crafters.

About the Author

MaryAnne blogs at Mama Smiles – Joyful Parenting, Great Family Reads, and Top Toy Finds. You can also follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook.

DIY Frame Art Drawing Pad – One of the Top 4 Creative Innovations of 2018


The patent-pending DIY Frame Art Drawing Pad by Blissfu Studio helps upgrade the sketchbook/drawing pad function by turning the flat drawing paper into a 3D frame art ready for display. It inspires creativity in adults and children by celebrating their projects.

DIY Frame Art Drawing Pad was featured in the Innovations Center and was one of the top 4 innovations selected to participate in The Ultimate Pitch at Creativation 2018. We spoke to inventor Yee Wong, who shared more information about her innovation and her experience at Creativation.

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What were your initial goals for participating in the Innovations Center and The Ultimate Pitch?
“Coming from the small country Malaysia located in Southeast Asia, our initial goal was to expose our new product DIY Frame Art Drawing Pad to the international communities. We hoped to knock on doors, make connections and collaborate with the right partner to help us take our innovative product to the global market. We came in with low expectations. In fact, we only aimed to be in The Ultimate Pitch in order for us to showcase our innovation to all the judges, without realizing we were so close to winning it. We highly appreciate the opportunity presented to us by being nominated as one of the Top Innovations Finalists. The Ultimate Pitch was such an amazing and exciting platform to kick-start the launch of our new product.”

What was some valuable feedback you got out of this experience?
“The experience and feedback we have received from the Creativation folks are beyond our expectations. DIY Frame Art Drawing Pad is a simple concept whereby the always flat and basic drawing pad is transformed instantly into 3D frame art for display on easel or hung on the wall. They have been praising it as a cool and smart idea and wanted to know where they can get it: Michaels, JOANN, or Walmart? Bloggers gave us their contact information for the chance to feature and review our product. Amazingly, The Ultimate Pitch host and actress from The Walking Dead, Kerry Cahill loved our product and even gave us her contact information because she wants to buy it too! The whole experience makes us want to start the production for our DIY Frame Art Drawing Pad right away!”

What’s the next step for you and the DIY Frame Art Drawing Pad?
“Recently, we have received the green light in our country to submit for an International Patent for our DIY Frame Art Drawing Pad and we intend to get it done first. We are looking forward to collaborating with our local manufacturers with their own distribution and export channels. Over at Creativation, we met some Chinese and Indian buyers who are interested in our product as well, so hopefully we will get to expand into the China and India markets too. We are so excited to see where they will lead us.”

Who would you say is your ideal customer?
“When we first created the DIY Frame Art Drawing Pad, our goal was to bring change and excitement to the classic yet humble drawing pad, which has stayed flat for centuries. We hope to bring new joy and delight to children everywhere in creating their own masterpieces in this unassuming piece of flat paper that can be transformed into 3D frame art ready for display. Overall, it will encourage a sense of achievement and accomplishment in children by proudly displaying their artwork properly in a 3D frame. The potential for our product is huge, especially as a supporting art material in art education, as well as in creative hobbies for adults. It is going to be very convenient, cost effective, and your imagination is the only limit when using our DIY Frame Art Drawing Pad.”

Where can people purchase the product?
“Presently we are still in production stage and with the right manufacturer, we hope to launch our DIY Frame Art Drawing Pad by the first half of 2018. For product updates, please visit www.blissfustudio.com.”

Click here to see more innovations launched at Creativation 2018 and event highlights.

6 Killer Website Tactics To Stand Out


Did you know? Last month 87.1 million posts were published on WordPress. That amounts to nearly 3 million blog posts a day on a single platform.

When it comes to blogging and content marketing, it is no longer enough to create content at a regular interval. With so much content being posted every single day on dozens of platforms, creative businesses need to find a way to ensure that their content stands out in all that noise.

While many companies often have one-time successes with click bait titles or strive to create that one viral sensation, there is one thing that can help you stand out every single time – authority.

Stuart Hochwert of Prime Publishing LLC shares 6 authority signals and how to incorporate them into your website.

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Read Stuart’s full article in the current edition of Gradient, which is available online at www.afci.global.

The Folklore Company – One of the Top 4 Creative Innovations of 2018


The Folklore Company launched with the vision of making embroidery more accessible to more people by delivering an inspiring website where people can design a personal cross stitch pattern in an easy, unique and modern way.

The Folklore Company was featured in the Innovations Center and was one of the top 4 innovations selected to participate in The Ultimate Pitch at Creativation 2018. We spoke to Sofia Magnusson, the founder, who shared more information about her innovation and her experience at Creativation.

What was your initial goal for participating in the Innovations Center and The Ultimate Pitch?

“Our initial goal was to get feedback on our software from the craft industry. We needed to know for sure that what we can offer is unique, and also what people working in the business thought of it. There’s only so much you can do online from home, so we felt that a visit to Creativation was needed.”

What was some valuable feedback you got out of this experience?

“We got some good suggestions on new features to develop for the software.”

What’s the next step for The Folklore Company?

“Full speed ahead! We’re going to develop the features that we got feedback about, but also kick off our marketing strategy and get more people to love what we offer.”

Who would you say is your ideal customer?

“Anyone who is curious about embroidery, or even those who aren’t, but by accident visits our website, gets inspired and wants to try! As our vision – and mission – is to get more people to embroider, we are thrilled for all our customers. (But we have seen that the majority who buys our products are women in the age of 25-45.)”

Where can people purchase a custom pattern?

“At Folklorecompany.com.”

D-Stash – The New Resell App for the Creative Community


Ja’De Hardiman invented D-Stash to give crafters who are searching for a specific item a simple solution. D-Stash is an easy-to-use app for the creative community that crafters can use to sell and buy products within minutes of downloading.

Ja’De launched D-Stash in the Innovations Center at Creativation 2018. How could your creative business benefit from D-Stash? Watch this video to learn more about Ja’De’s experience at Creativation and how you can use D-Stash.

AFCI Honors 2018 Industry Awards and Hall of Fame Inductees


This morning we were pleased to honor our 2018 Industry Awards and Hall of Fame, recognizing excellence in industry service and philanthropy. This year’s honorees are Jill MacKay, Jim Scatena, and Robert Workman. These individuals were nominated by their AFCI member peers and selected by the AFCI Industry Awards Committee, which is comprised of AFCI Board Members and member volunteers.

The Special Recognition Award is given to individuals or groups for their extraordinary contributions in positively showcasing the creative products industry. This year’s recipient is Jill MacKay.

Jill MacKay is an accomplished designer, author and consultant with more than 25 years’ experience working in the creative industries. MacKay’s jewelry currently sells in over 2,000 stores internationally, on television, and online. In addition, MacKay has voluntarily spearheaded government and community programs that provided life changing experiences for people suffering from illnesses through arts and crafts. “[MacKay has been] Using creativity and the arts to help solve problems for children and adults in places it has never gone before, to serve those who have never been served by the arts before,” said Jennifer Davey, Designer, who nominated MacKay.

Inductees of the Hall of Fame are pioneers who have made extraordinary contributions leading to the growth and success of their organizations and the creative arts industry. This year’s inductees are Jim Scatena and Robert Workman.

Jim Scatena is a recognized industry leader who served as Chair of the Board of the Association. He is also the former President & CEO of FloraCraft Corporation; Vice President and General Manager of Wilton Enterprises; and Director of Sales with the art materials division of Binney & Smith. “His energetic contributions of time and creativity to [the Association’s] Committees and Boards were constant through his career. Add in his mentoring of fellow industry members and you have a role model for all future leaders,” said Mike McCooey of Plaid Enterprises Inc, who nominated Scatena.

Robert Workman worked in the craft industry for 27 years and served on the Association’s Board for six years. He purchased Provo Craft from his parents in 1985 and led Provo Craft & Novelty, Inc. to become the leader in craft innovation. In addition, he is the Founder of Goal Zero, an industry leader for renewable and reliable solar power. “He was an innovator that started trends for crafters in the creative industry as well as helped to invent and produce new products and trends that helped grow the industry and contribute to the growth and success of retailers,” said Gail Czech, who nominated Workman. “He is a humanitarian and has created many philanthropic venues to support the poor and underdeveloped countries and people worldwide.”

Watch the video below for more information about our Hall of Fame inductees.

Tapping into Attitudes, Emotions, and Values for Craft and Hobby Marketing


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This article provided courtesy of Stitchcraft Marketing, a niche agency specializing in craft-centric small businesses. If you’d like more information about anything contained in this article, feel free to contact the owner of Stitchcraft Marketing, Leanne Pressly at Leanne@stitchcraftmarketing.com for more information.

Annual sales of $36 billion. It describes the amount of money spent annually in the US on the major categories of crafts and hobbies, according to the 2016 Creative Products Size of the Industry Report Update created by MaritzCX for the Association For Creative Industries (AFCI). Among American households, 62% participated in some kind of craft activity in the preceding twelve months and almost a third participated in one to three different activities within that year. It’s a big market whose consumers have discretionary income to spend on the materials and tools associated with their preferred crafts and hobbies. Successful marketing will incorporate appeals to the attitudes, emotions, and values they associate with their crafting. Here, we share some insights from the MaritzCX study to help you find the best approach to market to your customers.

The study defined eleven broad categories of crafts:

  • Paper crafts
  • Beads and jewelry
  • Floral crafting
  • Edible arts
  • Wood crafts and home decor
  • Knitting and crochet
  • Needle arts
  • Sewing and fabric
  • Painting and drawing
  • Kids’ crafts
  • Other

Survey participants rated their emotions, values, and affinities about craft participation on a size-point scale from lowest to highest association over a range of keywords, which are highlighted in bold italics*. (Associated marketing concepts are also highlighted.) What emerged was a clear picture of positive associations that manufacturers and retailers can employ to market their products effectively to their intended audience. There’s enough consensus across the craft categories to make some general recommendations, but we will break out specific crafts when the differences are significant.

Emotions

There’s no doubt crafting makes people feel good, but they give the highest associations to feeling relaxed and proud as they engage in their crafts. That means that crafting is an antidote to the other stresses in their lives, and they are willing to spend both time and money to access that sense of relaxation. In current terms, crafting is a form of self-care, not unlike a pedicure, a massage, or a new set of high thread-count sheets. Product marketing that appeals to a desire for accessible luxury also taps into the high association with relaxation.

The pride crafters feel in their work and the projects they produce suggests that they value the skills they have learned and the appearance and/or utility of their projects. The craft segment mostly highly associated with pride was painting and drawing; the sewing and fabric segment and the knitting and crochet segment gave it the second highest association assignment. Being proud to wear something a crafter has made puts fashion, style, and skill into the mix of positive associations for these craft categories.

We note, too, that the craft category of Edible Arts is an outlier in the survey of emotional associations. Participants in this craft associated it most highly with feeling joyful and excited. Coupling those emotions with food brings celebration to mind as a concept around which to appeal to crafters in this category.

Values

Closely associated with the emotion of pride is the value of accomplishment, which received the highest or second-highest rating across 9 out of 11 craft categories. It’s clear that crafters value the end product of their efforts as well as the process of creating them. Crafting is not merely a pastime such as playing games or assembling jigsaw puzzles – rather, it’s an investment of mental and physical energy around an envisioned result. Crafters are makers, and making is a part of their self-identity. Whether they keep the things they make or give them to others, the association with accomplishment means that they intend their work to have a life beyond its completion. Heritage, memory, and legacy could be ways in which crafters think of their work in relationship to the rest of their lives.

Again, within the survey of values associations, the Edible Arts category stands out. According to participants, they strongly associate Edible Arts with warm relationships, as well as being fun and enjoyable. These are not surprising results, as they track closely with the emotional associations mentioned above. While crafters may engage in any of the craft categories on their own behalf, food, by both quantity and effort, is more likely to be shared or gifted and thus have an impact on relationships in a way the other craft categories do not. As for the fun and enjoyment aspect, eating the end result of a craft project might be more fun than wearing it or looking at it! So although Edible Arts as a craft category is directed toward appearance and presentation, deliciousness, flavor, and taste also matter to these crafters.

Affinity

As we said earlier, crafting is a segment of the maker culture, and in this way creates a sense of cultural identity for its participants. By realizing that crafters, especially the millennials, see themselves as having as much in common with artisanal food producers (like beer or kombucha brewers) , the Maker Hacks community (such as those who share 3-D printers in their maker spaces), as well as traditional domestic arts, you can reach them by appealing to their affinity associations.

Across craft categories, survey respondents assigned the highest or second highest association rating to the idea that their craft makes them feel special. It is something they do that sets them apart from the general population and shows that they are people who are willing to value time and effort over convenience. Crafting is a way they express their individuality and creativity. It is also something that they strongly associate with missing if it were no longer a part of their lives. That missing has such a high association across craft categories suggest that an opportunity exists to reach out to crafters who used to (engage in a particular craft), reminding them of the enjoyment, fun, and relaxation crafting once brought to their lives. Remembering the pleasure of accomplishment and pride that one craft creates can provide a bridge to expanding a crafter’s repertoire.

Using the positive emotional, value, and affinity associations that crafters cite aligns your brand with the reasons they engage in crafts and need your products and materials. By incorporating these associations into your marketing campaigns such as blog posts, social media posts and e-newsletters you are more likely to reach those emotional touchpoints that are as strong as their practical needs.

*bolded words are directly from the survey or suggested marketing concepts to use in your marketing.

For more information about the 2016 Creative Products Size of the Industry Report Update and to obtain a copy, visit research.afci.global.

A Cut Above the Rest Home Electronic Cutting Machine


This is a sponsored post by Brother International Corporation .

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Brother International Corporation introduced DesignNCut, an affordable home electronic cutting machine, to Brother’s growing lineup of crafting tools. DesignNCut can precisely cut designs (from simple to very intricate) into a wide variety of materials: paper, fabric, felt, foam, vinyl, iron-on, leather, plastic, wood veneer, and poster board. The new machine is now available at Michaels stores (.com), selected Joann stores (.com), and other .com retailers.

“DesignNCut is the perfect tool for makers, students, designers, hobbyists, and DIY enthusiasts for their everyday crafting needs,” shared Jim Price, Senior Director of Sales for Brother. “We’re excited to be offering an easy-to-use machine at an affordable price point with the same cutting force and speed as the ScanNCut that our customers have come to love. Once you are ready to cut, draw, emboss, or perforate, the DesignNCut user-friendly system makes it easy as 1-2-3 to create your projects.”

Ultimate Makers Machine!
In addition to its precision cutting technology, DesignNCut offers an array of functions with its optional line of accessories to deep cut, draw, line emboss, or create rhinestone templates. With its range of versatile functions, the possibilities of creating mixed media projects are endless. Plus, the machine has great features for those who love to use fabric! Creating your seam allowance will be simple and quick.

Starting a Project is Simple!
Users can use their mobile device or computer to access our free; no subscription required internet based editing tool for DesignNCut with hundreds of ready to use clipart, fonts, logo and projects, with step by step instructions and videos. With DesignNCut and the cloud-based design software’s easy to use interface end users can start and edit their projects with ease. Also, our cloud-based software reads .svg files along with the proprietary cut file extension. Many of the cut files you may have already purchased can now be used.

CaptureMat Function
With its CaptureMat function instead of the built-in scanner, you can now conveniently us your camera or mobile device to photograph your favorite design to create a cut file.

Best Cut Quality, Speed, and Accuracy
DesignNCut has the same cutting force and speed as the ScanNCut that our customers have come to love. With DesignNCut virtually anyone can make precision cuts in a wide variety of materials. The machine has approximately 1,280 cutting force (grams of force) and maximum speed up to 112 MMs. Using the optional deep cut blade, the machine can cut up to 2 mm thick. Using the 12” x 12” mat users can cut up to 11.6” x 11.7” and the 12” x 24” mat has cutting size of 11.6” x 23.7”.

For more product information, please visit www.designncutbybrother.com, and visit us at booth #2513 at Creativation.

For purchasing opportunity, please visit Notions Marketing Corporation booth # 2601 at Creativation.

Join Therm O Web at Creativation!


This is a guest, sponsored post by Therm O Web.
Join the celebration! FacebookWe’re celebrating that the winter Creativation Show is just around the corner in sunny Phoenix Arizona. Therm O Web is excited to bring you brand new, innovative products that will have you stamping your feet!

Our Deco Foil™ product line has continued to be a huge success with our consumers and re-tailers and with that success, we continue to build and grow the line. This year we’re pleased to announce 6 NEW colors to the Deco Foil™ color line. Introducing (from left to right):

Wild Cherry, Denim, Jade, Plum, Silver Shattered Glass and Gold Shattered Glass which are dynamic foils!

2018 New Deco Foil Colors

With the addition of these 6 new colors that brings the total up to 35 amazing choices of Deco Foil™ Transfer Sheets. Our Transfer Sheets work beautifully with our core adhesive products: Deco Foil™ Transfer Gel, Deco Foil™ Liquid Adhesive, Deco Foil™ Foam Sheets, Deco Foil™ Hot Melt Sheets, Deco Foil™ PeelnStick Toner Sheets, Deco Foil™ Toner Sheets, Deco Foil™ Fusible Spray and our Deco Foil™ Adhesive Pen! Here are some examples of the beautiful pro-jects you can make with our Deco Foil™ Products!

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In addition to our new Deco Foil™ colors, we have some exciting new products! We’re thrilled to introduce our new Deco Foil Designer Stencils available in 6 unique designs.

Our Deco Foil Transfer Gel is the perfect medium to use with our Designer Stencils and Transfer Sheets to create stunning projects! Simply apply a coat of the Deco Foil Transfer Gel over the Designer Stencil. Allow time to dry. Then place the item along with the Deco Foil Transfer Sheet of your choice in your laminator to heat set the foil to the Transfer Gel. Our NEW Designer Stencils will add a unique and dimensional texture to projects. With unlimited options of how you can work with them from inks, sprays, paints….you’ll find yourself reaching for them over and over again. Here’s a sneak peek of one of our new releases:

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Creativation headerThis year Therm O Web is excited to be offering three unique workshops at Creativation. We’re looking forward to having you join us for workshops featuring our NEW Gina K. Designs products, Rebekah’s Meier’s Mixed Media line and our newest Deco Foil products to jazz up your scrapbook pages! You won’t want to miss these outstanding work-shops!

To kick things off join us for W106 Mix Up Your Scrapbook Pages with Deco Foil & More on January 18th from 12pm-1:30 pm. We’ll show you some exciting techniques to jazz up your layouts with our Deco Foil products.

Time toCelebrate (1)

W208 will have you Celebrating In Style with our NEWEST Gina K. Designs product line! Join us on January 19th from 11-12:30 pm for a fun workshop filled with NEW Gina K. Designs products from Therm O Web.

Then join Designer Rebekah Meier at our W216 Mix It Up with Rebekah Meier’s New Mixed Media Products workshop on January 19th from 2-4 pm. Rebekah will guide you through how to create this unique mixed media album filled with techniques for getting the most from her Therm O Web product line.

Dream Binder

blog-header-new-logo-1Be sure to stop by our Booth #3001 at the show to see all of our NEWEST products and to join us for a make n take! For more information about all of our prod-ucts, visit us online at www.thermowebonline.com. Visit our blog for projects, tutorials and step by step instructions on how to use our products! And be sure to sign up for our news-letter to keep updated on what’s happening at Therm O Web!

Join us on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube and Twitter too! We’ll see you at the show!

Maximizing Your Exhibitor Marketing Opportunities For Creativation:


stitchcraft-logos-final-blueThis article is brought to you by our platinum partner, Stitchcraft Marketing. Learn more about SCM at http://www.stitchcraftmarketing.com or email leanne@stitchcraftmarketing.com.

As you read this, you’re probably scrambling like we are to get ready for AFCI’s Creativation show January 18-22, 2018. As a first-time exhibitor and platinum partner, we’re scrambling too!

We’ve been to a few trade shows before and we wanted to share with you our best practices for making the most of your time there.

Pre-Market with Direct Mail:
Pre-marketing to attendees can be a great way to help your customers cut through the clutter at the show. AFCI provides exhibitors with a Creativation attendees list of those who have opted-in to receive exhibitor communications, along with other marketing tools that help to raise awareness of your brand.

Because direct mail is enjoying a resurgence as an effective marketing technique, you could send out a postcard to the most promising leads. Showing a photo of your product or promoting your make-and-take events at the show might garner you some attention and traffic. Utilize a fast digital printer like Overnight Prints to generate collateral materials. Pricing is around $100 for 2,000 postcards. SCM Agency tip: Search the web for promo coupons before you pay full price!

Go to the Events:
Yes, we know you’re exhausted after talking to folks all day long, but The After Party event and cocktail hours can be one of the best places to network and form new business relationships. At Creativation, there are many great events all available to exhibitors with the full list available here.

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Digitize Business Cards:
Of course you gather business cards while at the show. Unfortunately, most people probably get home and don’t remember anyone and just throw them out. This is a missed opportunity considering the value of a new customer. Fortunately digital technology can help you raise your efficiency in capturing those leads. We recommend the free Wantedly People app for both Android and iOS which can take a photo of several business cards at once and import and synchronize the information for you. ABBYY Business Card Reader ($7.99 per month) is another highly rated scanner that saves contacts to your address book. They also have SalesForce integration or can import to your desktop as well as your mobile device. Evernote users can scan cards directly into the notes app. SCM Agency Tip: The Creativation app also has an attendees section where you can set appointments and connect for later follow-up.

Set Up an Email Automation Sequence:
Following the show, it’s important to make a connection right away with your prospective customers. Having those contacts entered into your email platform is the first step. We advise that before the show, you create an automation sequence that will automatically send a series of correspondence. The ideal sequence would be 3 emails: One that goes out within 24-48 hours with a friendly follow up greeting; the next that goes out 7-10 days following the show with your brand story and the last one 2 weeks later with a sales offer. If you have a robust platform such as Sharpspring or HubSpot, you can activate the second and third emails based on a trigger such as how fast they opened the email or whether they did NOT open at all. Mailchimp and Constant Contact offer automation configuration at the paid levels only and there are many help/support resources for learning how to set these up. SCM Agency tip: If you segment your customers, formulate a code for those and indicate them on the business cards you collect and create different automations accordingly. For example, we segment yarn, fabric and hard craft clients and notate a Y, F or H on the cards where it’s not obvious.

Don’t Forget Social Media:
Social is a great tool to utilize before, during and after the trade show. During Creativation, you can utilize the Creativation app–available on both Android and iOS to quickly track and post social media posts. Tap the “Social” icon from the dashboard home screen and connect your accounts for ease in posting. Be sure to post your “behind the scenes” booth setup shots which tend to garner higher engagement rates. The official hashtag for the show is #Creativation18. If you’re feeling brave, Facebook Live is an excellent platform to broadcast from your booth with a virtual tour.

Stop by and see us, Stitchcraft Marketing, in booth 416 and let us know what else you do to maximize the opportunity.

Meet Rita Barakat & Why She’s Excited For Creativation


This is a guest post by Rita Barakat.

Pic 1 RitaBarakat.com Buttons
Hey there creatives, Rita Barakat here today! Are you getting excited about Creativation? There are so many opportunities to take advantage of at the show; taking classes that affect your business is one of them! Today I want to share two opportunities that you don’t want to miss!

Pic 2 roundtables

I will be hosting the AFCI Designer Round Table Discussions on Friday, January 19 from 8am-10am. If you’ve never been, there are several tables set up with a speaker at each table on a different topic. Each speaker shares for about 15 minutes and then is open for questions and answers for about five minutes, and then we change tables. There is a wealth of information brought to you by the AFCI Designer Section as well as others that we have invited from the industry to speak. The speakers are all experts in their field and this is a great way to get your questions answered in a small group setting. In addition, this is a great networking opportunity so bring your business cards!

Pic 3 Mixed Media Bootcamp

As an artist and teacher at heart, I love to share about art and ways that people can get involved and excited about it. I will be teaching Mixed Media Boot Camp on Sunday, January 21 from 3pm-5pm. Not only will we be creating this fun mixed media art journal, but we will talk about how to get your customers excited about mixed media, visual art, and visual journaling! Here’s a sneak peek.

Of course, everyone’s project will be different; yours may or may not include mermaids (I, of course, provide the opportunity!) I would love to have you join me in this class! This is going to be fun!

Both classes are open to all. You can register for them here.

There are so many things to see and learn at Creativation! I hope to see you there! I will be shooting videos and walking around, and if you see me be sure to ask for a button!
pic 4 Rita Barakat headshot

About Rita Barakat

Rita Barakat is published and licensed artist that creates whimsical, fun and inspirational art. Her preference is mixed media, not wanting to be tied down to one medium or style. From wall murals to itty-bitty minis, Rita has worked on numerous art projects for hospitals, corporations, families and manufacturers. She is an educator and designer. She works with many notable manufacturers in the industry. Rita, her husband and five kids reside in the Dallas area. When she is not doing art or hanging out with her kids, she is leading the worship team or working with her husband as the youth pastors at their church. You can learn more about Rita at http://RitaBarakat.com.

New Year, New Focus on Advocacy


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As we begin the New Year, AFCI is excited to announce our new Advocacy Program and Committee. Through this program, AFCI is committed to supporting and educating our 2,000+ members on various regulatory topics that are important to you and the industry as a whole. Our Committee is chaired by Bobbie Medema, CEO of Notions Marketing and is made up of the following volunteers:

  • Brigid English, Vice President of Global Sourcing and Product Integrity, Michaels Stores Inc
  • Mark Lee, President, DreamSolutions Marketing Corp
  • Karen Waters, Director, International Sales & Brand Business Development, Crayola
  • Bob Bonilla, COO, PMA Photo Metals
  • Scott Remmers, Owner, Brea Bead Works
  • Joanne Fink, President, Zenspirations LLC
  • Roberta Birnbaum, Owner, DecorablesArt
  • Tammy Browning-Smith, Attorney at Law, Browning-Smith P.C.

Thanks to your feedback to our recent survey, the Committee will be focusing on these issues in 2018.

  • CPSIA
  • Intellectual Property
  • Proposition 65

In the coming months we’ll provide you with information on each of these issues as well as ways you can get involved.

For questions regarding our advocacy efforts, or if you’re interested in volunteering in the future, please contact Jason Baum, Director of Membership, at jbaum@afci.global.

Meet Stitchcraft Marketing


stitchcraft-logos-final-blue

Stitchcraft Marketing recently joined AFCI as a platinum partner. Located in Colorado, the niche specialty agency was founded in 2009 and focuses solely on creative craft companies. Jason Baum, Director of Partnerships, sat down with CEO, Leanne Pressly to learn more about the agency and the services they offer to AFCI members.

Jason: Great to have you onboard as an AFCI partner Member, Leanne. Let’s chat a bit about your agency so folks know what you offer our members.

Leanne: Thanks Jason, we’re excited to be partnering with AFCI and to be able to help your members with their marketing.

Jason: I understand you ONLY work with craft companies, is that correct?

Leanne: Yes, that’s true. Everyone who works at the agency comes from a crafty background so we really understand the industry. We get a lot of clients who “deflect” from traditional marketing agencies because of some sort of misunderstanding of the target consumer. We just saw one recent blunder where Zulilly posted a knitting project on Facebook and encouraged customers to pick up their crochet hook and get working on it! That’s a classic example. When you are running a busy company, you need to feel confident that anyone you outsource marketing to will communicate with your customers in a voice and language they understand.

Jason: Oh, absolutely. That’s critical. What is the most common thing you do for clients?

Leanne: Most clients come to us because they need help with planning, strategizing and implementing social media. They’re typically a small company with limited time and resources. They really want to be focusing on the creative aspect of their business or doing things only they can do but they know social is important and they need help executing on that. By working with us, they can quickly and easily take that huge task off their plate and get back to working ON their business and not in it.

Jason: And how does that work in terms of the daily operations?

Leanne: That’s a good question we get all the time! After we determine the scope of the program, we outline quarterly themes and content for that client and provide them with an easy-to-follow spreadsheet. Every client has a monthly check-in meeting with an account executive to discuss and sometimes revise the plan for that month. We work with the client to develop the content whether that’s newsletters, blog articles, flat lay photography or digital ads. We also have administrative access to their social channels so we can take care of all the posting.

Jason: So newsletters are part of the program too?

Leanne: Sure! Every client has a customized program because every company has different goals and needs so we do much more than just social. Most of them want us to do their newsletter so we manage that completely. We also can help them grow or segment their list and set up automation sequence emails that go out with a specific trigger. One of the other popular programs we have is Sharpspring marketing automation. That is a really robust program that can help clients create sales funnels and score leads for better targeting.

Jason: And typically, how long does it take to see success with your agency?

Leanne: Well that depends on how the client defines “success.” We always are striving for ROI because sales is the name of the game, right? We always set those goals up front so we know when we have achieved success by looking at our KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators). Most clients are just skimming the surface of what social can do so when we put all our best tools in place for them, they can see return on investment within 3-6 months. For others, it can be much quicker. For example, we did a winback flow for a customer this month that gained him $12,000 in sales. He probably would have walked away from that since he didn’t have the time or knowledge to recapture those customers. We have details of that on our case studies page of the website.

Jason: Right, it’s really hard to know how to do everything well. Especially for new business folks.

Leanne: Yes, we have a lot of young companies come to us when they’re getting started. In fact, we have a podcast show called Business of Craft that is aimed at helping new crafty business entrepreneurs gain knowledge from other experts in the industry. Of course, you were on our show Jason!

Jason: Yes! Episode # 5 It was a lot of fun! We talked about how to utilize professional associations.

Leanne: We also are going to be launching a premium online course aimed at fledgling craft business owners called The Magic Wand for Social Media. It’s a 5 module, self-paced course with around 20 lessons of varying length. We designed it to teach people how to plan and execute a social marketing program in just 30 minutes per day. Once signed up for the course, participants also get 6 months of support from our agency to ensure follow-through. We’ll be launching it at Creativation in January. We’ll have limited spaces and they can sign up at the show.

Jason: Wow, that sounds like a needed service. Of course, as a platinum partner, you’ll be at the show in booth 416.

Leanne: Yes, we’ll be there offering free marketing consultations. Look for our Peanuts parody psychiatry-style booth with “Marketing Help for 5 cents”. It should be fun.

Jason: And if people want to find you, how do they reach out?

Leanne: The best way is through our website: www.stitchcraftmarketing.com or they can email me directly at leanne@stitchcraftmarketing.com. They can also start by reading our marketing blog articles on our website. We publish timely and relevant marketing articles specific to the craft industry.

Jason: Thanks Leanne, see you soon!

Leanne: You too Jason, Thanks so much. We’re looking forward to working with AFCI members.

Here’s How You Could Win Breakfast For Your Entire Stay at Creativation


countdowntocreativationgiveaways

As part of our Countdown to Creativation Giveaways, each week we’re giving away prizes that will make your trip to Creativation, taking place January 18-22, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona, more affordable and enjoyable!

This week we’re giving away a $100 Starbucks gift card! There is a Starbucks conveniently located in the Phoenix Convention Center, where you can treat yourself to breakfast and coffee during your time at the event!

Click here to register by Friday, December 29 at 11:59pm EST, for your chance to win a $100 Starbucks gift card!

Congratulations to Abby Heckman, who is our Countdown to Creativation Giveaways winner from last week!

What else are we giving away? Follow the AFCI Blog, our social media accounts and the hashtag #Creativation18 each week to learn about new prizes!

Here’s How You Could Win a Free 1-Year AFCI Membership!


countdowntocreativationgiveaways

As part of our Countdown to Creativation Giveaways, each week we’re giving away prizes that will make your trip to Creativation, taking place January 18-22, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona, more affordable and enjoyable!

This week we’re giving away a gift that lasts for an entire year – a free 1-Year AFCI Membership up to $180 in value!

An AFCI Membership helps you connect with the right people in the creative arts industry to build and expand professional networks and position your company for success. We provide quality education to develop and improve your ability to run a successful craft industry business and deliver industry research to help you stay ahead of the trends and understand the industry landscape as you make critical decisions. Plus, our members receive free access to Creativation’s trade show and a number of the events that take place throughout the week.

Click here to register by Friday, December 22 at 11:59pm EST, for your chance to win an AFCI Membership up to $180 in value!

Congratulations to Christy Nelson of Nebraska, who is our Countdown to Creativation Giveaways winner from last week!

What else are we giving away? Follow the AFCI Blog, our social media accounts and the hashtag #Creativation18 each week to learn about new prizes!

Here’s How You Could Win The After Party Prize Package for Creativation!


countdowntocreativationgiveaways

As part of our Countdown to Creativation Giveaways, each week we’re giving away prizes that will make your trip to Creativation, taking place January 18-22, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona, more affordable and enjoyable!

This week we’re giving away The After Party prize package, which includes two admission tickets to the party, two drink tickets, arranged transportation by pedi-cab to the event at The Duce, and a $25 gift card to The Duce gift shop!

At the last Creativation, The After Party was epic and featured great food, music, dancing, a hula-hoop competition, ping pong, and a lot of smiles and laughs. Check out some pictures below. It was definitely one of the highlights, which we’re looking forward to attending again in January!

Click here to register by Friday, December 15 at 11:59pm EST, for your chance to win The After Party prize package!

Congratulations to Lisa Johnson of Iowa, who is our Countdown to Creativation Giveaways winner from last week!

What else are we giving away? Follow the AFCI Blog, our social media accounts and the hashtag #Creativation18 each week to learn about new prizes!

Unleash Your Creativity with Design Ideas from Deflecto®


Guest post from Chris Vanasdalan – Marketing Manager at Deflecto

At Deflecto®, we make versatile and customizable storage solutions to help keep your creative spaces organized, but we’re also crafters ourselves.

Over the past year, Deflecto has featured dozens of project tutorials and design ideas on our blog, Facebook and Instagram pages.

The Deflecto Craft blog features ideas and projects developed by a magnificent group of creative women from our Design Team. Many of our posts feature step-by-step instructions and photos to help you recreate the project.

Check out some of our recent posts:

Toddler Sorting Bins

Deflecto_Toddler sorting game._blog

Starry Night Light

Deflecto_Starry_Night_Light_blog

We even have how-to videos:

Organize Child’s Bathroom

Deflecto_Bathroom_Organizer_blog

Looking for more inspiring design tutorials? Visit us at http://bit.ly/2fToFCn.

And stop by the Deflecto booth (#3213) at Creativation. You’ll have a chance to meet members of our Design Team, create unique “Make and Take” projects and compete for prizes in the “Deflecto Caddy Challenge.”

Visit CreativationShow.org to register.

Here’s How You Could Win a Free Hotel Stay in Phoenix for Creativation!


countdowntocreativationgiveaways

You heard us correctly! This week we launched our Countdown to Creativation Giveaways. Each week between now and Creativation, taking place January 18-22, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona, we’re giving away prizes that will make your trip more affordable and enjoyable!

Click here to register by tomorrow, Friday, December 8 at 11:59pm EST, for your chance to win our first prize – a free stay at the Sheraton Grand Phoenix hotel for up to 4 nights (taxes and fees only; no incidentals included)! In order to qualify, all you need to do is sign up – which is free if you are a current member of AFCI! We’ll announce the winner on Monday, December 11 on our social media accounts.

sheratongrandphoenix

What else are we giving away? Follow the AFCI Blog, our social media accounts and the hashtag #Creativation18 each week to learn about new prizes!

Good luck!