Penny Black: Exceptional Designs For Every Style

This is sponsored content by Penny Black.

PB Blog Post Graphic

With their NEWEST collection of stamps and dies, Penny Black will surely inspire you with exceptional designs for every style.

Penny Black’s brushstroke stamps are always a fan favorite. This unique style of stamp will give your cards the look of hand painted artwork! Additionally, this new collection will have you stamping breathtaking winter scenes, combining the charming line art with your favorite coloring media, and smiling big as you stamp critters and snowman friends. This new collection also includes a wide array of brand new die cuts perfect for all of your projects.

Not only is Penny Black a leader in developing unique stamp and die cut designs, but their BLOG, FACEBOOK PAGE, INSTAGRAM, and YOUTUBE CHANNEL are full of ideas and tutorials. Sign up to be a PENNY BLACK CLUB MEMBER (it’s free!) for inspiration and news delivered directly to your inbox. And be sure to head over to Penny Black’s WEBSITE and ONLINE STORE to see all of these new designs.

A Year of Creativity & Community Giveaway

AS A CREATIVE BUSINESS OWNER, it is easy to become overwhelmed with all of the steps required to be successful. How do you obtain wholesale partnerships? Where can you buy your supplies in bulk? How can you better your craft? How can you run this one-person show all by yourself? What systems can you put in place to be more efficient and productive? Is there a way to outsource the parts of your work that make your head explode?

At the Association For Creative Industries, we strive to deliver innovative high value services as we support our Members who provide products and services to educate, entertain, and inspire creative consumers.

We have partnered with our friends at Dear Handmade Life to offer you an epic giveaway! This giveaway is meant to inspire and motivate you as well as give you the tools to help you take your creative business to the next level.




I hope you’re sitting down – this is a GOOD ONE. One winner – and their friend – will win a FREE TICKET to Dear Handmade Life’s Craftcation Conference AND a 12 month membership to AFCI!


Listen, you’re slammed. We get it. So we’ve made this as easy as possible. Just click over to **THIS** post on our Instagram and tag your friend in the comments. That’s it! You’re done!


You’re welcome to tag multiple friends, but please – ONE TAG PER COMMENT. You must be a creative industry business to enter. Enter anytime between Tuesday, September 18, 2018 and Midnight PT on September 25, 2018. Winners will be announced by October 2, 2018 via Instagram direct message. You will have 48 hours to claim your prize and provide your email address or we will select a new set of winners.


The Association For Creative Industries (AFCI) is the premier trade association for the global creative arts products industries. AFCI strives to deliver innovative high value services as we support our Members who provide products and services to educate, entertain, and inspire creative consumers. Our Members include the manufacturers, retailers, distributors, designers, educators, digital content providers, professional makers and DIYers, and other creative professionals that comprise the $36 billion+ creative arts industries in the United States alone. For more information about AFCI, membership, or its annual Creativation trade event, visit


Craftcation: Business & Makers Conference, is an annual four-day conference held in the artsy seaside town of Ventura in Southern California. The nationally-known conference features industry experts leading attendees in small business smarts and creative craft workshops as well as social gatherings to connect and foster community through activities and inspiration. You’ll find that you not only will make new friends, but you’ll reconnect with yourself too.

Watch: Lawn Fawn Interactive Die Set Video

This is sponsored content by Lawn Fawn.

In this video, Lawn Fawn owner Kelly Marie Alvarez introduces a super fun, new interactive die set, Double Slider Surprise! She will show you how to assemble this die set plus, she will make 3 cards showing the different ways to use this set!

All products used in this video, plus all NEW Fall & Winter goodies are now available at Visit us for more ideas, information, and inspiration!

About Lawn Fawn

Lawn Fawn is a small company from Southern California that specializes in crafting products (clear stamps, dies, paper & more) that are fun and lively. Lawn Fawn was started in 2010 when Kelly Marie combined forces with her husband Mike and friend Erica with a mission in mind – to bring smiles into the lives of crafters! Click here to learn more about Lawn Fawn.

Let’s Hang, The Ultimate Pitch Winner: Where Are They Now?

Who remembers Let’s Hang? Armando and Alfredo Ulloa, the brother duo from Texas, pitched their innovative wall hanging tool during the first-ever The Ultimate Pitch contest at Creativation in 2017. Thanks to the program, Let’s Hang is now available at all Michaels stores in the United States, on, and on We recently spoke to the inventors to learn more about their journey, including what’s next for Let’s Hang! Read on for their story and to find out how you could be the next The Ultimate Pitch $10,000 winner!

“Since winning The Ultimate Pitch contest in 2017, my brother, Alfredo and I, have been on quite the ride to making our dreams a reality with Let’s Hang. We can say without a doubt, had it not been for us entering the Innovations Center at Creativation, we would not be where we are today. Where is that you ask? Currently, Let’s Hang is now being sold at all United States located Michaels stores,,, and we are in contract negotiations with QVC to appear on their network programming.

The Let's Hang Pitch

Armando and Alfredo Ulloa pitching Let’s Hang at The Ultimate Pitch at Creativation 2017

This all came to fruition as a result of submitting our invention and being selected as one of the finalists to go to the trade show and pitch our invention for a chance to win $10,000. What was more valuable than winning that big chunk of change, was the ability to show industry experts from across the world, what the customer value proposition was for Let’s Hang. We were fortunate enough to meet the Senior Vice President of Global Sourcing for Michaels, who loved the idea and just knew it had to be in Michaels stores.


Let’s Hang, the all-in-one hanging tool, allows you to hang your artwork and frames perfectly in just 60 seconds.

After signing a license and royalty contract with a subsidiary of Michaels, we began working with design engineers to create a reproducible Let’s Hang tool that was both cost effective and did not compromise customer usability. What was created is a beautiful, sleek, modern design that is like no tool currently out in the market. The fact that a first-time user can hang a frame in less than 60 seconds is a testament to the updated design quality in keeping with the integrity of the purpose for Let’s Hang.

Armando and Alfredo Ulloa

Armando and Alfredo Ulloa right after they won The Ultimate Pitch at Creativation 2017

Bottom line, what we have tried to say in a sort of long drawn way is, if you have the opportunity to submit your invention for The Ultimate Pitch…DO IT! The amount of exposure and opportunity to meet with industry experts will be well worth the time and money spent traveling to the event in Phoenix. Even if you do not win the competition, we have kept in touch with other contestants, and some of them were able to turn their product into real world sales by networking with retailers interested in their products. So, moral of the story? You won’t know what you have unless you put it out there! So hurry up and submit your invention and make your dreams come true, with a little help from Creativiation, because after all, it takes a village!”

Apply to the Innovations Center – Deadline October 31, 2018

You could be the next $10,000 The Ultimate Pitch winner!  If you have a brand new product or idea perfect for the creative industry, submit your idea to the Innovations Center. You could be selected to exhibit at the Innovations Center at Creativation 2019 and pitch your product at The Ultimate Pitch competition on Sunday, January 20, 2019.  The deadline is October 31, 2018. Click here to submit your innovation now!

Free Project! Experience the Magic of Artesprix Permanent Thermal Transfer Markers at In the MKNG

This is a sponsored blog post by Esprix Impressions

Do you love all things colorful, creative, and magical? Come experience the magic of Artesprix Permanent Thermal Transfer Markers with our Artesprix Team and our special guest Ken Hess, of Ken’s Creations at Booth S-04 at In the MKNG™. We will be hosting a ‘Create and Take’ event where attendees can create their own personalized item to take home.

Not only can you use Artesprix Markers with plain copy paper to create your own unique designs, but our markers work wonderful with a lot of craft items. And now anyone can add a touch of sparkle and shine to their personalized creations for an out of this world look by sublimating on Glitter Heat Transfer Vinyl!

In this blog post, we’ll show how easy it is to create shimmery t-shirts, totes, and other totally fun items by sublimating onto White Glitter Heat Transfer Vinyl using the Artesprix Markers!

Materials Needed:

  • Artesprix Permanent Thermal Transfer Sublimation Markers
  • Silhouette Cameo 3 Vinyl Cutter (or preferred cutter)
  • Silhouette Pen Holder attachment (optional)
  • Glitter Heat Transfer Vinyl
  • Plain copy paper
  • Heat press
  • Thermal tape
  • Heat-Resistant Gloves
  • Piece of silicone-treated paper
  • Protective Teflon sheet
  • T-shirt (a dark-colored, cotton t-shirt is a good choice to start)
  • Scissors

Heat Press Settings for Glitter HTV Application:

  • 385ºF
  • Medium pressure
  • 3-5 seconds

Heat Press Settings for Sublimating Glitter HTV with Markers:

  • 400ºF
  • Medium pressure
  • 40 seconds

Determine a Glitter Heat Transfer Vinyl Cut

There are a few different ways to approach creating a glitter vinyl cut design, which will act as the shimmery backdrop for the sublimated drawing. Sublimation newbies and those sublimating glitter HTV for the first time may execute their first project better by sticking with a basic heat transfer vinyl shape. This will give you the freedom to sublimate your marker design somewhere within the outline of the shape, as opposed to attempting to line up a complex vinyl cut to a complex drawing.

By cutting a more basic shape (square/rectangle/circle) will help to keep the heat transfer process simple, and you can ideally worry less about the marker design accidentally overlapping the edge of the vinyl and sublimating onto the t-shirt itself (polyester tees, 50/50s and tri-blend t-shirts will allow for the marker colors to transfer).


However – if you’re feeling extra creative and a little daring, and you’d like to try sublimating a more complex drawing on their heat transfer vinyl, encourage them to create their vinyl cut file in their preferred design software (or they can also download a fancier cut file if they’re still learning how to create their own designs). For this t-shirt, we downloaded a free vector design file courtesy of Freepik.

Pro-Tip to share: If you want to attempt lining up their marker design and the cut glitter heat transfer vinyl edge to edge and without worry about the possibility of overlap/accidentally sublimating part of their drawing on the actual t-shirt, you may want to choose a darker-colored t-shirt made of 100% cotton.

Cut + Weed + Press the Heat Transfer Vinyl

Once the glitter vinyl design is determined, the file is almost ready to be sent to the vinyl cutter. You may need to be reminded to mirror their designs – this is a critical step for both the heat transfer vinyl and the sublimation marker drawing to ensure the t-shirt design reads correctly.


Cut the vinyl and weed it, then heat press the glitter HTV to the t-shirt right away (385ºF, medium pressure, 3-5 seconds, hot peel). Since the sublimation process is triggered by heat, it’s good protocol to allow the t-shirt to cool in between applying the vinyl and sublimating the marker design on to the glitter HTV.

Let the Coloring Begin!

Now’s the fun part – it’s time to get coloring! For this extraterrestrial t-shirt, we utilized the Silhouette Pen Holder and the Artesprix markers to trace the full alien design on to a piece of copy paper.


If you don’t own the Pen Holder or you chose a more basic shape of cut glitter HTV, you can still let your imagination run wild! We do recommend tracing/measuring the size of the heat transfer vinyl cut-out (regardless of the shape) before coloring to ensure the coloring is taking place within the surface area of the glitter vinyl.


Ready to Sublimate & Shine

Once the glitter vinyl/t-shirt has had some time to cool down and the drawing is complete, lay the t-shirt out flat on the heat press platen. Using scissors, cut out the marker drawing as close to the outline as possible. Insert a piece of silicone-treated paper inside the shirt, as this will help prevent any excess marker ink from transferring to the back of the inside of the shirt in the event that there is any bleeding during the sublimation process.


Place the drawing directly on top of the pressed glitter vinyl – once you’ve registered the drawing with the pressed HTV to your satisfaction, secure the drawing to the t-shirt using heat-resistant thermal tape. Double-check that the heat press temperature has been increased to 400ºF and before placing a protective Teflon sheet on top of the t-shirt/drawing to prevent any excess color from transferring to the upper platen of the heat press. Proceed with pressing the tee for 45 seconds with medium pressure to ensure that the marker colors transfer vibrantly and completely.


While wearing protective gloves, carefully remove the transfer tape and drawing from the t-shirt after it has finished pressing (hot peel). Pull the silicone sheet out from the inside of the t-shirt – now check out the glittery artwork in its ethereal glory! We guarantee you will love this fun t-shirt trick and the new-found ability to create stellar items using your own drawings and a little bit of glitter vinyl.


September 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

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, makers and DIYers. From pom poms to vintage rustic designs, here are four creative trends we’re seeing right now.

1. Pom Poms (They’re Here to Stay)

Submitted by Debra Quartermain, Debra Quartermain Design

Pom Pom Trim Boho Bag

Boho bag designed by Christie Troxell

“What a fun and light hearted trend, the classic pom pom and pom pom trim is still showing up everywhere! From DIY yarn pom pom crafts to strings of multi colored pom pom as room dividers, wall accents and window décor. Clothing hems, sleeves and necklines often have a delicate edging of tiny pom pom trim or large pom pom tassel strings. This corresponds with the popular boho trend.”

2. Crystals

Submitted by Kathy Cano-Murillo, Crafty Chica


“Crystals! The law of attraction has escalated beyond positive thinking. From rose quartz crystals to amethyst – people are turning to nature’s jewels to attract positive energy in their lives. Look online to see scores of DIY crystals, DIY crystal-inspired soaps and candles, and artful accessories such as crowns and earrings. Look at this DIY crystal tiara from HelloGiggles.”

3. Vintage Rustic Designs & More Fall Vibes

Submitted by Lisa Kettell, Lisa Kettell Designs

General Store Ceramic Platter

General Store Ceramic Platter

“What does September mean? Summer vacations come to a close, kids go back to school and Autumn festivals start to brew. It’s this time of year that we begin to get our rustic on. I am seeing a variety of vintage rustic designs. Stores just can’t get enough of general store motifs and farm to market supplies. Think wood, metal and ceramic. All mixing together as one. From wood crates, signs and displays to blanks ready for customizing. Laura Ingalls would be proud.”

Blank Metal Displays

Blank Metal Displays

Blank chalk board signs

Blank chalk board signs

Blank Wooden Planks

Blank Wooden Planks

“Let’s not forget the warm and cozy vibes of red and black. This means we will all be acquiring lumber jack plaid. Designers just can’t get enough of this warm fall combo, which I believe will extend into the holiday season. From fashion, home décor to crafts, plaid has taken over.”

wooden crate

Main Street Bakery Wood Crate

“Are you a foodie? One look at the general store and marketplace designs hitting the scene and you will be. Nothing like getting inspired to bake and create. Especially when you have really great products on the market to play with.”

4. Paint Pouring

Submitted by Candy Rosenberg, A Vintage Girl

Paint Pouring

Paint Pouring By Diana Mango

“I have been bombarded recently with the following trend, Paint Pouring. Although this is not new to the art world, it is new to your average consumer. I have not had a chance to try it myself and I have everything I need to do it, but I am little scared. I have watched many hours of YouTube videos and there is so many ways to do it that I am not sure where to start. I believe the biggest apprehension is the space that is needed and subsequent mess that is made, maybe I will just dig in but meanwhile I am going to share some Paint Pouring love right here.

What is Paint Pouring?
According to Marion Boddy-Evans it is pouring, puddling, dripping… the defining characteristic of this acrylic painting technique is that you don’t apply the paint with a brush or palette knife, but rather use gravity to move the paint across a canvas. The results are unlike anything you can get with a brush: fluid flows of paint without any brush marks or texture.

A great informational article by Golden Paints with a great explanation of the entire process can be found here.

The first artist that I would like to introduce is Diana Mango and quite honestly, I had not seen this technique hardly at all until I seen her doing it and sharing on her personal Facebook. We are fellow swappers on several Artist Trading Card groups, so we have been trading art for well over a year. She just jumped right in and was showing her finished work. She had a natural ability in creating cool effects with Paint Pouring. She has recently created a Facebook to show her work at, stop by if you get a chance.”

Paint Pouring

Paint Pouring By Diana Mango

Paint Pouring

Paint Pouring By Diana Mango

“Now, Diana Mango is a young woman that is budding artist but by no means has exhibits in art galleries and the such, this just shows that anyone can truly do this. However, there are some learned tricks and many techniques to create certain results by way of practicing.

These are completed works that I found on the Internet that are more known artists, so you can see how they are differ regardless of the one that is creating it.”

Paint Pouring

Paint Pour with the Double Dirty Landscape Technique by Caren Goodrich

Paint Pouring

Rick Cheadle of Cheadle Designs

Paint Pouring

Nata S. Fine Art on


Your Resource for Trade Tariffs News


The Association For Creative Industries (AFCI) supports all of our members, here and abroad, and is closely monitoring the threat the proposed trade tariffs have on the creative industry as a whole. Therefore, we’ve joined a coalition of 60+ Associations opposing the trade tariffs on either side – coordinated by the National Retail Federation. It is our joint belief that these tariffs would punish U.S. consumers while doing little to create U.S. jobs because tariffs are essentially a tax that U.S. businesses and consumers would pay.

Below are several articles about the trade tariffs in general as well as articles specifically about how they impact the creative industry. We’ll update this blog post regularly with new articles. Bookmark this page to get easy access to the latest news.

President’s Announcement – September 24, 2018

The President of the United States announced that the new tariffs will take effect on September 24, 2018. They will start at 10% and then increase to 25% on January 1, 2019. The final list includes 5,745 full or partial lines of the original 6,031 proposed tariff lines.


General Trade Tariffs Articles

Creative Industry Trade Tariffs Articles

Attendee Spotlight: Anita Takemoto

AFCI Member, Anita Takemoto owns an e-commerce business and has been a member of AFCI attending the various trade shows for over 15 years.

Earlier this year, Anita completed the post-Creativation survey that was sent to all attendees. She shared that she did not like Phoenix and wished the show would move back to Anaheim – and she wasn’t the only person who felt this way. So, in conjunction with the City of Phoenix, AFCI invited Anita and four other attendees who had a similar opinion to revisit Phoenix and explore the culture and things to do.

AFCI Members group picture

AFCI Members (left to right): Anita Takemoto, Cheryl Stapleton, Alison Bevis, Brooke Snyder, Cindy deRosier

We spoke with Anita after the trip to learn what she discovered and if her opinion of the location changed.

What are some of the places and things you discovered that Creativation attendees should know about?

“I love the mural artwork on the walls of buildings throughout the city. They are very colorful and creative. In Los Angeles, the artwork would be called graffiti and illegal. But, in Phoenix, the city embraces it and people get to express themselves through art and creativity.


Phoenix art mural


Phoenix art mural

The Downtown Phoenix Ambassador Program is such a wonderful program. They are located all around the Phoenix Convention Center ready to answer any questions you might have like where to eat or how to get to a location. And if they do not know the answer, they will find it for you. I have a personal story about the program from earlier this year. I felt uncomfortable walking to my car alone late at night to the parking garage, so a Phoenix Ambassador walked me to my car. I felt very safe having the Ambassador escort me to my vehicle. They also helped my friend. She had a flat tire and a Phoenix Ambassador stayed with her for a couple of hours and helped arrange for her get a new tire.

There are many great places to eat within two to four blocks, an easy walking distance from the Convention Center. I hope the city will provide a map and highlight the locations and their specials and/or happy hours for the Creativation attendees.

The Heard Museum is an amazing place to learn about the history of this area. The history of American Indians from this area and the artifacts are abundant here; I learned about the different tribes who lived in this area with examples of jewelry, textiles and dolls! They have an interactive room that children can explore how life was for the Indians before computers and cell phones.


Heard Museum exhibit

The Desert Botanical Gardens is a MUST see. I didn’t know so many different succulents and cacti existed! The plants and blooms are truly beautiful. We had a great time wandering through the gardens and reading the informative displays. The Gardens are outside, so be prepared with lots of water and sunscreen. We were lucky to see a ballet performance at the Gardens. The dancers were so graceful and beautiful. What a treat!”

What is the favorite Phoenix business you visited?

Hazel and Violet is a custom letterpress printing shop. They have several ‘old school’ printing presses to make stationery, coasters, potters and more. Hopefully, you can take a workshop from them while you are in Phoenix. It was so interesting to see the process. And the trees around Hazel and Violet are covered with hand-knitted/crocheted/felted decorations. Someone was very creative and talented!!

Anita Takemoto and

Anita Takemoto (left) and Kathy Cano-Murillo, the Crafty Chica (right)

And Kathy Cano-Murillo, the Crafty Chica, has her Mucho Más Art Studio featuring handcrafted Latino/Mexican art. Her shop is filled with beautiful one-of-a-kind jewelry, artwork, mixed media, etc. Stop by and say hi to Kathy! She is so much fun and always has a smile. Mucho Mas is part of a unique co-op of shops that includes handcrafted candles and soaps, a juice bar with organic foods and a bookstore.


The Antiquities Warehouse has rooms and rooms filled with amazing antiques for purchase; we loved shopping there. They have fabulous tables and chairs, signs, furniture, doors and shutters and so much more!”

Antiquities Warehouse

Antiquities Warehouse

What was your favorite Phoenix restaurant and why?

“We had lunch at The Vig. I had a delish poke bowl with a light ginger lime vinaigrette. The fish was very fresh and was on a nice bed of snow peas, avocado and mixed greens. The restaurant was hip and had a casual vibe. I would definitely go back!


The Vig, Phoenix

Snoh Ice Shavery was a great dessert surprise. The shaved ice was fluffy and was mixed with yummy ice cream. A definite go to for a cool, refreshing dessert.”

Are you looking forward to going back to Phoenix for Creativation?

“Yes, definitely. Now that I know more about the city, I would like to arrive a couple of days early and explore more – the Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix and the Orpheum Theatre (I think they have free tours) to name a few. The Valley Metro Light Rail is great for inexpensive transportation – $4 for an all-day ride. There are hidden gems everywhere. The city of Phoenix has a lot of history and there’s so much more to see than a couple blocks walking distance from the hotel and the Convention Center.”

What benefits do you experience by attending Creativation?

“It’s always great to attend Creativation. The New Products area with the displays is an awesome way to see the hottest new products all at the same time. At Creativation, I can see and touch (and sometimes play!) with the new releases and see the product trends for the upcoming season. Having the opportunity to see in person products and demonstrations is always a plus. It’s also an excellent time to see owners and personnel of the companies and their passion for our industry.”

Register for Creativation

Creativation Logo

Join thousands of creative businesses for Creativation, January 17-21, 2019 at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Education will start on January 17; the trade show will open January 19-21. Register for your badge today at Conference registration will open on September 12.

Thinking about extending your stay to explore Phoenix? We’ve partnered with the City of Phoenix to provide you with resources to help you plan your trip. Click here to explore trip ideas, see things to do nearby the Phoenix Convention Center, and find free virtual travel guides.

Need a hotel? We’ve made it easy for you to book hotels near the event in Phoenix through our new hotel booking partner, Hotels for Hope. Hotels for Hope’s 600,000+ hotel partners allows us to expand the number of hotels at great rates available for Creativation, which gives your company more choices of where to stay! Plus, for every Creativation hotel room night booked through Hotels for Hope, $2 will be donated to the Kids In Need Foundation, AFCI’s Charity of Choice. Book your hotel now!

Adventure Awaits at Scrapbook Customs

This is sponsored content by Scrapbook Customs.

Scrapbook Customs is so excited to share with you our summer release from Mixed Media 2018. Our design team is always looking for new ways to bring you the hard to find items that we specialize in. Since Creativation we have introduced hundreds of new items including Solar Eclipse, Quinceanera and River Cruise! Here’s a look into all of our new collections:

  • New National Park Paper and Stickers in all 60 United States National Parks
  • 117 New Country Adventure papers from Afghanistan-Zimbabwe and everything in between
  • 87 New Sports Pride papers from 4-Wheeling to Zipline
  • New Magical papers from Character Breakfast to Light Parade
  • Brand New Customs products. If you have never tried our customs you are missing out!
  • New Neon Sports collections in Cycling, Gymnastics, Lacrosse, Marathon and Tennis
  • Winter Adventure Sports Line
  • New Birthday Lines
    • Hers
    • His
    • Neon
  • Music Notes line including 21 instruments, Marching Band, Singing and more
  • Canada Adventure Line. New paper, Sticker and Laser for all provinces

Scrapbook Customs new releases

Scrapbook Customs new releases

Scrapbook Customs is a leader in unique papers that are sure to please any and all scrappers – and crafters alike. Perfect for theme-based scrapping, as well as preserving any occasion, event, or time of life, Scrapbook Customs takes on themes that are difficult to come by, such as Cruises, Military, Travel, Customs and much more. Discover why many make Scrapbook Customs their go-to paper, sticker, and stamping destination since 1995! Visit

New Simple Vintage Releases By Simple Stories

This is sponsored content by Simple Stories.

For years Simple Stories has been recognized for its simple, yet classic style and designs. From scrapbooking papers and embellishments, pocket pages, albums and most recently the introduction of the Carpe Diem brand – a line of planners, traveler’s notebooks and accessories – the focus has been creating quality products with designs that appeal to a broad audience.

We’re beyond excited to introduce a new, additional design aesthetic to Simple Stories with Simple Vintage, a beautiful collaboration with talented designer Katie Pertiet.

Designer Katie Pertiet

Designer Katie Pertiet

Katie is an experienced designer who has been involved in the scrapbook industry for over 15 years. A traditionally trained artist with a love for all things vintage, Katie is the perfect choice to bring vintage to Simple Stories. Her designs are seen on fabrics, home décor, wall décor and more and we couldn’t be more thrilled to bring her scrapbook collections to life with Simple Vintage Halloween and Simple Vintage Christmas.

Simple Vintage Halloween by Simple Stories

Simple Vintage Halloween by Simple Stories

EEK! Trick or treat has never been sweeter than with the new Simple Vintage Halloween. Fab-BOO-lously illustrated vintage designs featuring classic, old-fashioned Halloween icons make this one spooktacular collection!

Simple Vintage Halloween by Simple Stories

Simple Vintage Halloween Papers

From 12×12 papers and elements to die cuts, stickers, chipboard and washi tape, the Simple Vintage Halloween collection is perfect for capturing those haunting Halloween memories.

Simple Vintage Halloween by Simple Stories

Simple Vintage Halloween Combo Sticker

Simple Vintage Halloween by Simple Stories

Simple Vintage Halloween 4×6 Stickers

Simple Vintage Halloween by Simple Stories

Simple Vintage Halloween Bits

‘Tis the season to be jolly with the new Simple Vintage Christmas collection!

Simple Vintage Christmas by Simple Stories

Simple Vintage Christmas by Simple Stories

Beautifully illustrated traditional designs featuring nostalgic, old-fashioned Christmas icons and patterns make this the perfect collection to document all of your festive holiday memories.

Simple Vintage Christmas by Simple Stories

Simple Vintage Christmas Papers

Simple Vintage Christmas by Simple Stories

Simple Vintage Christmas Frames

Simple Vintage Christmas by Simple Stories

Simple Vintage Christmas Stickers

Simple Vintage Christmas by Simple Stories

Simple Vintage Christmas Number Tags

The new Simple Vintage collections are shipping to retailers now!

Visit Simple Stories on Facebook and Instagram to see examples of our products used in wonderfully designed projects from artists and creators from around the world.

Out-of-This-World Poured Art with DecoArt

This is sponsored content by DecoArt.

out-of-this-world galaxy canvas art

Out-of-this-world galaxy canvas art

DecoArt’s Acrylic Paint Pouring Program enables anyone, from the novice crafter to the expert artist, to create unique pieces by layering and pouring acrylic onto almost any flat surface. By combining specially-formulated products with DecoArt’s premium acrylic paints, painters will catch on to this new approach to creating stunning art without even touching a paintbrush!

See how easy it is to create out-of-this-world galaxy canvas art with DecoArt Pouring Medium and Americana Premium Acrylics. Finish the piece off with DecoArt Clear Pouring Topcoat for an unbelievable, high-gloss, artistic finish.

Supplies Needed:


Step 1

Use a medium brush to paint the canvas in Carbon Black. Let dry.

Step 2

Prep the dirty pour by mixing one part paint with three parts pouring medium into separate cups. Use Titanium White, Ultramarine Blue, Primary Magenta, Cobalt Teal Hue, and Carbon Black. Stir well.

Step 3

Combine all paints into one single cup.

Step 4

Pour the paint onto one side of the canvas and tilt until the entire canvas is covered.

Step 5

Let dry completely.

Step 6

Pour Topcoat onto canvas. Tilt until the entire canvas is covered. Let dry according to label instructions.

Step 7

Make several tiny pours on freezer paper to create the planets. Do this by repeating the dirty pour process using your choice of colors. Let dry and remove by peeling.

Step 8

Use various sized cups and/or lids to trace circles (planets) in various sizes. Use scissors to cut them out.

Step 9

Arrange the circles on the canvas. Once you are happy with the layout, use a small brush and Americana Decou-Page to adhere the planets to the galaxy background. Optional: Get creative by adding rings to one or multiple planets.

Check your local craft stores for these products, or pick them up in the DecoArt store, and get started on your own poured art. Make sure to share your work with us on Facebook and Instagram using #decoartprojects.

August 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

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, makers and DIYers. From ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) to a new Artist Trading Card (ATC) here are the four trends you need to know about right now.


Submitted by Jennifer Priest, Smart Fun DIY

“ASMR and sensory content are huge right now. The slime, bath bomb, and DIY science experiment trends of the last few years have blossomed into a new series of sensory focused DIY projects. Creators are using art and craft supplies to create sensory experiences via ASMR videos. From crumbling floral foam blocks covered in glitter to cutting handmade soap loaves to watching artists whisper while painting, ASMR is showing up big time in the DIY space. Squishy toys are being replicated as squishy DIYs using foam kits and silicone baking molds. And bath bombs are being created with ASMR effects or in giant size, the fizzing producing a feeling of satisfaction in those who watch.”

2. Nature is Calling (and so are the “Rosés”)

Submitted by Lisa Kettell, Lisa Kettell Designs

Floral art

Picture by Lisa Kettell

“Currently I am seeing a variety of interesting trends throughout the creative industry. The first being floral. Designers just can’t get enough of floral patterns. From fashion, food to crafts, florals have taken over. Floral embroidery on clothing, hibiscus lattes, and rose centric décor, this trend has only begun to bloom.

What goes with flowers? Insects of course. Birds, butterflies and bees themes are back. They join the floral movement and can be seen in lots of designs. Is it a summer trend? Maybe, but I see these magical insects flying on for a bit. Joining forces with the world of science. Be on the look for specimen jars, beakers and industrial science hitting stores hard in August.

Look for the essence of rosé to hit hard in August, too. It’s become the party wine of choice this summer and popping up in creative design. Scrapbooking, planners, wall prints and mugs, this blush wine has everyone talking.”

3. Artist Trading Coins – the New ATC

Submitted by Candy Rosenberg, A Vintage Girl

“This month I would like to highlight a new trend in Artist Trading Cards. I have personally participated in swapping with others all over the world for 10 years now, and I have made well over 10,000 ATCs. The new trend is called Artist Trading Coins, which measure 2” in diameter. It is not often that something truly new is introduced, but I think this one comes close.

The Artists Trading Coins trend was started by Crafty Hodges on YouTube, whose process video shows more about these fun little circles of art.

The traditional trading cards have been around for quite some time; measure 2.5” x 3.5”; and fit in a standard trading card pocket for storing. Traditional cards are swapped all over the world and have no rules except the size. I have created and/or traded many cards that are sewn fabric, metal, heavy chipboard, plastic and even good old paper. They are very fun to trade with others all over the world with many Facebook groups and websites that allow you trade with others all in one setting. Artist Trading Cards and Artist Training Coins are fantastic ways to get your mojo going; use up scraps and bits and pieces in your craft area; and are considered small pieces of art in the craft industry.

This sector is often overlooked; however, there is a huge market that is very hungry for products, especially tools and punches that make it easier to create these little works of art.

Here are some examples of coins created by Crafty Hodges, the founder of this new trend. What a cute idea that is taking the ATC world by storm!


Artist Trading Coin by Crafty Hodges


Artist Trading Coin by Crafty Hodges

I went ahead and tried my hand at it, but first, I scoured my local craft store to find a 2” punch to make them easy and uniform in size. Fiskars has a great heavy-duty version that has worked beautifully.”


2” punch by Fiskars


Artist Trading Coins by Candy Rosenberg


4. European Trends

Submitted by Roberta Birnbaum,

Tassel and pom pom earrings

Picture by Roberta Birnbaum

“I recently spent six weeks in Europe and loved witnessing the trends. Back in the “olden days” aka pre-Internet, European trends were sometimes a full year-or more- ahead of the U.S., and even longer for Canada. It was wonderful to see some of the same trends occurring concurrently.

What really stood out? Unicorns (still), llamas (very popular), and tassels and pompoms (wow!); they’re everywhere. Tassels and pompoms are decorating clothes, accessories, and home décor. I don’t see it falling out of favor any time soon.”

What Is Dark Social and Why Should You Care?

DarkSocial (5)

This is sponsored content by Stitchcraft Marketing.

By Sandi Rosner for Stitchcraft Marketing

Dark social sharing is what happens when people share content via private networks and messaging apps such as email, text, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. These shares are called dark because they are hard to track and quantify. Dark social is traffic that’s not attributed to a known source, such as a Google search or a social network.

In this post, we’ll look at the impact of dark social sharing. We’ll also discuss some tools for shedding light on dark social.

How much sharing happens in the dark?

When you look at your analytics for sources of web traffic, you probably see a big slice of the pie labeled “Direct”. The Direct category includes all the traffic that comes to you without an identifiable source. When you click a link on a Facebook post, a tracking tag is added to the URL to tell the destination website “Facebook sent me!” Links shared through private messaging apps and networks do not have these trackable tags. As far as your analytics knows, these visitors appeared out of thin air.

It’s very likely that a high percentage of traffic to your site is the result of dark social shares, which show up in the Direct category in your analytics report.


According to research from RadiumOne, 84% of outbound sharing (that’s consumers sharing content from your website) occurs over dark social channels.

Think about that for a minute. More than 80% of shares are happening where you don’t see them or track them. You might obsess over Facebook shares and Instagram likes, but this public sharing is just the tip of the iceberg.

If you are measuring the impact of new marketing initiatives only by looking at public social network likes and follows, you’re getting just a small part of the picture. Dark social sharing is so pervasive, your new content has likely been seen and shared with far more consumers than is reflected by counting Instagram likes. Was there an increase in “direct” traffic to your site? It’s highly likely this increase was driven by the dark social impact of your marketing program.

Dark social sharing impacts your business, whether you see it or not

RadiumOne’s research shows that 32% of consumers share exclusively via dark social channels, with this number jumping to 46% for consumers over age 55. This segment is likely to grow with the recent controversy surrounding Facebook and other public social networks. Privacy concerns and an increased wariness about “oversharing” will amplify the importance of dark social in the future.

Dark social sharing is far more compelling than public social sharing. Imagine two scenarios:

  • Amy is looking at her Facebook feed and sees that her friend Christie has shared a link to your new product announcement.
  • Amy gets a text message or email from Christie with the same link, to which she’s added a note: “I came across this and thought you’d enjoy it.”

Which link is Amy more likely to click?

Dark social shares are marketing gold. A direct message from one interested consumer to another carries a halo of like and trust that no public Facebook post can match. The dark social share is far more likely to result in a sale.

Shining a light on dark social sharing

When customers copy your URL from the address bar and paste it into an email or message, any traffic resulting from that link will be dark. There are three popular tools that enable you to encourage dark social sharing while tracking the impact of this activity. All these tools work by capturing information about what is being shared. Rather than looking at traffic coming into your website, you can see what content your customers find share-worthy and see what channels they are using to share it.

Sharethis is an easy to use tool that adds share buttons to your content. You can choose to include buttons for popular dark social channels, such as email, WhatsApp and SMS (text message), as well as for the public social networks. The buttons are optimized for mobile use, and you have choices about the size, position and look of the buttons. is a product of RhythmOne (formerly RadiumOne, the company who produced the definitive study of dark social trends). adds a sharing tool to your website which includes robust tracking and analytic tools.

GetSocial works through plugins for WordPress or Shopify. In addition to tracking the use of share buttons, GetSocial will tell you how often a URL is shared through copy/paste.

Once you’ve got your share buttons in place, remind people to use them! A surprisingly effective, but often overlooked, way to encourage sharing is to simply ask. End your tutorial or blog post with a friendly request, like this: “Do you know someone who would enjoy this project? Use the buttons below to share it with them!” Not only are you reminding them to share, you are directing them toward the buttons that will enable you to track that activity.

Social media marketing is key to the success of any business in today’s economy. Of course, you want to continue to maximize likes and follows on Facebook and Instagram. But don’t forget about the person-to-person sharing that is quickly replacing traditional word-of-mouth. Dark social sharing is a far richer source of potential customers than public social networks. A little effort spent encouraging dark social sharing and making it trackable can pay big dividends. If you see an increase in “direct” traffic to your website, that’s a good indication that your content is being shared in the dark.

About Stitchcraft Marketing

Stitchcraft Marketing a niche agency specializing in creative companies and a Platinum Partner of AFCI. They are ready to work with you to create content worthy of sharing. Contact to learn how we can help you grow your craft business.


Crafting Trends From Altenew

This is a sponsored post by Altenew.

Altenew has always been at the forefront of introducing new trends and designing innovative paper crafting products since its inception in 2014. From introducing the most elegant layering stamps to designing layering floral metal dies, Altenew has been working hard to captivate the crafting world.



Our team is always thinking of small and big ways to improve the crafting experience. By providing daily project ideas in our blogs and social media, and developing interactive video content (Facebook Live, Altenew Academy, Lydia’s Crafty Corner), we aspire to inspire creativity at every crafting level.



Our leadership team is continuously looking for ways to bring new life to existing product categories. For example, our gradient ink color families work beautifully with our wide range of layering stamps, thus taking out the guesswork and letting the crafter focus on expressing their creativity.


This year, we have introduced a special kind of washi tape. You may be familiar with standard size washi tapes, but have you seen washi tapes that will cover an entire A2 size card front? Our extra wide washi tapes will do just that! And by adding a die-cut sentiment, you can now create a beautiful card in just a few minutes!


You may also use them as patterned papers and die-cut letters and shapes out of them.


Some of our washi tapes have beautiful images that you can fussy-cut and create hundreds of embellishments with.


You may also use them to create partial backgrounds for your focal images.



Our washi tapes are not limited for card making but are also great for art journals, home decor, mixed media projects, or any other DIY projects.

We are very excited about this new product category and cannot wait to see what everyone will create with them!

“Alt” translates to “old” in German, and thus “Alt-e-new” represents the juxtaposition of classical and contemporary designs. Our team recognizes the importance of bringing joy to others, and that the personal touches of a handmade card or a scrapbook layout can comfort the people who are most important to us.

Ultimately, we hope our products inspire crafters to express their unique creativity and make spectacular projects that bring joy and happiness to their loved ones.

Tasnim Ahmed | President


7 important things retailers should be doing to get customer feedback


This is a portion of an article that originally appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of Gradient, written by Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender of KIZER & BENDER.

Knowing what’s going on in the world of retail is critical to the growth of your business – but it isn’t always easy.

If we had a nickel for every time we heard a shopper complain about customer service we’d be richer than Bill Gates. Do customers exaggerate? You betcha, but there’s always a trail to follow if you listen carefully and then piece together what they tell you.

As a retailer, here are 7 important things you should be doing regularly to listen to your customers.

Focus Groups

Invite 10 to 15 customers to participate in your focus group. Serve refreshments and have a list of questions ready to keep the conversation moving. Reward each participant a cash reward, plus a small gift valued at around $20.

Exit Interviews

Station yourself near the front door and when a shopper is about to leave, politely introduce yourself and ask if he/she found everything he/she was looking for. Exit interviews are great for getting a shopper’s opinion of your service and identifying products customers wish you carried.

Encourage Customer Feedback

Place “Tell Us What You Think!” cards on your cash wrap, in classrooms and on your website for customers to fill out. Add a poll to your Facebook timeline. Give customers every opportunity to tell you what they think.

Associate Feedback

Ask associates to fill you in on what they’re hearing on the sales floor. Place a notebook in the lunchroom and at the cash wrap so they can easily record customer comments.

Ask The BIG Question

You’ll get incredibly useful information when you ask our BIG question: “What ONE thing could we do to ___________?” You fill in the blank. Try “What ONE thing could we do to improve our customer service?” or “What ONE class or event could we add that you would like to attend?” You will hear constructive things you’ll be able to easily implement.

Fly On The Wall Exercise

The idea here is to blend in and become just another shopper. Let associates in on what you’re doing because they need to pretend that you’re not there. Station yourself in prime shopping spots on the sales floor and just watch. Carry a notebook to record what you see so you can address changes you’d like to make later on.

Listen, Watch & React

Engaging and connecting with customers means listening to what they have to say, watching what they do on the sales floor, and making changes based on what you find. React by giving them a fun and easy experience that’s unique to your store.

About the Authors

Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender are professional speakers, retail strategists, authors and consultants whose client list reads like a “Who’s Who” in business. Companies internationally depend upon them for timely advice on consumers and the changing retail marketplace. For more information about KIZER & BENDER, visit


Attendee Spotlight: Cindy deRosier

This is a guest blog post by Association For Creative Industries (AFCI) Member, Cindy deRosier,

I attended Creativation in 2017 and 2018, and had visited Phoenix twice before that in the early 1990’s. I liked Phoenix just fine, but like many AFCI members, I was disappointed about the move from Anaheim. I filled out the post-Creativation survey both years, giving my honest opinion about Phoenix and the show in general. And then I didn’t give it another thought. Imagine my surprise when AFCI, in conjunction with the City of Phoenix, selected me as one of five AFCI members to visit Phoenix to learn more about the city! This speaks so highly of our organization; the AFCI staff hears our concerns and truly wants to help us have the best possible experience during the Creativation show in Phoenix.

Cindy deRosier

Meet Cindy deRosier

For three days, the five of us were treated to all the best that Phoenix has to offer. And let me assure you, there is a LOT that Phoenix has to offer! Fabulous, affordable food? Yes! World-class museums and entertainment options? Absolutely! A family-friendly and safe city center that is pedestrian-friendly and offers convenient public transportation? Definitely! A city that values public art and supports working artists? Yep! Friendly people who are proud of their community and everything it has to offer? No doubt!


Art spotted in Downtown Phoenix

Did you know that Phoenix has an ambassador program specifically to help visitors? Look for a friendly face in an orange shirt and khaki pants. They’re all over the downtown area. Want someone to walk you to your hotel, or help you lug that bag of make-and-takes to your car? Need a restaurant recommendation, or directions to a museum? Maybe you simply need a band-aid. Ask an ambassador! It’s that easy.

I’d like to share some of my personal favorites from the trip. It’s difficult, because I truly enjoyed every restaurant, every store, and every attraction we visited! I’ll start with food because, next to crafting, it is my favorite thing. We had delicious pizza just a block from the Convention Center at La Piazza Pizza. Wood-fired, crispy crust with just the right amount of chew, gooey cheese, and a wide selection of toppings made me very happy. So did the unique cocktail I tried!

La Piazza Pizza Meal

Eating pizza at La Piazza Pizza, 1 N 1st St, Phoenix, AZ 85004

If you’re willing to go a little farther, try Matt’s Big Breakfast (the pancakes are to die for), The Vig (save room for the incredible butterscotch cake with whiskey maple glaze), and the Phoenix Public Market Cafe (homemade bagels, pastries, and pop tarts that will blow your mind).

Matt's Big Breakfast

Matt’s Big Breakfast, 825 N 1st St, Phoenix, AZ 85004


Butterscotch cake with whiskey maple glaze at The Vig Filmore, 606 N 4th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85003

Phoenix Public Market Cafe

Pop tart at the Phoenix Public Market Cafe, 14 E Pierce St, Phoenix, AZ 85004

During our visit, we met with numerous creative business owners. I loved touring Porter Barn Wood and seeing the amazing things they make with reclaimed wood. Hazel & Violet Letterpress was so much fun! I’d love to take a class there.

Porter Barn Wood

Porter Barn Wood, 901 S 7th St, Phoenix, AZ 85034

Hazel & Violet Letterpress

Hazel & Violet Letterpress, 2340, 1301 Grand Ave #2b, Phoenix, AZ 85007

And how fun to visit Mucho Más, owned by our very own Crafty Chica! Kathy Cano-Murillo has an adorable shop specializing in Latino art. It’s part of a larger space shared with other creative entrepreneurs with such interesting stories. I loved the bilingual bookstore with photos of their prominent authors hanging above the shelves.

Mucho Más

Mucho Más,1736A E. McDowell Road, Phoenix, AZ

As for attractions, I loved the Desert Botanical Garden. It’s absolutely beautiful and I was so inspired by the colors and textures I saw. Don’t be surprised to see a desert influence in my future artwork!

Desert Botanical Garden

Desert Botanical Garden, 1201 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008

Desert Botanical Garden Lizard

Lizard spotted at the Desert Botanical Garden

The Heard Museum, which features Native art, was incredible. It’s only four light rail stops away from the convention center. (Ask an ambassador for help buying your $2 ticket if you’re not a public transportation whiz!)

Heard Museum

Heard Museum, 2301 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004

I also loved all the public art within walking distance of the convention center. The area is full of gorgeous murals, sculptures, and statues that are uniquely Phoenix.

phoenix art mural

Mural spotted in Downtown Phoenix

The best part about the visit to Phoenix was meeting my fellow AFCI members, Brooke, Alison, Cheryl, and Anita. None of us knew each other ahead of time, we are from different geographic locations, and we represent different member sections, but none of that mattered. As often happens with creative people, we clicked immediately and enjoyed finding out what we had in common and sharing with each other the things that make us and our businesses unique.

I’m always excited to go to Creativation, but if it’s possible to be even more excited than before, I am!

Register for Creativation


Join thousands of creative businesses for Creativation January 17-21, 2019 at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Education will start on January 17; the trade show will open January 19-21. Register for your badge today at Conference registration will open on September 12.

Thinking about extending your stay to explore Phoenix? We’ve partnered with the City of Phoenix to provide you with resources to help you plan your trip. Click here to explore trip ideas, see things to do nearby the Phoenix Convention Center, and find free virtual travel guides.

Need a hotel? We’ve made it easy for you to book hotels near the event in Phoenix through our new hotel booking partner, Hotels for Hope. Hotels for Hope’s 600,000+ hotel partners allows us to expand the number of hotels at great rates available for Creativation, which gives your company more choices of where to stay! Plus, for every Creativation hotel room night booked through Hotels for Hope, $2 will be donated to the Kids In Need Foundation, AFCI’s Charity of Choice. Book your hotel now!

Get Inspired with Paper House at In the MKNG™

This is sponsored content by Paper House Productions.


Paper House Productions is excited to be bringing our own flair for creativity of many kinds to In the MKNG. Located in the Hudson Valley’s scenic small town of Saugerties, Paper House is an eclectic group of artists, poets, painters, and musicians who are passionate about creating and inspiring others to create. We absolutely love to meet the people who use our products, which range from scrapbooking papers to washi tape, puffy stickers to planners, and so much more! Attendees of the festival will have the opportunity to experience all of the interesting things that we have to offer through make-and-take projects, a crafting class, an exciting Mystery Creative Challenge, and conversations with us – the Paper House team that makes it all happen!

Among our favorite items that we’ll be showcasing at In The MKNG are our new officially licensed Harry Potter products! As a company full of Harry Potter aficionados, we’re especially excited to be bringing you these beautiful stickers and washi tapes featuring all of your favorite magical elements! Craft a card for your favorite Gryffindor with our Faux-Enamel stickers or deck out your planner page with some gorgeous Patronus washi tape. These amazing embellishments will be available for purchase at In the MKNG along with many other licensed products: Wizard of Oz, Justice League, and Wonder Woman, just to name a few!

There will be many chances to explore Paper House products throughout the festival. We will have quick and easy make-and-take projects going on in our booth so that everyone has a chance to touch, feel, and use our various products. We will be teaching a class where participants will make a fall wreath adorned with beautiful paper flowers. We are also so excited about our Mystery Creative Challenge! Contestants will receive a selection of our products and be tasked with quickly combining them into the most impressively creative end result to impress our judges! The most creative, resourceful, and quick-thinking crafter will win!


Crafters of all kinds will be sure to find something interesting in our product line. Our beautiful papers are perfect to feature in any scrapbook or card-making project. We have a huge variety of stickers with diverse styles, subject matter, and material. Planner enthusiasts will find plenty to browse in our Life Organized line. We can’t wait for September to get here, can you? We’ll see you at In the MKNG… make sure you stop by Space S-17!


In the MKNG, the creativity festival by the Association For Creative Industries (AFCI), will take place September 29-30 at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in Bethel, New York. To buy festival and workshop tickets and to learn more, visit

New Lawn Fawn Products Are Here!

This is sponsored content by Lawn Fawn.

For our fall and winter release, we found inspiration from pumpkin patches to coffee shops! We created over 75 fun new products including paper, clear stamps, dies, ink, and other supplies. These goodies are now available for pre-order!*


Some of our favorite new stamps include Thanks a Latte*, a cute coffee-themed set that is perfect for both fall and winter. We also love Holiday Helpers* for creating an adorable Christmas scene with elves. Plus, we have so much fun making cute gift tags with Say What? Christmas Critters* and its coordinating die, Say What? Gift Tags*!


Some of our favorite dies are the interactive Double Slider Surprise* and Mini Pop-Up Box*. We also love the new holiday-themed Reveal Wheel Add-Ons*, which coordinate with the popular Reveal Wheel* from our summer release!


We hope you enjoy this latest release as much as we do! Check out all 75+ new products available for pre-order now!*

*Don’t see the pre-order products? Make sure you are logged in to your Lawn Fawn wholesale account!

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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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.


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!


Wood Embroidery Hoop, Debra Quartermain


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.


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.


Junk Journal by Sigita Grunte


Junk Journal by Sigita Grunte


Junk Journal by Sigita Grunte


Junk Journal by Liz Caranci @lizthepaperproject


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.”


Junk Journal by Marina Wilson


Junk Journals by Marina Wilson


Junk Journal by Tyler Nappa


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.


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 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

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


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:

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 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


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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


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.



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.


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


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.


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


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:


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 (

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

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.


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.




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.


  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!

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


“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


“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


“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


“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


“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


“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

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.


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.”


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.”


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

Connect with Kiki and learn more about her business at

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

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

By Sandi Rosner for Stitchcraft Marketing


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 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.

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 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

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

Member Spotlight: Cecily Moore


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.

ThePaperCurator _Logo_RGB

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.”


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.”


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!”


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

Connect with Cecily and learn more about her business at

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.


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.


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.


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″).


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.


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).


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.


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.


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

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,

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, 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.

Lia_Griffith_Author (1)

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 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

Crafty Crafters LOGO_Color

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.


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.”

Creativation Entrance

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.”

Laura with Notions Marketing Creativation

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

Connect with Tanya and learn more about her business at

Regaining Your Retail Edge: Part 1

By Stitchcraft Marketing

Variegated, bright and colorful yarns for knitting on shop shelf small

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:

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

Replacement pictures for page 24 - DIY cover image

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.


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 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 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

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


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 “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:

Press information is available at:

3 Free or Almost-Free Digital Design Tools


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 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 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


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

Member Spotlight: Koren Wiskman


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.


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

Connect with Koren and learn more about her business at

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

Managing an International Social Media Presence

By Stitchcraft Marketing


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 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
  • 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 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 ( and wholesale customers can contact us at”

“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”

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

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.


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




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






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!



Questions about participating? Contact Kristen Farrell, Manager of Marketing & Public Relations, at

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!


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 and Facebook page, Oil Pastel Smudge, or contact me directly at 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.


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.”

k4k butterfly

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 in early April 2018. Our ShardWorx® Art Kits (with resin) are already available on and”

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