Meet AFCI’s New Executive Director

We are pleased to introduce you to Peter Finn, the Association For Creative Industries’ Peter_Finn(AFCI) Executive Director.  Peter will lead the organization and execute the newly defined strategic priorities.  We had the opportunity to talk to Peter about his prior experience and what he is looking forward to most in his new role.

Congratulations on your new role as the Association For Creative Industries’ (AFCI) Executive Director.  What initially drew you to our organization?

The potential growth of the organization is what initially drew me to the opportunity of Executive Director–AFCI has a fantastic value proposition. It became apparent during the interview process that AFCI has a passionate membership, strong leadership in its board of directors, and programs that are well positioned for success. Additionally, much of my work for the last 11 years has been in STEM but I’ve become increasingly interested in the intersection of the arts and STEM–or STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) initiatives and activities. The chance to work for an organization that supports a global community of creators and artists of all ages is very appealing.

Can you give us a taste for what you hope to accomplish as the new executive director of AFCI?

At the start I want to listen and learn from members and stakeholders, while also looking at opportunities to work on expanding AFCI’s digital footprint, developing a content roadmap that informs the programming for Creativation and other activities through the year, and develop new educational programs for our membership.

What are some of the important initiatives for AFCI this year and next?

As the new Executive Director, I want build on the past success of the Creativation conference and identify new strategies to better engage conference participants onsite. I look forward to working with the events team and volunteers to source some new ideas and elevate the overall experience for everyone at the conference. We will also examine and audit the AFCI’s current content and generate ideas for new content and education through the year.

What type of creative activities do you like to do with your children?

My wife works at the Art Institute of Chicago and oversees a number of their educational programs. The kids and I will often participate in the family festivals that she runs on the weekends. There are often a number of activities going on from print making to drawing to textile arts.  Both of my kids go to fine and performing art magnet cluster schools (Chicago Public Schools) in Chicago so invariably there is some kind of creative project in the works on any given week.

What excites you most about the future of the creative industry?

What excites me about the creative industry is its impact on people in helping them cultivate their creative practices whether it be at home or as a professional.  There is also so much opportunity for the AFCI when you take into consideration that the US craft industry is estimated at $36 billion.

What is one thing about you that might surprise our members?

The first conference I helped organize early in my career was in Cape Town, South Africa about 6 years after apartheid had ended. I was able to meet many of the people involved in the anti-apartheid movement. I was about 24 at the time and it was a truly life changing experience to be around so many inspiring people. We had over 10,000 attendees and Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama were our keynote speakers.

Meet the AFCI Board of Directors – URSULA MORGAN

Serving on the Association For Creative Industries (AFCI) Board of Directors is a unique way for members of the organization to give back and help steer the future direction of AFCI. The individuals serving represent diverse backgrounds and have significant experience in the arts and crafts industry. Today we introduce you to Ursula Morgan.

AFCI:  Congratulations on rejoining the AFCI board. How long have you been a member of AFCI, and what initially drew you to join the Association?

URSULA:  In 2006, I became a member of the Association and attended my first AFCI ursulatrade show with Future Publishing as the publisher for Simply Knitting magazine. I didn’t initially know much about the Association, but I had heard the event was a great place for inspiration, information and new contacts that would help build our magazines and websites.  As I worked my way up to vice president at Future Media’s U.S. operations, the Association continued to be an integral part of our growth strategy.

In 2013, I joined Creativebug. While at Creativebug, I was lucky enough to serve on the AFCI Board of Directors. My tenure as president and CEO, as well as my AFCI board role, ended in April 2017 when we were acquired by JOANN. Now, as SVP of Digital Innovation at CSS Industries, I get to lead the Digital Innovation team designing and building the absolute best software and experiences in the celebration and life event space.  I’m excited to be joining the AFCI board again and bringing the knowledge I’ve gained.

AFCI:  What do you hope to achieve by serving on the AFCI Board of Directors?

URSULA:  My motivation is the same as it was back when I first served. I have a deep love and passion for the industry, and I want the Association to be an important part of people’s craft business.  The Association was vital in helping me build my career in this industry. It has helped me stay relevant and introduced me to people whom I adore. The industry is rapidly segmenting and changing, making it as important as ever for the Association to be relevant for its members, and I see myself aiding in that process.

AFCI:  What would you say to someone who is interested in joining the Association?

URSULA:  You will get out of it what you put into it. Utilize every aspect of your Association. It provides great business intelligence, such as the research, networking and support.

Board nominations are now being accepted through May 15.  Nominate yourself or someone you know to serve on the 2020 AFCI Board of Directors before the deadline. 

Do you need more reasons why you should serve?  Check out our recent blog post “The Top 4 Benefits of Serving on the AFCI Board of Directors”.

Management Change for AFCI Headquarters

Note from Jim Thielen, Chairman, AFCI Board of Directors


On behalf of the Association For Creative Industries (AFCI) Board of Directors, I wanted to share an important update with you.

The AFCI Board of Directors has decided to make a change in management and staffing for the Association.  After much discussion and a thorough review of strategic options, we have chosen to partner with SmithBucklin, an association management company that will assume the operational activities of the AFCI effective April 1, 2019.

SmithBucklin is a professional services company that manages well over 100 other associations.  They will bring to AFCI deep experience in supporting business trade associations, including some that complement and have synergies within our industry.

We would like to recognize our current staff team for all their contributions to the association and we are working with them individually on thoughtful transition plans.  We thank them for their work on behalf of the Association.

While the Board has decided to make a management change, throughout the transition, I assure you that we remain focused on hosting a successful Creativation event in January 2019.  Our current team will be working in tandem with new staff members from SmithBucklin and many of the new team members will be at Creativation.

Beyond Creativation, we are already mapping out timelines for a strategic planning process.  We are dedicated to maximizing the value of AFCI membership and will be working with our new team to further strengthen our member value proposition.  We will be seeking member feedback as a part of this process and there will be opportunities to get involved and be a part of shaping the future strategy for AFCI.

The AFCI Board of Directors has decided to make this change in order to benefit you as a valued member and ensure the long-term success of our Association. We look forward to seeing you at Creativation on January 17-21, 2019 and to all the exciting new developments ahead.

Should you have questions or concerns, please contact me directly at

Best regards,


Jim Thielen

Chairman, AFCI Board of Directors


‘Tis the Season for December Trends

This Trends Report is brought to you by the AFCI Trends Committee

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. Here are the current trends we are seeing.

1. Lighted Christmas Trees

Submitted by Kathy Cano-Murillo,

This holiday season you’ll see these vintage style trees, reminiscent of the one Grandma used to have.  You can purchase them in retail outlets or better yet, make your own version at a paint your own pottery studio.   The motif is also used in illustrations, jewelry, wall art and more!


Mr. Christmas Ceramic Christmas Tree Figurine at Target

2. Fa la Llama

Submitted by Debra Quartermain,

The Llama icon trend continues with the fun “No Prob-llama” and “No Drama Llama” sayings on everything from pillows to signs. Images appear in holiday gift wrap, party decor and housewares. Of course the creative world is filled with adorable stuffies, ornaments and pillows. Expect to see many llamas wearing holiday attire this season!


Photo credit: Debra Quartermain,



Happy Llamakah Card from Paper Source

3. Pa Rum Pum Pom Pom

Submitted by Jennifer Priest, Smart Fun DIY

Pom pom crafts and felt ball crafts are everywhere this holiday season!  Pom pom garlands, trees and ornaments are showing up as holiday décor.  With multiple pom pom maker tools to choose from, crafters can make pom poms in any size to DIY their own pom pom holiday decor. Looking for a trendy gift?   Pom pom scarfs, pom pom edged blankets, pom pom wall hangings, and pom pom keychains are on point.


Pom Pom Christmas Tree found at Hobby Lobby


DIY Ice Cream Cone Ornaments by Jennifer Priest, Smart Fun DIY

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

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!

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: