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 Ashley Smith.

AFCI: Your experience in the industry over the past 20-plus years makes you a perfect representative of AFCI. Tell us some more about your current role.

ASHLEY: I am the Senior Manager of Education at Missouri Star Quilt Company, a large ecommerce and brick-and-mortar retailer, serving the quilting community all over the world. Education is paramount to everything we do. I oversee our educational initiatives to ensure that our customers have access to channels of learning throughout their creative journey.

AFCI: You are reaching your third year of membership with the Association. What initially drew you to join?

ASHLEY: There are so many benefits that the Association provides for me, personally, and for our business. What drew me to the Association were the networking opportunities. I am able to network with adjacent industries that create occasions for learning and strengthening our business and industry.

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

ASHLEY: As a board member, I aim to support and guide the Association in creating true value for the members. I want to be an advocate for my fellow members by ensuring that all programs and benefits make sense to the individual member segments, while maintaining fiscal responsibility.

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

ASHLEY: AFCI is a strong organization comprised of a variety of member segments, which presents as a wonderful networking opportunity. The Association strives to produce programming and events that truly benefit all members.


Thousands of individuals are taking their favorite hobbies and passions and turning them into craft businesses. In addition to innovative high-value services, the Association For Creative Industries (AFCI) fosters an invaluable industry support network that entrepreneurial startups can connect with to help them grow. We reached out to some of the craft industry’s most successful entrepreneurs for advice, tips and lessons they learned along the way.

KIM EVANS, Emerald Creek Craft Supplies – Supplier Member

“My biggest piece of advice for the new business owner is to find a good, strong mentor. Find someone who is willing to share industry secrets without hesitation in order to help you bypass hurdles that you would normally have to overcome. This will make sure you’re structured for growth before you begin to scale up.”

BROOKE ROE, Pinspiration – Buyer Member

“For new business owners, looking at big-picture systems through the lens of convenience is crucial. What can you automate, eliminate or delegate to help make doing business with you a pleasure? If you have more than one customer asking the same question, perhaps it’s time to adjust your response and automate by adding that question to your website FAQs. Look at eliminating any recurring tasks that suck up your time with little return. Delegate as much as you can to your strongest employees. Spending time to train on systems upfront is not as easy as doing things yourself, but it pays off in the long run.”

EILEEN HULL, Eileen Hull, LLC – Designer Member

“Be creative in all ways, not just in your craft. Set achievable goals and figure out ways to make them happen. If one way doesn’t work, chalk it up to experience and try another route. Do your best and don’t beat yourself up. Remember to live in between working. Smile a lot and be friendly. Do the research. Hire out when you need to. The thing that makes your business special is you, so don’t apologize for being yourself. Embrace your creative path and enjoy the journey.”

For more great tips from your industry peers, take a look at the article titled “What’s Your Biggest Piece of Advice for New Business Owners” in the summer issue of Gradient. For more information on how to take advantage of all that AFCI has to offer, contact Jason Baum, Director of Membership and Marketing at

Summer Trends Report

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.


Submitted by Candy Rosenberg, {a vintage girl}


Chipboard has been around for many years and has been a mainstay in mixed media art and layouts.  However, it is now showing up more in albums and junk journals due to its versatility; giving great dimension to these kinds of projects. The designs can range from simple shapes to very intricate designs, allowing for a full array of choices for your project. Chipboard can be altered in a variety of ways with mediums like paint, shimmer sprays and pastes – or, just leave them natural and use brown ink to keep the vintage look.


Submitted by Debra Quartermain, Debra Quartermain Design

Craft Work Look

The ‘craft work’ look coming down the runway for summer is very similar to the popular Boho style with fringe, lace and appliques used on everything from summer dresses to jeans and bags.  Hats and flip-flops are making a statement adorned with feathers, ribbons and other trims.  Summer is a time for playful creativity and with a pair of scissors, fabric adhesive and assorted trims. Trendy fashion items can be easily made and personalized.


Submitted by Kathy Cano-Murillo, Crafty Chica, LLC

Painted Flower Pots

Artfully painted flower pots have become part of DIY culture. We’re not talking about our beloved decoupage planters, but high-level techniques from gallery painters who are applying their visual messages in a functional and decorative way. And it’s not just about the planter; it’s also about what goes inside. Muralist Jeff Slim of Phoenix, Arizona, is an example. He is known for his collection of one-of-a-kind pieces that he sells in gallery shops and boutiques around the state.


Submitted by Lisa Kettell,

Embroidery Hoops.jpeg

Embroidery hoops and circular art are hitting hard this year. From florals, design to party, the hoop is where it’s at. Put a picture inside, weave it up or create a centerpiece.


Submitted by Lisa Kettell,

We are seeing a spike in rainbow love! Watch for unique color palettes and styles – especially warm hues such as beige, creams, spicy oranges, rose, muted blues, violets and garden greens.


Submitted by Lisa Kettell,


Narwhals are back and bigger than ever. They are the new unicorn for 2019, while sloths are becoming the new llama.


Submitted by Lisa Kettell,


Move over pink: Orange is taking over. The hot color palette this year is corals, tropical citrus and muted pastels.


This month, we are pleased to introduce you to Jackie Janus, the Association For Creative Industries’ (AFCI) Trade Show Manager based in the Chicago office. Jackie will contribute to the coordination of all aspects of Creativation to ensure a successful event for the people in attendance.

Where are you from?

I live in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago.

What’s your favorite craft and/or hobby?

Crafting is not a strong suit of mine. I keep up with photo books and my daughter’s baby book, but usually I just envy craft people. My favorite hobby currently is gardening and making my yard look pretty!

Any cool DIY projects you’ve tackled?

I’ve painted and refinished some old furniture. When we bought our house, I received some old furniture from family. I sanded, painted and changed out the hardware to make it more modern and fit within the décor of my house.

What’s the creative project you’d like to try?

I’d like to try a stamping project. When I attended Creativation 2019, the stamp options were so intriguing to me!


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 Jim Scatena.

Jim Scatena

AFCI: You have had an impressive career in the industry. Can you tell us more about your background?

JIM: I’ve called this industry home for 35 years. In 2017 I retired as President & CEO of FloraCraft Corporation. Prior to that, I was vice president and general manager of Wilton Enterprises; and director of sales at Crayola. I now serve as a management consultant and advisor.

AFCI: How long have you been a member of AFCI?

JIM: I have been a consistent member in the industry associations since 1984. I was drawn to the Association for the opportunities it provided to participate in building the creative industry. I was chairman of both the Hobby Industry of America (HIA) and later the Association of Crafts & Creative Industries (ACCI). I played a key role in the merger of those two associations into one global trade association which became the Craft & Hobby Association (CHA), now AFCI. I eventually served as the Association’s Chairman and Chief Governance office of the Board of Directors.      

AFCI: What do you hope to achieve serving on the AFCI Board this time around?

JIM: I hope to combine my industry experience with my business development skills to help the AFCI Board and staff create growth opportunities for all AFCI members.

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

JIM: AFCI is the most important association for anyone at any level in the creative industry. Influencer, designer, buyer or seller, you will have the opportunity to network and connect with significant industry resources who are all willing to share and help you grow.

AFCI: What is your favorite memory from an AFCI event?

JIM:  I attended my first craft industry trade show in 1986 and fell in love with the energy, creativity and people who were so dedicated to serving the needs of the creative consumer.  My favorite memory was seeing a small, new creative products supplier be recognized at Creativation for the Best New Product!

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.