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Why Young People Care About Handmade Things

I could use your help, I’m writing a speech in the next couple of

Next week I will be on the panel of a seminar. The paragraph below
describes what the seminar is about.

“Appealing to Young Collectors, Why Young People Care About Handmade

Puzzled by what to buy or make for the 18-35 age group? Clueless
about what the “crazy kids” are doing these days? Craft is back! A
new generation of crafters – motivated by environmentalism, social
responsibility and a punk aesthetic – have become the catalyst for a
resurgence in handmade. DIY ethics give these socially conscious
consumers a special appreciation for what you do. Learn what
pop-culture influences have shaped their artistic tastes. Find out
how you can engage these newcomers to craft by understanding your
differences – and your many similarities.

I am supposed to speak from the view of an Artist, I have my own
jewelry business on the side.

I am also going to speak from the perspective of a show manager and
what trends I’m seeing and how I think we could get younger artists
into the show, Buyers Market of American Craft.

I would love your opinion, if you could share your experiences, and
even if you have more questions to pose that will really get the
ideas flowing.

Thanks for your help!

Valerie, I see the large producers of jewelry burning out the market
with sameness. While the craft movement of the 50’s and 60’s was a
backlash to the machine produced, this resurgence is a backlash to
handmade super production and mass production.

My market has completely gone to one of pieces, I had spent 10 years
developing a line I could have made by a maquiladore producer (all
handmade) and casting and now my market is reversed to my own work
with my own hallmark made by me, not just my design. Interesting.

Sam Patania, Tucson

Hey Valerie!

I’d have to say my opinion is pretty skewed as I graduated with a
BFA and stayed in my college town, so there are a lot of young
artists here. I also have a shop on Etsy which is an amazing
community of artists and crafters of all ages, many of which do fall
in to the 18 - 35 age group. I started giving gifts of things I made
when I was in high school. I didn’t have a lot of money to buy
presents, so making something always seemed to work well. I gave
pottery and photographs and paintings, mostly now jewelry. It was
thoughtful and it meant more b/c it came from my own hands than just
buying something at a store that might have been made in a factory
somewhere. On the receiving end, getting a gift that I know took time
and love really does mean a lot to me. There is a much different
feeling in having the direct connection to the artist.

I feel like I could write an essay on this! I need to get back to
work right now though.

If you aren’t familiar with Etsy - - you should definitely
check it out and you might try posting in the forums there, as most
are artists and crafters close to that age range!

Good Luck - its a great topic!
Beth Cyr

Aloha! Valerie,

Re: your conference Speech, I was a School Guidance Counselor/
School Administrator, in the toughest city section of Philadelphia.
Take me to conference I’ll tell you all about how I opened a school
for the adolescent’s, It’s called Aloha Acres, in Estell Manor NJ. I
along with my students have never felt the love for Life as we do
now. The things we need such as mortgage fee, and supplies are the
only things that slow us down. We ask a favor of you, If you know of
any charities out there that can help us please let us know? many
thanks and feel free to write back.


You should read up at Craft zine blog and Indie Public, read the
blogs at Etsy.


Also check out Handmade 2.0 - The New York Times an article by Rob
Walker. It has some good points in it.


Check out Handmade Nation a documentary about The Rise of DIY Art,
Craft & Design coming out this year. It is in post production now.
The book of the same name is due out in November of '08.

You should check out, european etsy),, and If you peruse these
sites and read their artist profiles you will get a good idea of what
they are all about. Go into the forums and see how hard they work to
get their name out.

Most of these artists market and network really well. Dialogue
through the internet is the key to selling.


My PhD work was on this concept. My reason about why this is
happening, which I will be presenting at NAEA (National Arts
Education Assiciation) Conference next month in New Orleans, is the
fact that the world is in a “renaissance” where the arts/artists are
looked at as philosophers once were. THey are merging globalization,
humanities and social issues together. What is happening now is what
Dr. Suzanne Lacy refers to as the “Great Turning”, where the world is
tired of technology, impersonalization, and ‘fast’ communities. The
younger generations are now opting for DIY activies, learning
domesticated crafts such as knitting, spinning(yarn), needlepoint and
quilting. These interests result in envoronmental and humanitarian
choices that better society as a whole and create kinder communities.
Good luck with your speech, I know you will do great. If you need any
more help, feel free to ask.

Nicole Wilkinson


I am the moderator on IndiePuplic for the jewelry forum. I was asked
by the individual who set up the site to do that. I love the people
I meet through the indie art scene. I have done the shows in Atlanta
and it is really fun and I do make money and find the craziest things
there. I am also a board member on the Nashville Craft Mafia. It is a
blast. There is so much energy and things get done. The artists come
from many diverse fields and network to get shows up and off the
ground. Many get the work out using street teams like music groups
have in the past to get people to their shows.


I think what Nicole says is correct to a point but there is a
difference in crafts as a hobby vs craft as a vocation. The young
people I know are making things that are products as well as craft
and trying to build a small business plan around that. Look at etsy.
The guy that started that likens the business plan to a character in
a children’s book named Swimmy who gets the fish to swim in formation
so that when there is a predator close by they form a bigger fish and
the predator is scared away. Etsy sees itself as the ‘eye’ of that
formation so the founder states. I think it is an interesting concept
and it is working.


Well I don’t think young people are tired of technology. The
handicrafts certainly provide a nice counterpoint to the technology,
but young people are finding a way to bring it all together. Many
people are combining DIY and technology. Look at Make 'zine as an


"Appealing to Young Collectors, Why Young People Care About
Handmade Things" 

I am a hand carver and do a lot of things in very old fashioned
ways. It would be great for me if people were more impressed with
"handmade". My impression is that they care a lot less about
"handmade" as in making things without a lot of technology, than we
did in the 1970s. I think they can be impressed with individually
creatively made things. We have some very powerful technology
available to the small scale producer these days and that artistic
content is as powerful as ever. It seems like you could do something
by hand badly 40 years ago and certain people were impressed and
gushed on about “dieing arts” Now I think it is taken for granted
that there are competent craftsmen in most media and these younger
folk have grown up with that. To be competitive it is far better to
stress design and creativity rather than process. It can still be an
intimate experience.

Stephen Walker

I missed some of this thread but I have to say that I don’t think a
larger percentage of the young population than the older population
is into handmade things. In modern times there has always been a
percentage of the population that appreciates handmade product.
However I will say that the younger population, raised with the
internet where everything happens instantly (or seemingly so), are
often far more concerned with speed than how the piece is produced.
We used to get customers who would come in months and months before
they needed a custom job because they appreciated the fact that a
handmade product took some time. Now they come in and ask to have
custom jobs made up by the end of the week (like on a Wednesday!). I
am fairly certain that this is a direct result of the rise of
internet shopping/as the speedy requests have directly
correlated with the rise of the internet. So while they may say they
want a handmade product, the questions that still arise aRe: Will
they really be willing to wait for the product? Will they pay extra
for it (another thing the internet has done is convince everyone that
most things are too expensive in the bricks and mortar world)? Will
they be willing to sacrifice those issues to get something handmade?
I can actually answer this the same way I began this post: There has
always been a percentage of the population, young and old, who will,
in order to get a handmade product (but I don’t think it’s
particularly gone up at all).

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140

There has always been a percentage of the population, young and
old, who will, in order to get a handmade product (but I don't
think it's particularly gone up at all). 

In the words of the late, great Jane Dornacker, a local radio
personality, “Something can be just as plain as the stars in the
sky, but when a scientist says it, that makes it news.”…

I think the internet makes it easy for buyers to find equally
beautiful handcrafted items available without a long wait, so maybe
that’s why there is a correlation. When I buy handmade items on
Etsy, I rarely order custom pieces. There is so much amazing work
out there that is already handmade, I don’t need to wait. I can get
something that fits my needs and my price range, that is amazing
well crafted and that is ready to ship the next day.

I’m 39 years old, neither young nor old (I hope.)


Quite some time ago, I was shocked by some “crafts” I came across on
the web. I had not realized there was an entire ‘underground’ craft
scene that was emerging in shows, on the web, and lately in books. I
saw art made mainly by and for for young people, that seemed to be a
reaction to traditional crafts. I remember twisted and freaked out
barbie dolls, crocheted skulls, and vulva bags. Almost everything
was reactionary, with an edge. Most of it seemed to “dare” the
viewer to comment. This is the audience I thought of when I read
your post, and I had fun googling around the web, looking for some
of those links. I never did find exactly what I was looking for, but
below are a bunch of links that I did find, which I think touch upon
the art/craft scene from a more youthful perspective. Lots of good
material for a seminar there, if one has the impetus to sort it all

Here are some irresistable quotes that exemplify:

“My favorite piece that I made in the class was a piece of soft,
undyed felt that I sculpted around a plain old rock. I sewed on a
turquoise zipper so that you can unzip the felt and take the rock
out. A custom-made jacket for a rock.”

“And an obsession for crocheting giant ten-foot doilies with
three-dimensional skull and hand-gun borders.”

"Ever tried knitting a trout or making a chandelier out of a kitchen
colander? "

“Everywhere I look I see little photocopied flyers for Bitchcraft,
notices for stitch’n’bitch groups, and packets of lternative cross
stitch patterns”

“Really, we were thrilled that crafting was de-grannified; we just
got tired of it having to be so dang perky all the time.”

Have fun, and good luck!
Lisa Weber

Someone else mentioned Etsy in a post yesterday. I took a look at
their jewelry offerings. They claim to be showing hand made things
but I found quite a few manufactured rings, typically 14K &
diamonds, many from 47th St. in NYC. I sent them an email inquiring
about it and am waiting for an answer. Does anyone have anything to
report on selling on Etsy?

Joel Schwalb

I think that the incredible rise of “How To” shows on TV are a
testament to the increased interest of younger people in handmade
things. Look at the hosts of these shows, they are all young and have
taken many crafts out of mothballs and helped increase interest in
them, including metalsmithing, woodworking, stone cutting, knitting,
quilt making, and so forth. The shows on DIY network include Jewelry
Making, B-Original, Craft Lab, Woodworks, Knitty Gritty, That’s
Clever (also known as Crafters Coast to Coast), Simply Quilts, Rock
Solid just to name a few. Look at the phenomenal success of the show
Project Runway. These young people have taken old skills and combined
them with new talents, materials, and means of educating the public
(i.e. technology). They are also showing an acute business sense.
There is a wealth of that is much more accessible today
because of the internet than there was 20 years ago. If young people
completely lose intrest in handmade things, we have only ourselves to
blame. I grew up the granddaughter and daughter of professional
seamstresses, and have sewn professionally myself. Over the last year
I have had close to a dozen young women beg me to teach them how to
sew because they don’t want the same old thing that everyone else
has. As the parent of young adults, I see this happening in many of
the so called dying crafts. Remember the saying “Everything old is
new again”.

Priscilla Fritsch


They claim to be showing hand made things but I found quite a few
manufactured rings 

I was interested in Etsy until I saw the same thing, and beside it
has limited filtering capabilities making it difficult for someone
who WANTS to find you get to you.


Someone else mentioned Etsy in a post yesterday. I took a look at
their jewelry offerings. They claim to be showing hand made things
but I found quite a few manufactured rings 

I noticed a few machined pieces on there too, so I’m wondering what
the definition of hand made is to them.

Sam Patania, Tucson