I asked Juliet Ames of The Broken Plate Pendant Company to send me her thoughts about being a part of the American Craft Council's AltCraft section. —JED
AltCraft Highs and Lows
I just wrapped up my first American Craft Council show as an exhibitor, and I must say it was exhausting, exhilarating, and motivating all at once. I had much the same feeling when I visited the show for the first time six years ago. I went as a part of a school trip at Towson University where I was an Inter-Disciplinary Craft major. I remember walking through, incredibly impressed with the work and thinking, “Maybe in 20 years, I will be ready for this.” Fast forward six years, I had no idea what to expect as I wheeled my suitcase of broken plate pieces into the convention center. The first day was, we’ll say, interesting. Apparently, the artists on the main floor where a little confused and resentful of the artists in the AltCraft section, where I was a vendor. The AltCraft section, in its 3rd year here, is billed as a section for artists from the “alternative craft movement.” Basically, we normally do smaller indie craft fairs like those organized by The Charm City Craft Mafia and Squidfire locally. Also, we have not done the ACC show before. AltCrafters get one year to exhibit in this space before competing for space on the main floor. It seemed that all that the main floor artists knew about us was that we paid less for our table space. The reception was a little less than friendly, but I can understand, I don’t think we were introduced properly.
During the first few days of the show, we were met by our fair share of confused customers as well. Some of these shoppers have been attending this show for 30 years and were put off by our penned in area of “punk rock craft.” I was even asked by one shopper, “Is this art time out?” This is one of the more positive questions I heard. After a short explanation, though, folks were happy to browse and get a taste for what is happening in the new craft movement. As mentally exhausting as constantly explaining our presence there was, it was such a great opportunity to expand our audience. Friday and Saturday were a totally different story. Many shoppers said they came just to see this section. The negative comments were replaced by, “Oh, this is where the cool stuff is!” Quite a few Etsy shoppers, who had never even heard of this show, came out and discovered a new February tradition. Just what the Craft Council and the artists are hoping for.
I do really appreciate what The American Craft Council is trying to accomplish with the AltCraft section, and am so thankful for the opportunity. In the end we are all just artists trying to make a living doing what we do best. I can’t help that what I do best is break plates. We all have to start somewhere, right? The section just needs better integration with the rest of the show and better explanation to the other vendors and shoppers. I will defiantly apply for a spot on the main floor next year, I feel like I will be able to communicate a lot more in a 10x10 area and will be spending a lot less time explaining my presence there. Hopefully I’ll see you next year, and I will be sure to bring the AltCrafters a welcome basket or something.—Juliet Ames
(Image by Allison Formich of Tigerlillyshop.)