Summit of Awesome Coverage: Day 2

Craft & Design Home

photo by Hello Craft
Thursday was the longest day of the Summit of Awesome, kicking off with breakfast at 8:30 and winding down with the final afternoon session at 5:00. I taught two sessions myself midday (Jewelry Making and Craft Writing + Publishing) but spent the rest of the time checking out as many other things as I could — it was an amazing line-up!
photo by Hello Craft
During the first morning session, Angie Heiney and Ali Wykhuis of Frock and Pat Castaldo and Aaron Tuller of BuyOlympia gave a super-informative talk on how to run a brick and mortar shop. Torie Nguyen of Totinette said, “It was full of great information and funny anecdotes. They all graciously shared what to do (and what NOT to do) in setting up and running a store. I loved it!” Jena Coray of Modish added, “They talked about the ups and downs, the good and the bad and reaffirmed that you need to be really committed and prepared before you open up shop.”

photo by Leah Pellegrini
photo by Hello Craft
Meanwhile, Amanda Siska of Bread and Badger took the Encaustic Painting workshop with Bridget Benton and commented, “It was kind of like a craft challenge in itself, since the limited time for the workshop wasn’t exactly enough time to create a masterpiece. The wax painting method needed a lot of explanation, and then we pretty much just dove into it! I actually really loved that we weren’t able to nit-pick about our work, since it’s so easy to be really anal and judgmental of your own work when trying a new art technique. The creative frenzy that ensued was completely cathartic.”
Torie Nguyen took Caitlin Phillips‘ How To Maximize Your Craft Show Sales class, and said, “I love being a vendor at craft fairs, but one thing I’m not so great at is actively selling my wares. Caitlin is a saleslady extraordinaire! I brushed up on my selling tips and learned so many ways to improve my craft fair game.”
photo by Hello Craft
Amanda Siska attended Rebecca Pearcy’s session on The Story of Queen Bee Creations, and said, “This was a rare opportunity to really hear about how a successful business has evolved over the years. It felt like a conversation between friends, instead of a lecture, which is exactly what I was hoping for. I love hearing about the reality of day-to-day operations that other businesses deal with, especially since I’m at a point in my own business where I feel like I’m approaching a lot of decisions about growth and expansion, and talking to people who’ve experienced these things offers a lot of relief.”
Jolie Griffin of Handmade in Portland added, “When a question came up about a change to her style of wallets, we all dove into our Queen Bee bags to pull out our Queen Bee wallets to compare!”
I taught my first session, Jewelry Making, in the Make Something Awesome area, and brought vintage beads, chain, findings, and extras along for what turned out to be a super fun open crafting session. Everyone chose colorful beads and embellishments to turn into necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and nametag charms, and teaching the basic wirework and stringing techniques was such a great and instant-gratification experience. We got a quick class photo of most of us wearing the new pieces, and I loved seeing them sparkle here and there as we crossed paths during the rest of the Summit!
photo by Kim Werker
Meanwhile, Kim Werker led her Mighty Ugly craft session a few tables away, which was very fun crafty synergy. Her students enthusiastically whipped up monsters of all shapes and sizes, adding all kinds of fanciful limbs, features, and accessories with the array of materials Kim brought to use — her toolbox had everything in it, and in fact, I borrowed some duct tape for one of our projects! Kim said, “Participants worked hard to create a hideous creature (don’t tell them, but some of them turned out pretty adorable), and we all ended up concocting an imaginary family all the creatures were a part of. It was kind of like elementary school, in all the best ways. I wish we’d had an hour to play with our dolls after we finished making them.”
photo by Hello Craft
Lunch coincided with a Craftnote address from Pat and Aaron of Buy Olympia, who gave a funny and engaging talk on starting a fledgling handmade business on the Internet in the days of faxes and knuckle-buster credit card machine, and growing it from offering a single Nikki McClure calendar into a diverse and sustainable online business (now with a storefront attached, Land Gallery). I love Buy Olympia and have shopped with them for years, so it was really great to get a peek at their larger history and a sense of who they are.
Amanda Siska added, “I know Pat and Aaron at Buy Olympia from my experience selling to their shop, but I really loved hearing them tell their story of how their business has come together over the years from all of these different places. They’ve worn many hats, and it’s like every project they’ve worked on together has been a puzzle piece that eventually came together to make their business what it is today. It’s encouraging to hear that there really isn’t any one ‘right’ way to find success.”
photo by Hello Craft
For the first afternoon session, I gave a talk on Craft Writing & Publishing and was really thrilled to work with a room full of people who were just as interested in this little corner of the craft business world as I am. They had great questions and brought so much energy and enthusiasm to the topic — to me, it was especially cool since (like a lot of us) I work alone at home and mostly on deadline, and this chance to answer thoughtful questions and have conversations about what we do in such an encouraging and interactive setting was such a treat. It was great to get to share tips and ideas I’ve learned along the way, and hear what other people are most interested in focusing on in our field, too. By the way, the book I’m holding in the photo is one I highly recommend, How to Write a Book Proposal.
photo by Lee Meredith
Amanda Siska taught Glass Etching during the same timeslot, and said, “I brought my dental drill and handmade air filter fan with me, and I got to show people how I started out making my engraved products. I also had an assortment of glassware and stencil-making materials so people could try out a different etching method. One of the highlights of the event for me was showing crafting celebrity Mark Montano how my engraving drill works.” Lee Meredith of Leethal made an extremely cool knitting-themed glass in the workshop!
photo by Hello Craft
Jen Neitzel of DIY Lounge ran an Embellishment workshop right across the Make Something Awesome area, encouraging everyone to bring in clothes or favorite accessories for ornamenting with fabric, surface design, and plenty of other fun hands-on techniques.
photo by Hello Craft
After her session ended, Jen headed over to How to Pitch to a Magazine or Blog, which was taught by Kim Werker and Jena Coray, and said, “This was an amazing session! Kim and Jena offered so many ideas for ways to approach the people who can profile your work and help take your business to the next level. I loved the practical tips they shared and myths that they dispelled about how to market yourself when you want press for your creative business. Some of these ideas I have learned over time through trial error, but to have someone affirming what you suspected saves so much guess work. I have a clear strategy for the future!”
I went to Namita Gupta Wiggers of the Museum of Contemporary Craft‘s talk on Working with Museums, which was a fascinating look at how craft artists and teachers can potentially get involved with institutions – teaching, curating, or working towards craft pieces in permanent collections. Namita discussed the role of guilds, the Museum’s I Heart Art partnership with Etsy and Pacific Northwest College of Art, and critical writing on the current craft movement.
photo by Kim Werker
After that, Heidi Kenney of My Paper Crane led a Plush Making workshop and gave us all the materials to make her adorable fortune cookies (which we each got to bring home in a take-out box!).
photo by Kim Werker
It was so nice to relax with a little hand-sewing project and chat with friends, and I loved how much personality each little cookie had once we added Heidi’s signature felt eyes and embroidered mouth.
And I got to drop in on the last section of Diane Gilleland of Craftypod‘s Blog Tune Up class (a short, in-person version of her stellar online class of the same topic) which was limited to a dozen students. Diane carefully worked with each person in turn on the focuses of their blogs, what could be improved or changed, and what elements really stood out and could potentially strengthen their handmade businesses, and organized round-table constructive criticism from the other participants. Jen Neitzel came to the class to get feedback on her DIY Lounge blog and commented, “Of all the Summit classes, in particular I was really impressed with Diane Gilleland’s blogging tune-up session. It inspired me and gave me a clear direction to work toward.”
After the Summit finished up for the afternoon, Land Gallery hosted a crafty mixer for participants, including a chance to see Emily Martin of The Black Apple‘s art show, “Lost on the Midway.”
photo by Kim Werker
They also offered a top-to-bottom warehouse tour of BuyOlympia HQ, giving crafters a chance to see the inner workings of a thriving business, from the shelves to the shipping center.
photo by Hello Craft
My coverage of Day 3 of the Summit, plus a look at Saturday’s gorgeous Show of Awesome, will go up early next week… see you then!

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Susan Beal is a West Coast freelance writer and lover of all things crafty who lives in Portland, Oregon. She writes for Stitch, CRAFT, ReadyMade, BUST, Venus, BurdaStyle, and CraftStylish. She's the author of Bead Simple, Button It Up, Modern Log Cabin Quilting, and World of Geekcraft.

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