I went to Ventura, CA for Craftcation last week, and while I’m definitely glad to be back with my husband and my boys, it was still difficult to go back to the “real world.”
As the fog in Astoria is slow to dissipate to sunshine, I am missing those sunny California skies (and my lack of allergy triggers!), but am glad I managed to take some of that warm weather with me.
Craftcation is a business and maker’s conference that features business workshops and DIY/crafting classes. It’s four days of sheer awesomeness, and once you walk into the Ventura Beach Marriott, you’re immediately immersed in the vibes of a come-as-you-are, everyone’s welcome, creative community. If you’re attending the conference, you’re part of the not-so-secret club, whether or not you have a business, or are crafty at all.
Last year I attended my first Craftcation and brought along my husband, and we had so much fun that I was compelled to contribute in some fashion the next year. Fast forward to 2017, and I had the incredible chance of teaching a course.
I taught crafty folks how to make a Gamaguchi Clutch (aka my Oh, Snap! Clutch) Thursday morning, the first day of the conference.
It was SO much fun, and I think my students had a great time, too! I’m thankful for the skills I picked up in college theatre courses, for we had to improvise when the arsenal of irons tripped the circuits outside the classroom, and when the glue wasn’t what I use at home, but my students were great at rolling with the punches and in the end EVERYONE finished their clutch!!
I had a few people in the class who either hadn’t sewn much, or had ever touched a sewing machine! I was so excited they were willing to give it a shot- the next thing I knew, I saw a few folks trying out sergers in the general sewing area once the class was over! I’d call that a success. I was also thankful that I had the same Bernina B350 at home, so I was able to troubleshoot with the ladies who lent the Cotton + Steel Berninas from Baron’s Sewing Center.
Friday evening was the Wanderings experience; an art walk where attendees can create an experience, right in their hotel room. Other attendees wander from room to room, gathering stamps on their Wanderings Passport, and experiencing whatever the rooms had to offer. Experiences ranged from a “Get Lucky Lounge,” brought to you by Lela and Shannon of Lucky Break Consulting (they also won for best room), to a Dinosaur Jesus experience (I was so bummed to have missed this one!!), and many others.
I opted to host an experience this year, and my smarty pants creative husband came up with the idea:
IRON CRAFT AMERICA!
It’s like Iron Chef America, but with crafts. I created three “stations” in my room, where competitors could go head-to-head in the ultimate crafting competition!
Competitors had a basic crafting pack that consisted of paper, scissors, glue, markers, and pencils. In paper bags were the “Secret Ingredients,” which each mini competition had to work with their basic craft pack. Each competitor had only five minutes to create a craft consisting of their basic craft pack and they had to incorporate the secret ingredient in some fashion.
LEFT: A rad nameplate with “I’m CEO, BITCH!”, and RIGHT: Rosalie gets fed up and creates a popsicle-stick creation declaring “Fuck Crafts!”
It was SO much fun, and SO many people really committed themselves to the competition, having fun, and being incredibly creative. I was in awe at all the amazing creations that were being constructed in five minutes.
I hope we get to recreate Iron Craft America in some form for next year!
Delilah and Nicole, the forces behind Craftcation (and Patchwork Show, and their Dear Handmade Life podcast, and their own respective businesses–do they EVER sleep?!), do SUCH an amazing job at coordinating and planning the event. They have an incredibly rad core of employees and volunteers to help the event run smoothly.
We got to have lunch at Ventura City Hall twice, and each meal they served (including dinner on Thursday night) was so so so good.
And yes, The Tavern (location of the Saturday night Dance Party) still had my favorite magical Swedish cider in stock that I discovered last year. Win-Win!
It was really interesting comparing my experience from last year’s Craftcation to this year’s conference. Last year, I approached the conference head-on, and in the most Type-A fashion (as I do). I took ALL the business courses, and sent my husband to the ones that conflicted with the ones I was taking.
I think Craftcation is magical in that you get out of it what you need most at that time. Last year, I needed lots of help in wholesale, pitching, and social media. While I wouldn’t say I’m “done” with learning about those aspects of my business, Craftcation helped push me to make progress on those things to the point where I’ll need to pay someone to go even further (this is a GOOD thing, people!).
This year was different. This mama is tired. This mama works A LOT, for not a lot in the bank account. I went to Craftcation with a plan, but one that was fluid. There were definitely some things that HAD to get done (teaching my class, conducting office hours to help other makers, Iron Craft America), but I found myself taking more down time, taking more crafting classes, and simply chatting with others.
I had the opportunity to sit and eat lunch on the lawn of Ventura City Hall with Arianne Foulks of Aeolidia and Lela Barker of Lucky Break Consulting and simply listen. I’ve worked with Lela before (I took her LBU wholesale course last year and it was amazing), and I got to meet Arianne for the first time in person, which was especially rewarding, as I’ve read her blog and been a newsletter subscriber for a while now.
While I definitely did my share of talking at Craftcation, I find myself shutting up and listening more. I’m not sure if it’s an age thing, or doing this more and more in life in general, or the fact that much of my time is spent listening to voices of humans under the age of six. Regardless, it was refreshing to sit among other makers and listen.
I had an unexpected moment to have Office Hours with Arianne and Shoshanna from Aeolidia, and in 10 minutes, they KICKED MY ASS regarding my website. Don’t worry- it was all very very good feedback. They pointed out things that I didn’t even notice, as I tend to get too close to my own business to see obvious things that might confuse customers.
I had the opportunity to host Office Hours, where fellow attendees could sign up during a predetermined timeslot and get one-on-one time with an expert.
While I don’t consider myself to be an expert of any sort, I signed up to host Office Hours on a whim last year for this year’s conference. It ended up being just the thing I needed- ever since the beginning of this year, I’ve grappled with a huge case of Impostor Syndrome, and have had a hard time shaking it.
Hosting Office Hours, while terrifying at first, was exhilarating, especially when most of the folks who actually signed up with me (yes, I had people sign up! That in and of itself was exciting!), told me that I had helped them. My focus was to help others break down a seemingly insurmountable task into smaller, actionable chunks. In the span of 15 minutes. Good thing I’m a fast talker.
It was redeeming to have successful Office Hours- while again, I am no expert, but I do know I am good at knowing where to go or look when I’m figuring something out.
Not to get all woo-woo on you, but with Mercury being in retrograde during the conference, it might mean transportation snafus (there were definitely some!), it also is a great time to reflect. I found it an excellent time to step outside of my business, something I don’t take time to do on a regular basis. I’m planning on implementing some changes to further my business, but also offer up some more freedom to you know, live life and everything.
I hope to get an opportunity to teach and help other makers at Craftcation next year! I hate that I have to spend a year not seeing all the amazing faces and talented folks I connected with this year.
Hey there, I'm Holly Marsh (Maker/Illustrator/Mama/Nerd), the force behind MarshMueller. I started the company in 2011 after getting frustrated with the ho-hum options in big box stores when creating my first son's woodland-animal-themed nursery. I hand-pick every fabric, thread color, and zipper, design my own sewing patterns, and moosh them all together to create rad products for parents and gift-givers in my Astoria, Oregon studio (aka MarshMueller Secret Labs).
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