It's been a few weeks now and I've managed to get back to routine, but I had an amazing time at Craftcation in Ventura! Hold onto your hats folks, this post is a long one!
tl;dr: Craftcation is a makers/business owners conference in Ventura, California, and if that appeals to you in any way, you should just attend next year.
If you're not familiar with Craftcation, you're in for a treat. It's a five-day business and makers conference put on by Nicole and team of Dear Handmade Life. Even if you don't have a business or entrepreneurial aspirations, you can still attend and combine a vacation with all things craft.
This year was my fourth year attending and my third year teaching! It's something I look forward to all year and come home brimming with ideas for my business and ways to help others with theirs.
The best way to give you a glance into what this conference is all about is to show my own highlights from each day.
Day 1 : Wednesday : Arrival
My friend Helen (who runs Barnwell Soap Co. and works with me at Aeolidia) was my gracious overnight host, as we had an early flight to catch Wednesday. We ran into The Paper Mama and Amber of Handwritten Revolution on our journey from Portland to Burbank, and then on to Ventura. It never ceases to amaze me at how this conference helps create instant friends- especially for someone who can be awkward with introductions like I can be!
Once we were all checked in and refreshed with breakfast/lunch, we all split off. I did something new this year and offered consults with Aeolidia, so I got to help some fellow business owners find an area of focus, determine what ecommerce selling platform they should be on, and action steps to get there.
My Craftcation roomie, Marlo of The Handmade Showroom, and I decided to go low key for dinner and got In-N-Out and vegged on Office Space in our room to end the first night of the conference. It was the best.
This year was all about trying new things from a leadership standpoint. Last year I actually brought my running stuff AND used it! I loved running in Ventura so much that this year I wanted to bring some folks along with me. I started the Slow Runners Club, and even made t-shirts.
I used a third-party print-on-demand fulfillment company for the tees, and to be honest, I was super disappointed with the quality, the turnaround, and the cost (which was WAY higher than initially quoted). If I attempt a tee for next year, I'll employ my local screen printer.
But- the run- it was super fun! We had a handful of folks join and some ran, some ran/walked, and some walked. We all trotted down to Marina Park (which uses COMIC SANS for their sign font, ugh), and enjoyed the sounds of the ocean and the pirate ship fixture at the park before heading back.
It was plenty of time to head to Starbucks and grab coffee and breakfast, then to Vons (aka Safeway in my neck of the woods) to grab perishables because hallelujah the hotel rooms at the Ventura Beach Marriott now had mini fridges since the remodel.
Classes for the first official full day of Craftcation started at 10am, which kicked off the first of my three Think Tank classes. Most business workshops at Craftcation can house a lot of attendees and don't need a reservation, but Think Tanks are designed to be smaller, need a reservation, and can offer more personalized instruction for business-related topics.
My first Think Tank covered Newsletter Content, where I took a group of 15-20 students (there was a waitlist and I tried to squeeze folks in!) through not only determining the content within their newsletter, we put pen to paper and planned out how often those newsletters would be sent, scheduled the days, AND scheduled the time to work on writing the content.
It's so easy to go to a conference or trade show, etc., and arrive home with so many ideas and a motivation to do ALL THE THINGS, but I learned a while ago when I was a Buyer that you end up spinning your wheels on all those ideas and don't make as much progress as you'd like. So either you narrow your focus on a few things, or you implement the plan of action right then and there. :)
OF COURSE I got carried away with working with the Think Tank that I completely forgot to take a photo. D'oh!
After the Think Tank I finally got to have Sarah Deragon take shots of me as part of her Not So Corporate Headshots at Craftcation. I've known Sarah since I've been going to Craftcation and she is a phenomenal human being (and crazy talented to boot!). It's been over 15 years since my last real headshot session (former actor, yo!), plus a few kids, a few pounds, a few career pivots, so I wasn't sure what to expect. Sarah put me at ease and we shot that shit in 18 minutes! The portfolio of images she sent were all SO wonderful. I don't normally like photos of myself, but these are special.
Then it was right back into Think Tanks- this time with Editorial Calendar content planning! Again, smaller group, and again, pen to paper. It was SO fun working with these ladies to help them develop a content strategy that didn't make them panic at the sheer amount of work. Running a business is a lot of work, and can be fun, but promoting one's business shouldn't be such a burden to where promotion doesn't happen at all.
After the Think Tank I jumped into another consult, which was super fun and something I definitely want to do again!
Thursday night is the opening dinner- we were bussed to the nearby fairgrounds and folks could opt into casual crafts, get books signed by presenters who have authored books, or kick back and socialize.
It's always great to catch up with folks, and I sat with the Aeolidia crew (finally got to meet Sam, our Accounts Manager, who I've worked with for two years but we've never met in person!), along with Lela Barker and her Lucky Break team. Dinner was delicious as always, and Aura Dome was there, so I jumped at the chance to get my aura photographed.
Apparently I'm a rainbow! The owner (who is also the photographer and does the reading of the aura photos) said that I have all the healing colors, which is something I've never really thought about before. Add leadership, creativity, and love, and...pretty much all the colors in the aura. She mentioned the right bottom corner is two weeks into the future, which I'm in now as I write this post. It's funny because as she mentioned it, I already knew it was going to happen. I anticipate a letdown/hangover/The Sads after fun things like vacations, travel, and yes, Craftcation, and this year is no different. It'll get better soon; I'm already feeling the slump fall away.
Day 3 : Friday : Sewing + Iron Craft
Things kicked off bright and early (okay, it was 9am, which actually isn't bright and early but you get the idea) with the Bias Dress sewing workshop! My fellow coworkers Arianne and Helen from Aeolidia made dresses in this class last year and I loved them so much that I had to take it this year.
We are fortunate to be able to sew on Bernina B350 machines at Craftcation, which is the same machine I use at home to make my products. The ladies from Baron's Sewing Center in LA bring the machines (and then sell them at a discount, which is rare!), teach classes, and provide machine expertise when a machine is acting up...or when it's user error.
I must have left the sewing part of my brain back in Astoria, as I understood the concept, but had to make use of my seam ripper often during this class...I usually follow instructions to a T when it comes to following a sewing pattern but not this time, apparently. Oof.
End result: I made a dress! And I hacked it to include pockets! But it needs a LOT of alteration- it fits well in the bust but no where else. C'est la vie- this is my life and clothing in general.
Then it was on to The Tavern, one of my fave places in Ventura. My friend Sheryl of Skerlie B finally arrived at the conference and we got to hang out in the sun on the back deck.
Ok, this image is from our legging class because we forgot to get a pic every time we were together, haha.
After lunch, it was on to the underwear sewing class! Yes, underwear, and yes I was Ready. For. This. I'm very picky with my undergarments so I was excited to learn about how I could make them myself.
Meghann of Halfmoon Atelier was the instructor and we used her pattern and her expertise to make our own undies. I was so happy to take a class from Meghann; she's so calm, inclusive, and genuine. Not to mention we both have Eastern Washington State roots and now live near the water (ok, she actually lives on an ISLAND and it sounds so amazing!).
Spoonflower was rad and sponsored the fabric for the class, so we all got to order a yard of cotton spandex jersey to bring with us to sew our undies. I chose my Killer Rabbits pattern, my own homage to Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
The class was in the shorter time slot so I didn't quite finish the undies, but I got the foundational knowledge to do them myself.
Then it was time to prepare for Iron Craft, the Happy Hour event of the evening. Iron Craft is a crafting competition much like Iron Chef, but for crafts. It was originally a Wanderings room experience two years ago, which was madness to run in a hotel room! I'm so glad Nicole brought the event out into the Marriott lobby for a Happy Hour event.
We had to draw names for competitors, as we had more people than spots sign up to compete, and everyone crafted their holy heart out in three rounds. Each round featured a new set of secret ingredients, which were items the conference's sponsor supplied (like Darice, who was the biggest sponsor this year!).
It was madness. It was creative chaos. We had a WINE SPONSOR (Day Owl Rosé).
The crafting was phenomenal (the competitors only had five minutes to make their craft), and the competition even got a little NSFW in what was created! So many competitors thought outside the box and ultimately a winner was crowned- Sheri Cecil. This event continues to be one of my favorites, and I'm so glad I get to emcee it.
Big thanks to all the competitors, the volunteers who help pull this event off, Jennifer Perkins, Rosalie Gale, and Keith from Darice for being our judges, and congrats to Sheri Cecil as the 2019 Master Crafter!
And big big thanks to my rad co-host Mark Montano, who is one of the most talented and nicest people on the planet.
The evening was capped by Wanderings, which is an art walk that takes place in participating attendees' hotel rooms. Experiences can range from pop up shops, art experiences, tarot readings, a temporary tattoo parlor, and yes, even a crazy crafting competition.
Day 4 : Saturday : A Little More Low Key
My second newsletter Think Tank kicked off Saturday, and I actually remembered to get a photo of the class!
Then it was off to lunch with the Aeolidia crew- we had a limited amount of time, as we all had classes at 2pm, so we found a cute New Orleans-inspired cafe in Ventura to refuel.
Next up was Sew Your Own Leggings/Yoga Pants and this class was AMAZING. The instructors, Allysia Holland and Jill Bates-Moore, are attorneys by day, sewing instructors by Craftcation. Not only did we sew leggings, they were CUSTOM FIT. Yes, part of the class was measuring our bodies, doing some math, and drafting our very own custom pattern. We got to use the softest brushed poly knit fabric and I want to wear my leggings all the time now.
Allysia and Jill were so much fun to have as instructors- it was so great to see so many people of different heights and sizes strutting their stuff down the classroom runway (while the class chanted "Runway! Runway! Runway") with handmade leggings that fit like a glove. Or well-fitted leggings.
I ended the day having dinner with Sheryl at this amazing Italian restaurant where they had good wine and phenomenal lasagna.
Day 5 :: Farewell
The last day of Craftcation is always bittersweet. We're all tired- tired from the go-go-go pace of the conference- even for the smart people who don't pack their schedule to the brim...ahem...not me, haha.
Amy Tangerine was the closing keynote speaker, and DANG if you don't know her, you should get to know her. She's been presenting at Craftcation for many years, and is so flipping talented and hardworking. She talked about how her successful career had its own set of roadblocks, pivots, and challenges. It's always reassuring to see successful business owners who are open to sharing those challenges, as it's not something that's talked about often.
If you know me, you'll know I'm not one to easily cry. It's not a "I don't cry in public" thing...I've just never been one to cry super easily. But Amy had me in tears when talking about the permission slip in her book, Craft A Life You Love. The permission slip at its core is about self-care as a creative person, and how being creative helps us be better people when it comes to every facet of our lives. That hit hard. Sometimes I get so caught up in life- the day job, the kids, housework, bills, etc., that it's so hard to carve out that time to be creative but it's something that is essential for creative folks to function well. Needless to say, I totally bought her book and have been working through it...and trying to be creative every day.
We all posed for a huge group photo in the lobby, and then it was onto my last class- Intro to Shopify! I was really excited to teach this class because I've been using the platform for both my retail and wholesale business for four years now, and the work I do at Aeolidia is all about Shopify. I was worried with the class being on the last day of the conference that there would be minimal attendance, but I was surprised to see a decent turnout of folks- all of them had excellent questions and I was happy to be able to answer most of them.
At that point, my brain was full so I declared myself done with classes (I was planning to attend a biz workshop) and went to a late brunch with Helen and a stop at Superbuzzy.
Then it was time to head home- April of April Gloom was gracious to give Helen and me a ride to the Burbank airport (after a mixup with a ride with another instructor that nearly had us go to LAX!), and we all made it home safely.
If you've managed to stick around to the end, thanks for reading!
Craftcation is something I look forward to every year. It's one of those experiences where you walk in and immediately the other folks "get" you. You can be the ultimate version of yourself. No judgement. No jerks. Just creativity, inclusiveness, biz smarts, and connection.
Hey there, I'm Holly Marsh, the illustrator/nerd running the show here at hollymarshmallow. I love to draw, and write, and I'm so grateful you're here to read the weird stuff that comes outta my brain sometimes.
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