Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Last CHA CHA

Several customers have written as to the whereabouts of my annual Craft and Hobby Association (CHA) convention post. I must admit, I was so depressed after my day there in February, I could hardly think, much less write. No, I needed some time and distance. And, as it often goes with me, time and distance remove the need to write about it. But after reading so many blogs about how great it was... it's time the truth came out.

The Craft industry is on life support. That was my "tweet" on Facebook the Monday after the show and I still feel that way. It suddenly drove home for me that my lack of income isn't because I ran my own business into the's bad everywhere. This show is what galvanized my decision to find a "real" job.

I should've had a clue that something was wrong the second I arrived. I park in the back and have to enter a long tunnel beside the show floor to come out in front and get my show badge. Normally, I can hear muted voices in the show next door. But being in the tunnel is like a vacuum. And the second I open the double doors next to the new product area, all those voices magnify and hit with a wallop. I was so excited as I approached. And then I opened the doors and ...nothing!

I looked around and the new product area was not open, but I needed to go upstairs to get my badge. I looked all around on the escalator for some glimmer of recognition and finally decided I had my days mixed up. I was certain I had driven all that way on the wrong day!

Before I got off the escalator, I decided I would go find a friend and just work in their booth setting up. But then I saw a guard, wearing a CHA badge. I looked past him...the booths were set up...but where were the shoppers???

I walked the whole show floor in about four hours - including placing orders for the shop and talking with friends! A far cry from the year I didn't think I saw it all in 4 1/2 days there! I figure with all the vendors MIA on the main floor and the new product floor MIA altogether, there were between 50 and 60 AISLES of missing goods on the show floor! So here's a good visual for you.:

Compare the 08 and 09 showbooks!

It's not just the economy, Stupid! So we can blame this on the times such as they are but I don't think that is entirely to blame. I think some of the problem lies with networks such as HGTV and their ilk. Years ago, someone there decided crafting had to be "edgy." Edgy? It's crafting, not fashion!

Every show they put on after Carol Duvall went off the air had to be edgy. And it's there that they underestimated their audience. There are plenty of people in this country and around the world that LOVE to craft. It doesn't need to be "edgy." People who craft are impressed with a cool idea for a handmade card or a unique way to make a doll. But you can't convince the networks of that. When the networks want edgy, the craft companies will blindly follow.

And I have to say, walking that show floor with my producer's eye, always looking for new talent and new ideas, there wasn't much there to impress. The new demo talent just doesn't have the charisma. Maybe, they are all being trained to be "edgy."

When I think of the launch of HGTV, the top shows were Carol Duvall, Gardening by the Yard and Matt & Shari. Without fail, each of these shows were a little cheesy. All broke the fourth wall.* And all the hosts came across as salt of the earth, neighborly people. Having worked with three out of the four hosts, I can say it wasn't an act. They are the kind of folks you'd love to have a conversation or a cup of coffee with. And I still say shows like that have a real place on cable and even network tv. The audience is there. They just don't want to watch shows that portray crafters as crazy. Or edgy.

There were some good things: I fell in love with The Painter's Pyramid which allow you to paint all the sides of something and not allow it to stick to the table! (Been there, done that!)

The Painter's Pyramid

Of course, the part of me that wishes I was an inventor is kicking myself over this one! I saved those little plastic "pizza tables" for years - you know the little bit of plastic that keeps the lid from crushing a hot, fresh pizza??? Well, I used them to elevate my painted work ....just wish I'd thought of marketing it! LOL!

I loved the giant 3D puzzles perfect for classrooms made by Total Class Creative. They have both chipboard and wood items ready to paint, decorate and assemble. Check out these eggs! They even have kid furniture too!

Total Class Creative's Holiday Eggs

Diamond Tech has come out with decals that can be fused in glass... so cool! And they have a new book out called Simply Fused that is really fun!

And last, but never least, the nice folks at Plano Molding / Creative Options have expanded upon their crafter's organizers and carry-alls. This fantastic line just gets better and better! And, it's made in America!

So that's the good and bad of it. There are still plenty of craft companies out there, making cool stuff to make crafting fun and easy. And it's still a fantastic way to spend time with your family. There's nothing like making something yourself. The business will survive but I think it's going to be a pretty rough couple of years...


*The fourth wall is a film term meaning you acknowledge the cameras and or the audience. Viewers see three walls with the camera (eyes of the viewers) being the fourth. In the early days of these cable networks, they shot many shows a day and there was no time to stop for retakes. The hosts were often asking the camera crew if they got the shot. Once, a pencil rolled off Carol Duvall's table and you see the hand of the floor manager reaching up from the bottom of the frame to hand it back to her.


Becky said...

Amen, sister for telling the real deal. I was at CHA the year they were doing an open casting call for a new craft show. They were looking for someone hip and young. I watched several of the auditions and just shook my head. What does purple hair and tattoos have to do with crafting?

Bring Carol back, bring Carol back. She set the bar high!

Anonymous said...

I guess the channels want something "new" instead of the "same old, same old". But there needs to be a happy medium-some people would like to know how to do some "old stuff" that they didn't know about a few years ago.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

Janet, it's not about new information. There are NO new crafts...just new spins. It's about the way they think it needs to be presented.