ANAHEIM Crafting is a $31.5 billion industry. Some 56.8 percent of American households about 63 million participated in crafts last year. Some 75 percent of households have participated in crafts at some time.
Those figures come from the Craft & Hobby Association, whose recent trade show in Anaheim was billed as the biggest and best ever.
The event drew hundreds and hundreds of exhibitors, craft-store owners, manufacturers, buyers, designers, authors, crafters and more from all over the world. They were all there to see the newest, latest, brightest, most-innovative products, as well as to appreciate the tried-and-true. They were also there to learn about the latest trends and to look at what's happening in the wild and wonderful world of crafts.Even over the course of four days, it was impossible to see it all. But here are some of the things that were generating a lot of buzz:
1. Paper crafts are still huge. The scrapbook and paper section of the convention covered a huge area and included something like 50 Utah companies, many of which are a driving force in the industry.
Some industry watchers think scrapbooking has reached a plateau. But as Craftrends magazine points out, "If it has hit a bit of a plateau, at least it is resting on a fairly high plain. Nearly three-quarters of all crafters surveyed exiting general /craft stores had purchased at least one scrapbooking or papercrafting product within the last year. Both men and women are buying."Craftrends sees it as still largely dominated by people younger than 45, which the magazine points out offers potential growth among older crafters, who still have shoeboxes full of photos at their disposal. The idea, the magazine suggests, is to start small: pick one topic such as "school days" or "childhood memories" and go to work.
2. The rise of "indie crafts." What are indie crafts? Natalie Zee Drieu, senior editor of Craft: Transforming Traditional Crafts magazine uses words such as "renegade," "urban," "DIY," "crafty" and "kitschy" to describe them. "This is free-form creativity that appeals largely to the 18-35 group. They are forging their own way, finding things to do. They show up at craft and street fairs. They share knowledge via blogs. Perfection is not the goal, and they often don't start with any model or pattern."
Recycling and reusing is huge, Drieu says. They might make raincoats from plastic bags, jellyfish from water bottles, tote bags out of old shirts. They are into vintage styles: old lace; old clothes that they make new again; old crafts, such as wet-felting, which they use to make modern styles.
Cuddly and cute is popular, but so is creepy. Nature is a recurring theme: birds, fish, flowers. Technology goes soft with such things as a needlepoint iPod cozy, a knitted cell-phone case, a crocheted lap-top cozy, an Atari video game needlepoint pillow. Duct tape is a medium for everything from wallets to iPod covers."They are crafts that make a statement, that often showcase what is going on in the world," Drieu says. "And they are forming huge online crafting communities. Craftster.org, for example, has 125,000 members and some 4,500 new members join each month."
3. Fashion crafting is hot. "In a world of homogenization, consumers are constantly looking for ways to express their individualism and creativity," notes a Craft & Hobby Association publication on the topic. "For years, crafting and fashion have been ways for people to unleash their creativity and express their individual style. Today, we are seeing these two industries blend."
The trend toward creating "wearable art" includes such things as:
• Jewelry making. Popular trends include collage-style jewelry (which fuses traditional jewelry supplies, such as beads, with paper crafting materials, such as paper, retro images and witty sayings; oversize pieces; "dark" pieces in black onyx, smoky quartz and modern dichroic glass; "high-tech" jewelry featuring an eclectic fusion of elements; medallions; and intricate beading.
• Altering or embellishing clothing and accessories. Trends are shifting toward heavier and chunky embellishments. Everything is bigger, bolder, more extreme than in the past. Also popular are fabric painting and decorating, cross-stitch and embroidery.• Creating one-of-a-kind clothing and accessories. Sewing is attracting younger consumers who want to design their own pieces. Aprons, bags, simple skirts and tops are popular; so are crocheting, knitting and leather crafting.
4. Fusion is everywhere. Everything seems to be crossing lines. Scrapbooking techniques are being used in home decor. Home-decor techniques are being used in fashion. Fashion techniques are being used in scrapbooking.
Beads show up in almost every genre, from jewelry to quilts to scrapbooks. Rubber and acrylic stamps are being used to stencil walls or stamp on fabrics.
Computer influences are also huge. A lot of crafts are combining traditional elements with digital ones. Not only digital scrapbooking, but also using computer software and templates to create designs for quilts, tote bags, jewelry, home decor items and more.It's all very creative and very fun and leaves the field wide open for everyone.
Almost every booth at the show offered something new. Here's a small sample:
• Stretchable Fabric Transfers from Avery Dennison. These iron-on transfers allow images to stretch with the fabric and provide a softer feel than other iron-ons. They are designed to work with any ink-jet printer and are ideal for use on T-shirts, sweatshirts, tank tops, bags and other accessories.
• Wallies, a division of The McCall Pattern Co. Wallies are easy-to-use, durable vinyl peel-and-stick designs that include chalkboard and dry-erase versions. They are removable and repositionable and can be used as message centers as well as centers of creativity. Chalkboard Wallies work with regular chalk; the dry-erase versions with any dry-erase products. Both the write-on and the regular Wallies come in a variety of fun images, from beach scenes to fantasy to houses, trees, airplanes and animals.
• Painters ColorCutters from Elmers. These combine a marker with a cutting blade, so you can create a perfect border as you cut. The paint is acid-free, permanent and non-toxic, and the blade uses X-Acto technology. They would be great for scrapbooking, card making, tag making and other paper crafts.
• Craft lamps by Ott-lite. These low-glare, low-heat, natural light lamps help reduce eyestrain caused by glare and distortion and facilitate the matching of colors in fabrics, threads, yarns, paints. New for 2008 are a three-in-one floor lamp that includes a magnifier and a pattern clip; a wide-area table lamp with a shade that tilts up and down and rotates almost 360 degrees and includes an electrical outlet on the back of the base; and a dual-flex table lamp with adjustable shade and flexible joint to allow one-hand positioning. They all come with tubes that last up to 10,000 hours.
• Marking pens in bright colors. Color Surge markers from Crayola are ultra-bright markers especially for kids and are meant to be used on special Color Surge paper, where they create bright, vivid images. Bright is also the word for Neon Painters from Elmers. They are filled with acrylic paint and are meant to be used on wood, pottery, ceramics, glass, metal, paper, plastic, fabrics and more.
• Twinkling H20s from LuminArte. These are watercolor cakes that are shimmery, non-toxic, acid-free, lightfast and safe for all ages. You simply dip a wet paintbrush or waterbrush into the solid cake of color and begin to paint. They now come in 12 delicious new colors: mandarin blush, go navy, pink crocus, heavenly bamboo, rubilite, black emerald, sweet alfalfa, fire & ice, mulberry, azurite, autumn butternut and winter mist gray.
• Chipboard "Gingerbread" House kits from Retired ... Let's Do Lunch. These die-cut chipboard, assemble-yourself, decorate-yourself kits are a fun alternative to the traditional Christmas craft. They come in several variations including a wedding chapel, cottage and Halloween house. Inventor Karin Barnes was known for her gingerbread houses, but she said "it seemed like a lot of work just to toss at the end of the season." Her kits make houses that can be used for table decorations and will last for years.
• Kaleidoscope images. Two companies, Kaleidoscope Collections and Poppy Hill Designs Inc, have come up with software products that allow you to use your own pictures and designs to create kaleidoscope designs that can be used for scrapbooking, card making, quilting, in fashion and home decor and other projects.
• Ribbon to Bead from Morex Corp. This product uses an attached wire needle on elegant ribbons to facilitate threading beads to create jewelry or paper crafting projects. The ribbon comes in three sizes and includes satin, taffeta, organdy, iridescent sheers and other ribbons.
• X-Acto for women. An X-Acto knife designed by women for women, it features a soft, easy-grip base and a swivel knife that works for cutting curves, circles and other designs from lightweight materials such as paper, plastic, balsa, cloth, photos and more.
• Photo Lite from SpringDale. This decoratable picture frame also comes with a motion-sensor night light. It's battery-powered, so it can be wall-mounted or sit on a table, and features an LED light. Decorating the frame could be a fun project for kids and provide their very own night light. But adults could have fun, too.