The Midwest Craft Conference was a three day event filled with knowledge, crafting and fun. Women and men from all over the midwest traveled to learn how to refine their craft.
We had the pleasure of sitting in on workshops such as “Work Your Way to a Book Deal” by Lesley Ware from Creative Cookie, and “PR Basics” by Daniella Cortez of Rebel Marie. Both were informative and provided insight into different ways to market your craft. Some of the other workshops included: Expanding Your Product Line, Deductions for Crafters, Alternate Revenue Streams and Self-care for Creatives.
We walked right into a crafter’s heaven; Craftaway Camp was decorated in lights, a table full of fabric sat for the taking and con-goers sat happily creating everywhere. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Craft Con was just that: the people.
Dana Morningstar, a writer and con-goer, was painting a wooden bangle when we chatted. She said that she attended Craft Con because she loved being surrounded by a wide variety of people, especially empowered women. Dana said that during her time there, she had “lots of aha! moments.”
Claire, who was attending while knitting the most adorable little rabbits, thought that being in an atmosphere with so many people like her “felt like sleep away camps” from her childhood. She noted that Craft Con was different because it had a hands-on element to it.
Sarah Marsom, a crafter and founder of the Tiny Jane Project, attended Craft Con because she quickly discovered that her side hustle was much more than that. Sarah began sewing tiny look-alikes of Jane Jacobs, a woman who transformed city planning, when she discovered that only 8% of historic designated sites represented women, people of color or members of the LGBTQ community.
“I started selling handmade dolls in 2017, and quickly realized that it was more than a “side-hustle.” My background is in historic preservation, so I have been learning on the fly how to run a handmade business. Attending the Midwest Craft Con helped empower me as a new business owner and build my business toolkit. Selling handmade products is specialized and having the opportunity to take classes on how to grow/market that kind of business was invaluable. Learning alongside women (and a few men) and from them introduced me to new crafting methods, materials, and almost more importantly created a new support network. Having people to reach out to with my questions or to seek support makes this new adventure seem manageable,” she said.
Sarah is pursing this project to educate women, and the sale of each doll supports a scholarship fund to help emerging professionals attend historic preservation conferences.
It definitely takes a village to bring all of these people together though. Craft Con has organizers, sponsors, helpers, speakers…a little bit of every kind of person has a hand in it.
Esther Hall was sponsoring Craft Con from Yarn It and Haberdashery, and her philosophy was similar; she was looking out for who she could help and how she could support small businesses. Craft Con provides a network of small businesses to connect with.
Craft Con has been growing for years, organizer Grace Dobush told me, and it was a matter of finding the right people to pursue an event like Craft Con. Grace is a freelance journalist who had conference organizing experience, and when she met Megan Green and Brit Charek, Craft Con was born.
The first conference was in 2016, and it was a bigger success than the organizer’s had imagined. As they continue to grow, Craft Con does its best to keep costs low for their attendees. The speakers are found by responding to a call, but keynote speakers are specifically sought after by the organizers. They also do their best to have a diverse crowd of speakers, as they want all crafters represented.
Megan Green, organizer of Craft Con, loves having speakers and crafter from all over the country; it facilitates learning from each other and creates a “powerful sisterhood,” Grace added. The spirit animal of the convention according to the organizers? Leslie Knope from “Parks and Recreation.”
Needless to say, we can’t wait to go back.