Monday, April 26, 2010

Sustainability Festival + The Front Page

This past Saturday, I participated in Amherst's First Annual Sustainability Festival. Many of my peers from the Artisans of Western Mass also participated and we were all set-up next to each other. The weather was gorgeous and lots of people came out to check out the demonstrations, music, and craft. I used to live in the center of Amherst, so it was a real treat to see lots of friends on the common that I haven't seen in a while. It was also so lovely, to be set-up amidst all of my new crafty friends. The other people behind the Artisans of Western Mass have really become quite dear to me... It's so nice to have found a supportive network of people who are on the same path as me. We took this group shot in my tent at the end of the day... Unfortunately, I think we're missing two people who were still assisting their customers. Throughout the day, my biggest seller was my buttons, which makes perfect sense seeing as it was a sustainability festival and my buttons all deliver messages about the earth, agriculture, and community. Really, the entire weekend was all about the buttons for me... On Sunday afternoon, a set of my buttons in my Etsy shop were featured on Etsy's front page! This was incredibly exciting... I've been with Etsy for almost 3 years and this is my first front page appearance. It's a real milestone for my business. My product photographs have improved drastically over the last few years and I couldn't be happier about this latest development. Here's a screenshot from yesterday:
I hope that you enjoyed your weekend as well. Get out there and soak up the spring; it's beautiful out there! Cheers~

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

AWM Gets Some Press

I've been working diligently with some other area artisans to get a new organization off the ground. I guess I haven't mentioned it much here on this blog, but things are really starting to move. The time is now to get a 'buy local, buy handmade' movement off the ground in Western Mass. Energy for this movement abounds. Our new group, Artisans of Western Mass (AWM), is striving to be the driving force behind this simple message.

Back in February, while I was vending at the Stitches, Needles, 'N' Guns Alternative Craft Fair, I met a nice gal named Heather Vandenengel who was interviewing crafters about their trade for a journalism paper she was writing. She approached my space and asked me some questions about Moon & Sundries. While I was chatting about my business, I mentioned Artisans of Western Mass and our conversation shifted to the group. A few weeks after the event, Heather contacted me again about writing a piece on AWM. I was happy to share the story about our new beginnings and put her in touch with some other members.

Here is the resulting article...

By Heather Vandenengel

Western Massachusetts has been a haven for the locally grown food movement for years, but it is now extending its support to local artists.

A group taking advantage of the support is The Artisans of Western Mass, a collective of about 40 members who are encouraging Western Mass shoppers to stay local for their craft needs.

“Our idea was to piggyback on that idea and to educate people in our community that shopping local doesn’t just mean supporting local farmers but also supporting local artists and turning to them for local decor and accessories as well,” said Karen Ducey, a 28-year-old crafter from Shutesbury who helped form the group.

The collaborative, which formed in October of 2009, materialized from the popular craft shop website, Etsy. The website gives members the chance to join “street teams”, based on geographic location or type of craft, Ducey said.

The Western Massachusetts street team had about 100 members online, but when they had monthly meetings, the majority would not show up, she said. However, there was a core group of five people who consistently did and decided to form the Artisans of Western Mass.

“We wanted to create a physical presence in western Mass and not just an internet based one,” said Ducey, who primarily sells cloth wallets, checkbooks and pressed-leaf jewelry.

From there, the group has expanded to 40 artists from Western Massachusetts counties who work together by sharing skills, helping each other find spots on the craft show circuit and supporting new artists.

“By being part of an artisan collective, an artist is not on their own desert island while navigating the show season,” said a founding member Lou Leelyn, in an e-mail.

Leelyn, 33, makes “upcycled” bags and accessories out of un-recyclable plastic wrappers and packaging, like a small pocketbook made from a Sun Chips bag.

The sustainability also comes full circle within the group. “The trash that I make in my studio, I save and give it to Lou,” said Ducey.

Promoting their products and practices as green is an important selling point for their products, they said.

“I boast about everything that I do to make my shop green on Etsy,” Ducey said.

The collective also provide skill-sharing workshops on how to sell your shop as being very environmentally forward thinking as well as how to take better product photography and how to use credit card machines, she said.

Despite getting a later start, Leeyln says that the local crafting movement can be as successful as the locally grown food movement.

“Just as food is a necessity, so is art. There are baby showers, birthdays, holidays, weddings, and other occasions every day that need a little something to be purchased, she said.

“These items are being purchased at larger chain stores, malls, box stores and online from other states when an artist could be living right down the street who can provide a better product with less environmentally harmful materials.”

Artisans of Western Mass is one of several local artist collectives in Massachusetts, said Leelyn.

The group Berkshire Made, whose tagline is “buy locally, buy handmade”, has existed for about a year longer than Aristans of Western Mass, said Ducey. Unlike Artisans of Western Mass, there is closed enrollment and members have to apply and be voted in, said Ducey.

“There are many many other groups promoting the arts in the area but none are like us in the way we are using art to increase local economies through purchasing power,” said Leelyn.