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Designer Insight: Craft & Hobby Trade Show


This Thursday I leave for the 2015 Craft and Hobby Mega Show in Anaheim, CA. I’ll be there through Tuesday on behalf of iLoveToCreate – rockin’ a make-n-take station! But that’s not all. This is THE big crafty event of the season. It’s where manufacturers debut all the new products for the year. Retail buyers shop for products to sell in their stores! Book and magazine authors look for authors and contributors. Brands looks for bloggers. Designers and product developers go to try all the new goodies, attend workshops and business sessions, and learn as much as possible to come back and blog it all!

My main role, aside from showing off the awesome iLoveToCreate products, is as a professional craft designer. This is different from being a professional artist in that as an artist you can make whatever you want, however you want, whenever you want! But as a professional designer, you take on jobs…crafting! You receive directives from the product manufacturer (seasonal, trend, color story, theme, product use, consumer, etc.) to come up with a grand slam idea. Sometimes you have a year, sometimes a week. You gotta turn out the quality! These are ideas for demos (like the one I’ll be doing at the show), books/magazines, project sheets, web sites and more. Many times you have to present a couple sketches, maybe even color swatches. Your sketches can get accepted, rejected or altered. You have to have an open mind, thick skin, and and listen to your client so you can artfully manifest their vision and brand statement in your work.  I didn’t start as a professional craft designer, I started as an artist, but now I live in both worlds and I love it. Both ends push you to try new techniques and offer new points of view!

CHA is a great way to grow both. A lot of the designers are artists and book authors, product developers and more. I learn so much each year I attend, everyone is excited to network and help each other! I participate in all kinds of events and projects going on – here are some of them with my personal designer insight notes!

Follow my Crafty Chica FB, Crafty Chica Instagram and Crafty Chica Vine feeds to see lots of updates!

1. Make and takes!


I’m going to demo the Tulip Fabric Markers for my make-and-take! Designer insight: You have to come up with a project idea that is easy to pack, not messy, and can completed in a few minutes. Attendees have a LOT of show to cover, and you don’t want them to be turned off by a complex idea. Also, the crowds are huge and you don’t want people mad because they have to wait in line for a long time to make your project. Yet, you also want them to stop and say, “I WANT TO MAKE THAT!” and then make it and be happy! I drew these designs and printed them on cotton fabric. Designers and buyers can come by and color one with all kinds of fabric markers that we will have to present. NOTE: This is only part of the project, I can’t reveal the finished project until the show opens, but I’ll post pictures from the show on my Instagram!

2. Art apron for Charity Wings auction.


Every year I make something for Charity Wings to auction. This is my entry for this year – it’s an art apron! Designer insight: This has to be a WOW project big enough so people will want to bid. Other designers make crazy gorgeous items, you really have to work to make something fabulous that will get some bidding love. The goal is to raise money for charities – so yes, I busted out my favorite hot pink sequined fabric!


I ended up adding sequins. I actually have a tutorial on this apron coming up soon!

3. A new purse for me!


Since I was already pushing the foot pedal on my Singer, I whipped together a purse for me to wear to the show. It’s big and roomy and mega-sturdy! I am ready to carry home some loot! Designer insight: Yes, this purse is for function, but at the same time, it is a way for me to show off my “Mexi-boho” design style and personality while I’m walking the floor. It shows I work with fabric, I work with collage, bling, and a love of my Mexican-American culture. At the same time, it’s a purse so it’s not like I’m walking around handing stuff out, it is a non-chalant lure. Except for the giant sequin rose applique, that’s a pretty big in-yo-face lure!


I even added in pockets for my journal and my iPad mini!

4. Good Fortune Matchboxes for the Designer Exchange.


Monday morning is an event called “Make and Take Exchange” – this is where the designers get together and swap small projects. It’s so we can all learn ideas and techniques from each other. I have a tutorial coming up soon on how to make these boxes, but basically you empty the matches into a tin, then cut paper to glue around the outside of the boxes. I then glued pictures on the front. I wrote and typed up some fun fortunes, and inserted one inside each box. Then when I hand them out, the person chooses a box and their fortune! Designer insight: I made an extra batch of these to hand out to special VIPs peeps. Again, I want to stay true to my mission statement of promoting positivity through creativity. At the same time, it is another way to show artistic versatility. These have my original illustrations, inside are fortunes I wrote and I’m hoping they will ignite a smile on the face of whoever gets one!

5. Designer showcase.


The designer showcase is a special section of the show where all the designers set of up a display of their work. Buyers, product managers from manufacturers, design team leaders, magazine and book editors and the media all come by to look at the display for potential partnerships. It’s really exciting. Here are a couple things I’ll have in my display. Designer insight: I like this part of the show because it forces you as a designer to come up with a new collection each year. You get work as a professional craft designer, you have to be able to have your own signature style, yet also incorporate trend, product features, innovation and function. For these mugs, I show that I can break out of the gazillion-color palette I usually use, but still show my personality. Another way this opportunity can be used. Say you are a designer and have a book idea. You can create your display themed around your book idea, then make an appointment with a book editor at the show and give them your book proposal and walk them over to your designer showcase display. If you want to design scrapbook paper, you can use your own paper in your display projects, then make an appointment with a product manager from a manufacturing company and show them your display. See how it works?

6. Designer roundtables.

This is an event early in the morning before the show floor open, where you sit at a table and every 15 minutes a new set of people come and sit down and you give them a quick presentation on a topic. Mine is ‘How to Up Your Blogging Game’. As soon as I’m done writing this post I’m going to type up my list to present! Designer insight: As a presenter, it is great way to share your knowledge with the community. AND, those who sit at your table will be tired and true followers for the most part. Just about everyone I’ve worked with at CHA is very supportive. As an attendee, it is a great way to learn to grow your business!



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6 thoughts on “Designer Insight: Craft & Hobby Trade Show”

  1. Kathy, I really appreciated reading this insight. I didn’t know about much of this. I would love to be an industry professional someday and this post gives me a departure point for further research and practice.


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