CHA is this week. Yeah. That “Craft and Hobby Association, world's-biggest-craft-trade-show, paradise for crafters, the golden ticket” thing in Anaheim, CA every year. Exciting? I have mixed emotions on it. And the announcement of Archiver's stores closing last week seemed interesting timing. There's discussion about what this means for the craft industry.
These last few months I have felt a feeling I have felt before but much more intense. A feeling of overwhelm. Overwhelmed by my stuff, my crafts, my unfinished projects, my craft-hoarding…I have pretty much slowed my buying to virtually a HALT since my friend Bronwyn Velasquez and I did a “Patterned Paper Diet” a few years back – we decided to not buy any patterned paper for a year. I mean, I had a 9 foot+ tall stack of paper. Did I really need another sheet of comptuer-generated stripes or whatever $1 per sheet paper? Um, no. And I still don't. I stayed on the “diet” for 18 months. It was amazing how I didn't really miss buying paper AT ALL but the first few times, it was like trying ot quit smoking or something. I instinctively grabbed for paper and then pulled my hand back fast, like the paper was poisonous! Why do we have this relationship with stuff, specifically our craft and scrapbooking supplies?
I think a journey back to the beginning is necessary. Back to the beginning of my journey inscrapbooking, which I imagine is pretty similar to your journey.
Here's how the story happened:
1998 – I got a mail order scrapbooking kit to catalog my daughter's life. I went to Michael's to get supplemental 8.5 x11 patterned papers here and there, maybe a magazine, a lettering template. It all fit in one box.
2003 – My friend Denise (it's all her fault) took me to Scrapbook Expo and I lost my damn mind. I think I spent $500 that day. And I STILL had some of that crap in my stash 10 years later – it is now at the Charity Wings Art Center. Thank goodness for donations! LOL
2004 – I bought my first diecutting system – Quickutz. I dropped over $400 in one store in one day. That became common-place.
2005 – I started teaching classes at local scrapbook stores regularly, went to Survivor Crop, and used the money from my then full-time job to buy buy buy.
2006 – I was pregnant in line at a scrapbook store closing sale with two shopping carts filled to the top with papers and nonsense – again, most of which has recently found a new home at Charity Wings Art Center.
2007 – I started making bigger money teaching classes, opened an etsy shop, and just started filling tubs and tubs and tubs with supplies. I graduate from a corner of the dining room to a full on ROOM filled floor to ceiling with supplies.
2008 – this is when the market started to decline. Stores started closing by the 100s each year. I started feeling overwhelmed.
You see, in those early years we didn't have access to much besides Mrs. Grossman's stickers and a few sheets of ladybug paper by ProvoCraft. So when we started getting exciting new papers, like BasicGrey (2005) and cool tools like Quickutz, we went nuts! Good supplies were so scarce that we had the mindset that if we didn't buy it then, we would never be able to find it again. Couple that with a booming economy and we had lots of money to spend. People were pulling equity out of their homes to open stores – the stores were plentiful and the manufacturers couldn't pump out product fast enough to fill demand.
And then stores started closing. We started stock-piling stuff from these closing sales because the deals were so good and we were still in this mindset that GOOD supplies were scarce.
We posted on forums and then on Facebook that we “spent more time organizing than scrapping”. Organizing your (s)crap became a huge topic and industry of its own. Do you go with the Cropper Hoppers or Crop In Style? Clip It Up or Scrap Rack? From closet to full on scrapbook room?
THEN it was the era of challenges: Stash challenges, use your stash, get rid of stuff, purge, RAKs, swaps, use-it-or-lose-it, scrappy garage sales, selling your stash on Facebook, and more to just move this stuff OUT!
Over these last few years I have seen people have some epiphanies. Maybe they didn't have an epiphany – maybe it was a gradual change. But this is what I see happening, a NEW approach to scrapbooking and their STUFF:
They've taken up OTHER crafts – knitting, sewing, embroidery, calligraphy, etc. Scrapbooking was a gateway to other creative endeavors. They may or may not have stopped scrapbooking. But with limited time and resources, they aren't scrapbooking as often as they used to, hence they don't need to buy as many supplies.
Scrapbookers are simplifying. That can mean doing a simpler, faster method of memory preservation like Project Life, using the supplies you already have and not over-embellishing, and/or going digital. I have personally questioned how many pages I need to do for an event. There are some Easters I have 6 scrapbook pages for. This year, I did ONE. How many 10lb albums am I going to send my kids off to college with? 40? We're also just scrapping the milestones and bigger moments versus every waking moment.
People are being more frugal and deliberate with their money. We have had to change how we spend and how we look at money and shopping because we were directly affected by the economy or are reacting to what we see happening to others. Either long term or at least temporarily, most everyone I know has had to give up craft spending because they weren't even sure how they would get their next meal. How can they be concerned about buying pretty paper when they have creditors calling and are busy looking for jobs or trying to make ends meet for a family? Crafts are a luxury. And on top of that, when you are going through rough times, there aren't many happy memories people want to be cataloging via scrapbooks. I won't be scrapbooking the crap I had happen to me this last year and I have fewer pictures to show for it because we weren't doing happy, significant things as much as we have done in years previous.
We really don't NEED anything. I have 6 feet of paper. That is roughly 7200 sheets of paper (12 inches = 100 sheets. 100 sheets x 72 inches = 7200 sheets). I will never use all of that. And that is after my most recent PURGE. I have tons of embellishments. I mean, how many paper flowers do you really need??! Um, I don't need ANY. I can probably go 2-3 years with only spending maybe $30-50 in a craft store a year for something I don't have, like spray paint. And that would be for a NON-scrapbooking project. I throw my Joann's mailers in the trash – I don't even want to get 40% off on anything. It is just another thing I have to put away and manage and organize and, dammit, I am tired of organizing! We all stocked up during the big boom and then during all those closing sales. It is going to take YEARS to work through these stashes. And with husbands and family members and friends and even OURSELVES looking at this, we can't help but hear, “do you really need to buy ANOTHER piece of paper? Don't you have enough already?”.
The needs and wants of the consumers HAVE changed. The question is, will retailers, manufacturers, and designers listen? I don't think the industry as a whole has changed enough to keep pace with the consumers and to give them what they want. Archiver's closing is evidence of that.
But, we can have these discussions and start to think analytically about what we want as consumers, what we as retailers can offer to consumers, and what we as retailers need from manufacturers. That is how change will happen. From the bottom up.
Now, when I am designing a kit or a project, I think of these things:
- How it is useful? Its only use might be to bring joy to someone but that makes it useful.
- How is it frugal? This is especially true of my kit club kits. I don't want to send you a bag of crap you won't use. I try to give you great product and on top of that great ideas for using that product. Candice does the same thing (our Designer) – she finds unique ways to use the products that we then share with you.
- How is it valuable? It is not so much about “getting alot of stuff for very little money”. I think that is part of value. But the other part of value is how it improves or impacts someone's life. No, a scrapbook paper will not make your bills go away or clean your garage for you. But it can help you solve a problem, help you create something for someone else, or help you preserve a memory.
There are other considerations too. But as an industry, we have to get back to the consumers. What does a busy mom who scrapbooks her kids' soccer games really want from US? How does what we're doing add value to her life, to her experiences, to her family? From what I've read about the experience at Archiver's, it did not give enough value to the people who were shopping there. The industry will continue to change – but how do we change with it?
Tell me what you think – about our industry, about your own crafting an scrapbooking, and about what the future holds. How do you feel about Archiver's closing? Does it impact the industry at all?