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A Chat with Craft Industry Alliance’s Abby Glassenberg

As a long-time member of Craft Industry Alliance, I thought it would be fun to chat with founder Abby Glassenberg to learn more about this organization for creative business owners. The questions are mine; the answers are Abby’s.

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Craft Industry Alliance logo

What is Craft Industry Alliance and who is it for?

Craft Industry Alliance (CIA) is an organization for craft and creative business owners. Our members work in all areas of craft including knitting, crochet, weaving, spinning, cross stitch, needlepoint, sewing, quilting, paper crafting, scrapbooking, polymer clay, woodworking, jewelry making, ceramics, and more. If you work in the crafts industry, this is the organization for you!

colorful quilt

We have members with micro businesses of one person working out of their home, as well as businesses with small teams, mid-sized businesses, and some of the largest businesses in the industry. When we are all together in the same organization we can share ideas, collaborate, support one another and learn together. We have so much in common!

What is your background in the crafts business? What was your original impetus for starting CIA? Has it changed any since its founding?

Craft Industry Alliance co-founder Abby Glassenberg
Abby Glassenberg

I am trained as a middle school teacher and did that for four years, including two in Teach for America in the Mississippi Delta. I also worked as the education director at a non-profit serving children in the Boston area for two years after getting my master’s degree in education at Harvard. When I had our first child, I decided to stay home with her. I started a craft blog, WhileSheNaps, in 2005 shortly after her first birthday. I chronicled my crafting life on my blog, with a focus on sewing stuffed animals and dolls.

Through my blog I was able to get two book deals to write sewing pattern books: The Artful Bird (2011) and Stuffed Animals: From Concept to Construction (2013). I also licensed patterns to Simplicity, and licensed a kit of felt taxidermy to Quarto. Through those experiences I began to learn about the business side of the crafts industry. Increasingly I wrote about what I was learning on my blog and in my newsletter. I also started a podcast in 2014, interviewing people in the industry.

In October 2015, I co-founded Craft Industry Alliance with Kristin Link of SewMamaSew. Our goal was to create a new type of trade association that would provide all of the good things you get access to a trade show (education, news, networking) online and all year round.

Craft Industry Alliance resources and articles are fascinating and very up-to-date. How do you keep track of breaking news? How do you source such amazing and useful articles? Do the ideas come from you, from your writers, or from somewhere else?

black and white "word cloud" style image: radio, data, news, network, social, online, web, people, content, money, like

Great question! I’m an obsessive reader of craft media of all sorts. I’m in over 100 Facebook groups and I subscribe to a lot of blogs. I follow what’s happening on Instagram and on Twitter and I love LinkedIn for big business news. I also get a lot of newsletters!  Essentially I spend a good portion of each day just reading and watching what’s happening and doing research.

We have a fantastic pool of freelancers we work with and they bring me article ideas, as does our fabulous staff writer, Afi Scruggs. Our social media manager, Meg Batemen, notices things and has great suggestions for articles, too. It’s really a matter of tracking things, thinking, developing sources, finding writers, doing interviews myself, and just kinda constantly working on it.

What positive changes have you seen in the craft industry in the past couple of years? How do you see the industry moving forward?

closeup of paintbrush on pink/purple/orange watercolor

I think of the crafts industry like a microcosm of the whole world, meaning every social, political, and economic issue playing out in society at large is also playing out in the crafts industry.

The pandemic has been very hard on many businesses, especially our brick-and-mortar shops. At the same time, crafts were also booming during lock downs and sewing had a huge surge when everyone realized they needed to be able to make masks. Now, as the world begins to open up again and people have more options when it comes to their leisure time, it’s up to us as business owners to work to keep the momentum of interest in crafting going.

bins of colorful yarn in a yarn shop

There has been increased attention to racial and social unrest taking place in our society. Our industry is realizing we need to highlight and elevate different voices and perspectives, including BIPOC professionals. This focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion is the first step as we also move towards a culture of belonging. There’s still a long journey and work to accomplish together.

From a marketing perspective, I’ve been following TikTok for some time now and I’m really excited about the potential of this platform to draw a younger generation into crafts. I’m on TikTok everyday watching what’s happening and I think it’s really fascinating and exciting!

h+h americas is a new thing for the crafts industry. Tell us more about that.

logo for h+h americas

We’re thrilled to be the strategic partner for h+h americas, a new trade show for the crafts industry that will be held in Chicago June 22-24, 2022. Up until this point, we didn’t have an in-person event and were really focused on building an online organization (and we still are!), but obviously there are huge advantages to meeting together as an industry in person, especially since we’ve been home for so long during the pandemic.

The folks at h+h approached us over the summer. They were looking to expand into the American market (h+h cologne has been a premier craft industry trade show in Germany for a long time now) and they asked if we would be the strategic partner for the show. It’s such a great fit! We’re planning the educational content (business classes) and doing marketing for h+h. I can’t wait to get to Chicago and hope to see everyone there!

A Final Note from Edie

Craft Industry Alliance really is a great resource for craft professionals. The newsletter is a must-read when it hits my Inbox. The blog has timely and informative articles, there are frequent webinars on a wide range of topics, and the monthly Round Table Meetings are an ever-changing font of business inspiration. If you like podcasts, there’s one of those, also!

In addition, CIA organizes quarterly Mastermind Groups, in which 5-6 members get together every couple of weeks to discuss a topic of particular interest to them. The ability to have in-depth conversations with people from other branches of the industry – not just my knitting/crocheting cohort – is enlightening! Some Mastermind Groups continue to meet after the official time period has ended because the members find it so helpful. (Should out to my fellow Masterminders!)

I’ve even written a few articles for CIA: Beyond Ravelry: Pattern Platforms for Knitting and Crochet Designers and Make Your Virtual Workshop Stand Out: Best Practices for Teaching Online.

You can learn more about the Craft Industry Alliance on their website, or drop me a note and I’ll be happy to tell you more about it.

And if you are interested in the business side of knitting and crochet, check out my page for Knit & Crochet Design Resources, and my design-related classes shown below.

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