Hand crafting the future

 5 minute read

Crafting is becoming a growing hobby among Millennials as they try to find new ways to be creative and simultaneously detox from technology. However, craft stores are having trouble keeping up with todays’ trends as everything is moving online. The internet and apps are still used to find inspiration, buy materials and finally to share and sell masterpieces. Read more to find out how the craft industry is changing.

New generations entering the world of crafts

Crafting is no longer only what grandmas do but has gained popularity in Millennials and Generation Y. Research from the Association of Creative Industries has shown that crafters are currently younger than they have been before with the largest part, 41%, being Millennials who are 18-36 years old. It is a way for them to express themselves, be creative, spend time with family and friends as well as possibly a job for some. The possibility of creating personalised products satisfies Millennial values such as repurposing, reusing and upcycling, and may even be the most important reason for why young people get creative hobbies. Crafters don’t simply tend to work with one craft but often mix between different methods. Only 16% use their creativity for one type of craft, whereas 39% spread their talents into 2-4 ways and 45% realise their passions through 5 or more types of creative outlets. Additionally, increasingly many people have a need for a digital detox and want to create something physical with their hands, as they use technology every day for work or school. Perhaps surprisingly, the crafting industry has a net worth of 44 billion dollars in the United States alone and has grown 5 billion dollars during the last five years.

Internet as a gateway to creativity

Technology has not been forgotten despite the need to create something physical. Millennials and Generation Y find inspiration from apps like Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube. Pinterest can be described as a digital bulletin board where users can browse photos for inspiration and create lists and mood boards. The company has 291 million monthly active users and is currently the 5th most popular social networking app in the US, right after social media giants such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Crafters also use Instagram to find new trends and inspiration, as well as YouTube, where they can view step-by-step videos on how to learn new techniques.

Traditionally, crafters have always gone to craft stores to get all the materials and even inspiration for their projects. However, craft stores have become out of date and are struggling to change their supply for their changing customer base. Because the stores have not been able to provide inspiring products, crafters have turned to online shopping on websites such as Fabric.com. According to Mark Hill, the CEO of the Association for Creative Industries: “The changing shopping habits supports the need for retailers to engage their customers through omni-channel strategies that integrate satisfactory in-store and online shopping experiences”. Thus, in order for craft stores to fulfil the creative drive of Millennials, they must find ways to attract them to the stores with marketing strategies that highlight Millennial values.

The crafting community continues to grow online as artists and hobbyists share their masterpieces back in Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube, where they first found their inspiration. As mentioned, these online platforms create a place where users can feel like they belong as they share their passions with likeminded others. Another reason for hand crafters to put their work online is simply to get some pocket money. In many countries where university education needs to be self-funded, getting a job after graduation may not be enough to pay back student loans. Therefore, online marketplaces for hand crafted goods, such as Etsy, have gained popularity. In 2019, the net worth of Etsy is 6.6 billion dollars with 60 million products on sale. Up to 2.1 million users sell their produce to over 39 million buyers and carry out the company’s mission to “keep commerce human”.

Access to new tech for crafting

Many institutions have already noticed the growing trend of crafting. For example, University College London offers their students and staff access to a MakeSpace where people can create whatever they wish with tools such as 3D printers, 3D scanners, laser cutters, computer numerical machinery as well as more traditional crafting tools for metal, clay, wood or textiles. This space is of course used for coursework but can also be freely used for self-expression as well. In Finland, the new central library Oodi also offers 3D printing and other tools for anyone who wishes to use them and only require payment for materials. For example, materials for each 3D print costs as little as 0.70 euros. Private 3D printers are also becoming easier and cheaper to purchase, for instance with Amazon selling them for only 130 pounds in the UK. Alternatively, in the US crafting and fabric retailer, Joann, launched a concept store called Creator’s Studio where both experienced crafters and those new to the hobby can go to learn new skills by taking classes, rent machines for their projects or simply get together to share their passion with friends and fellow crafters. This creation space has a Craft Creator touchscreen kiosk where visitors can browse Pinterest for ideas, as well as a Cut Bar to make getting fabrics easier. This studio also works as a physical “Etsy” as artists and hobbyists can show off their work at installations that are set up around the space and make them available for purchase.

Insight Box

It is clear that human creativity is not going anywhere but is simply realised in new ways as materials and technologies offer new solutions for creative outlets. The current trends are moving forward as people are trying to balance the use of technology and physical crafts and it is evident that form creative projects will change with the developments of human culture. It is still a mystery how emerging technologies will shape the products we make, but there is no doubt that humans will always need ways to express themselves in some meaningful and appropriate ways.

#3D printing #crafts #creativity #Etsy #future trends #Pinterest
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