I’m writing this on the plane on the way home from the inaugural Midwest Craftcon in Columbus, Ohio.
I flew from Boston to Columbus on Friday and Grace Dobush, one of the three event organizers, picked me up from the airport. It was terrific to meet Grace. Last February we spoke on the phone when she was doing research for an article she wrote for Wired about Etsy and we hit it off. Grace was one of the first people I told about Craft Industry Alliance when it was still just an idea. She’s a writer, a crafter, and an event organizer and I was really touched when she emailed me over the summer to ask if I’d deliver the keynote at Midwest Craftcon.
The weekend was organized by Grace, Megan Green, and Brit Charek. So much work goes into creating a weekend like this one and they did a truly terrific job.
I loved that this event took place in Ohio. Until now there haven’t been many craft business conferences located in the Midwest (although SewPro will be in Chicago in September). Lots of people who had never been to a craft business conference were able to attend this one because they could drive.
I also appreciated the diversity among presenters. It’s all too easy to book a full roster of straight white women teachers for an event like this, but that wasn’t the case here which was a breath of fresh air.
We had unseasonably warm weather and on Friday afternoon I went on a long run around the park near the hotel which was totally lovely.
I gave my talk in the evening right after the opening ceremonies. This was my first time giving a keynote address. It was a really good experience and I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity. I spoke about how to make a job for yourself doing what you love and I told lots of stories from my own life and business. I showed a photo of myself in 8th grade with very impressive hair sprayed bangs!
Saturday and Sunday I attended workshops, talked with so many people, and learned a lot. I taught my email newsletter class and was on a panel about the future of craft. I met Kate McKean and Rae Hokstra and Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood. I reconnected with Lisa Congdon and spent time with Mei Pak and Tara Swiger and so many other friends.
Lisa Congdon gave a wonderfully inspiring keynote on Saturday night. Lisa has so much wisdom to share and her slides were gorgeous. The biggest takeaway for me was to “sail your own ship.”
My favorite workshops were presented by Annal Vyas, a lawyer and law professor at the Akron School of Law. The longer I’m in business on my own the more I crave a legal education, but it’s hard to get one if you don’t go to law school. I learned about indemnification, non-solicitation clauses, joint and several liability, and so much more. It was incredibly valuable.
Going to a conference like this does many things for you. It gives you a sense of communal effort, of togetherness and unity with other people who value handmade. It sparks new ideas and motivates you to get back in the studio and push yourself to do more, grow your skills, and share more. And, at least for me, it affirms that what I do is important to people. There is nothing better than meeting my readers and customers and podcast listeners in person and just talking together. That connection is the most valuable thing of all.