The first week of July I got an email from a podcast listener named Elizabeth.
I listen to your podcast regularly and I wondered if anyone has addressed yet how the tariffs are going to affect small craft businesses and fabric manufacturers that print their fabric overseas? I haven’t really seen anything in the news.
I hit reply and said I was sorry, but I really didn’t know anything about the issue. But then I got another email from a blog reader asking if I planned to write about the tariffs. A few weeks later InTown Quilters posted about the tariffs on their Facebook page and several people sent me the link.
Kristin and I have been working to introduce larger corporations to Craft Industry Alliance and while talking with them tariffs have come up and they’ve asked if we’d be covering the issue.
So last week I paused to think things through. I know very little about international trade. Economic policy is incredibly complex and I know just enough to realize how little I truly understand. We are also living in a politically charged climate in which any suggestion that a particular policy is or isn’t wise will likely provoke heated comments and even personal attacks. This is really tricky.
At the same time, perhaps more than anything else I’ve experienced in the 13 years I’ve been involved in the crafts industry, these tariffs will have a huge impact on our day to day lives. Almost every supply we use is about to become 25% more expensive and it’s going to happen in just a few weeks.
That’s when one line in Elizabeth’s email really struck me. “I haven’t seen anything in the news.” Here’s the thing. The mainstream press doesn’t cover the crafts industry. Or at least it almost never does. Etsy makes the New York Times every now and then, but for the most part what qualifies as a major story in quilting or knitting is totally overlooked by most news publications. Creating a space for those stories is a big part of what drives me, and was a huge motivator for founding Craft Industry Alliance.
So do I shrink back because this story feels big and hard? Or walk towards it and trust that I can figure it out, knowing that we deserve the same level of analysis that the furniture industry and the auto industry is getting? I began making calls.
What’s been interesting is how willing the leadership of major craft corporations has been to talk about this issue with me and how generous people have been with their time. I spent most of last week on the phone and when I wasn’t on the phone I was reading and listening to podcasts about tariffs. I found a professor at Johns Hopkins (my alma mater) who specializes in how U.S. manufacturing has been affected by international trade with China since 2000 and he explained the bigger issues. I’ve learned a lot.
Meanwhile, JOANN’s sent this email out to consumers yesterday. Maybe you saw it? Their stores will be significantly affected by the tariffs and it will likely happen just before Halloween, their major shopping season. Judging by the comments on their Facebook post, the reaction to their plea for help hasn’t been positive.
All of this is to say, I’m working on it. It’s a lot. I’m going to try to do a good job. I’m expecting it won’t be easy, both to write it and to deal with the comments in such a politically charged climate, but I think its important so here we go.