by: Brandi McElhatten
This past February I was able to attend the tail end of Midwest Craft Con. You may remember a previous blog about the podcast with the founders of the convention. If not, never fear, Midwest Craft Con is a convention for mid-career crafters, and is marketed as a “Creative Business Conference for Makers.” The conference is three days, and ran from Feb. 10 to Feb. 12th this year, day passes were also available to accommodate people who couldn’t commit to attending all weekend, or who were working on a tighter budget.
I had a craft show on Saturday during the day with my daughter – she was selling her artwork at Cleveland Bazaar, a popular handmade show in Cleveland. I was both exhausted and amped up after, I headed to Columbus after tearing down and bidding my family goodbye for the rest of the weekend. This was also a new thing for me as it had been years pre-dating my marriage since I had driven so far by myself, and had a hotel room all to myself – and it wasn’t a work trip! It was lovely and new, and much needed.
I arrived Saturday night in time for Craftivities and Karaoke. I was immediately charmed by all the little details that had gone into making our space in the convention center into something that indicated crafty things were afoot. This wasn’t any old conference. From a station to handcraft your own name tags – to a station where you could type your future self a letter on MWCC stationary.
I’ll also let you in on a little secret – you haven’t karaoked until you’ve done it with a bunch of crafters. I felt so close to this group of people, many of whom I had just met.
Sunday morning I made my way downstairs to find coffee and arrived just in time for the opening session on “Depression, Anxiety and the Creative Mind.” Speakers Megan Green, Tara Swiger, and Nicholas Nocera shared their personal experiences with attendees about dealing with depression while managing their creative businesses and process. One overwhelming theme throughout everyone’s experience was being able to find the dark humor in shitty circumstances and transforming often painful emotions into a something.
Next up, attendees could choose from three different sessions, and I opted for Lesley Ware‘s “Teaching Your Craft.” Lesley is an author of two books on fashion education, previously worked for Girl Scouts, and is a contributor to Martha Stewart Living. She also blogs and teaches kids how to sew. Obviously, she rules. She was also a fountain of useful knowledge. She broke her subject matter out into questions to ask. What do you make? What aspects can you teach? Who is your audience? Who is your clientele? Where do you want to teach? How much do you charge? Then, Create Your Class. As someone who likes teaching and hopes to teach more, I found her session very educational.
After Lesley’s session we had lunch and the event Trade Show opened up. The MWCC Trade Show featured exhibitors Alison Rose, Dabble & Stitch, Homespun: Modern Handmade, The Hoop & Needle, Igloo Letterpress, Surprise Modern Party, Wholly Craft and The Supply Closet, and Yarn It & Haberdashery. It was really nice to peruse goods, make some new connections, and pick up some souvenirs.
After the trade show, I opted for the session “Quit Hiding.” with Andy J. Miller aka Andy J. Pizza, host of the podcast Creative Pep Talk. Andy is also an accomplished artist who has done illustrations for clients such as Nickelodeon, Google and Nutella, to name a few. His session focused on learning to be your true self online and as an artist. My main takeaways were: “Let out your weird.” “Date yourself first.” and that “All art is a gift.” And, really, what great advice on all counts. I could see why his podcast was called what it was — the man gives quirky and wonderful pep talks. It was a very inspiring session as well, and as I found myself jotting down phrases that resonated with me, I just found myself so happy to be in that seat, in that room, at Midwest Craft Con.
The key note was given by Chris Glass. Chris is a designer from Cincinnati, Ohio. He is part owner of the design firm Wire & Twine. He has also designed logos for various notable clients like Nerdist, taken part in a photo shoot with Lil’ Bubs, and designed a tattoo for Tattly. If you aren’t excited about these things, we probably will never see eye to eye. I was also super excited to hear about his project PhotoCorps. Taken from the website, “The first component is a collaborative project called PhotoScouting. This program encourages individuals to demonstrate photographic principles, explore neighborhoods and connect with others while creating meaningful photographs. A PhotoScouting Guidebook organizes these tasks in three categories: Photography, Neighborhood and People. Participants earn (free!) patches by completing tasks in each category.” Chris was also kind enough to gift everyone a PhotoScouting guidebook to take home, which I am seriously excited to use as the days get warmer here in Cleveland. I think the one really great piece of advice I took away from Chris’ talk was to save some creativity for myself. In so many job situations I have found myself drained and not able to focus on my personal projects. It’s good advice – it’s basic self-care 101. Sometimes you just need people to level with you. Chris did that.
I was so grateful for the 24+ hours I was able to spend at Midwest Craft Con. It was definitely needed. I found it reinvigorating, inspiring, and in what is now Trump’s America – I found it hopeful to be among likeminded individuals. All is not lost. I am definitely going back next year and I am going to be sure to go for all three days, hope to see some of you there.