The Demographics of Craft

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I spent much of last Saturday night lying awake thinking about demographics. I know, I’m a bit odd, I accept that. I was thinking about demographics because we talk about it so much when planning our marketing strategy for the Nova Scotia Designer Crafts Council shows, for which I am the Program Coordinator. We are a registered non-profit and our budget is small, so it has to go a long way. A couple of other things that happened last weekend, actually three things, had me dreaming about demographics on a Saturday night.

#1 The number of single men and groups of male friends visiting the show together, with no female companions.
#2 Several comments from volunteers and visitors about other shows that have a “manly” component.
#3 An incredible accidental lunch that Rosie Browning, Kristina Vermeulen and I had with a man on Friday.

First I’ll tell you about the lunch. This gentleman of unknown age, but I’m guessing late 30’s early 40’s had been coming to craft shows since he was seven. He was there accompanying his mother, the brilliant woman who started educating him early. He clearly loved being in the space, was aware of all the various mediums on display, was a collector of fine craft. He was very interested in the processes, the craftsmanship, the stories behind the pieces, and the longterm investment that a piece of fine craft represented for him. He spoke longingly about Jon Gray Bespoke handmade shoes, saying that someday he wanted a pair. Rosie and I chatted for some time with him about the quality of the shoes, the fit, the leather, shoes for a lifetime. Later in the afternoon I walked by Jon Gray’s booth, and there was the man, being measured for the shoes, he had decided not to wait.

Now, to the “man” activities mentioned. I am not against gender specific activities, although I don’t believe in them wholeheartedly. I know lots of women who played with trucks as a child, and like to hunt or fish, or go offroad, and lots of men who weave or knit, or whatever is supposed to be a womanly pursuit. I’m a believer in activities for people, and being exposed to as many of them as possible from a young age.Fine craft is something to be enjoyed, used and collected by people, not one gender or the other, not one age group or economic bracket. It is clear to me from the range of people who are visiting our show, we are for all demographics.

Obviously a couple in their 60’s who have both been earning a comfortable salary for their working lives, have set their children out into the world, and have a home they love are going to walk the show with a different eye, and goals then I would. I am a late 30’s female who makes less in a year then it costs to rent the venue for the three day event, so I’m on a budget, but it doesn’t make being among the craftspeople less important to me. I come with a plan, I walk the show once and scope out my favourite things, I reevaluate my budget and go back for another pass to figure which of my favourite items will call the loudest.

After all that dreaming on Saturday night I had the perfect encounter on Sunday that tied together my initial ramblings about men appreciating craft.  A gentleman came up to me at the information booth looking for a show directory, clearly in a hurry.  He explained that he was on a deadline, that is his wife would only put up with him browsing at a craft show for so long.  I said something about her working or running errands, and he laughed, and told me no, she just doesn’t like fine craft, if she can’t buy it at Winner’s (or any other big box store), she doesn’t get it.

Like the man who was being fitted for Jon Gray’s handmade shoes, the key is to start appreciating the craftsmanship of the potters, weavers, metalsmiths, glassworkers and other craftspeople at an early age. If the individual and groups of men (and women, and children) I saw walking the show and enjoying the work of our exhibitors is any indication, my theory is correct. We don’t need a “man” component, or a babysitting service, or a spa experience. We need to continue to encourage and educate the public about fine craft, and we must continue to support the craftspeople so that their work is here to enjoy for a lifetime.
Julie Rosvall
Wolfville, NS
(where I finally starting to recover from last weekends show, just in time to start planning for 2013)

Unfortunately the photos from this year’s show have yet to be delivered, so the images above are from our last few shows.  We have been very lucky to have students from the Centre for Arts and Technology on hand.
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