As manufactured products become the norm, handmade goods— particularly those made by women—are making a comeback.
By Andrea Tinning, Illustrations by Jessica Wetterer
From furniture and jewelry making to statement art pieces, artists are more than just makers in the literal sense of the word; they’re money makers. While the female-dominated crafting industry is often overlooked in comparison with others, it makes up a huge market in the national economy. A study by the Association for Creative Industries found the U.S. creative industry to be worth nearly $44 billion in 2016. Research was conducted in part by analyzing the average American’s monthly craft spending. In comparison, the sports industry is expected to be worth more than $73 billion by this year, but there’s no World Series or Super Bowl for needlework.
As a state known for having big-hearted and hardworking people, Texas employs more craft artists than any other state. A “craft artist” is defined as someone who creates or reproduces handmade objects for sale and exhibition using a variety of techniques, such as welding, weaving, pottery and needlecraft, but other creative industries ranging from writing to the performing arts are also included in this category. Following close behind for the states with the most crafters are California, New York, Georgia and Colorado.
Who says all artists are starving? While it’s true not everyone can be Picasso, crafters can still overcome the stereotype of having to sacrifice their passion for money and rake in some cash. And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Texas is a nice place to make it happen. The average hourly wage for craft artists in the Lone Star State is $17.66, compared with the national median wage of $16.46.
When Etsy launched in 2005, many disregarded it as a fanciful crafters’ version of eBay. Lo and behold, now boasting 1.98 million sellers, 86 percent of whom are women, Etsy has slam-dunked on the e-commerce market, proving there’s a strong demand for handmade and artisan goods. The company facilitated more than $3.25 billion in merchandise sales during 2017, saw revenue growth of 37 percent in 2018 and is expected to further grow revenue by 31 percent in 2019.
You don’t have to be a grandma to love quilting, and you don’t have to have decades of experience to be considered a crafting expert. Changing things up from previous decades, people between the ages of 18 and 34 now outnumber 55-plus crafters in the United States, comprising 35 percent of the total craft market.