It may surprise you to know that I’ve never attended a blog conference. I can’t really explain why, except to say they never sounded like the right fit. There are conferences for creatives, but they tend to lean towards writer, photographers and the like.
A Conference for Crafters
I finally found one that made sense for a crafter like me – Craftcation! If you don’t know what Craftcation is, it’s a 4-day conference that takes place in Ventura, California for creatives and makers, put on by Nicole and Delilah of Dear Handmade Life.
I had never heard of it before this year, but after reading up on it, I started to get really excited! People attending really love being there and are so enthusiastic about the experience. It’s contagious, even through video.
Not only did they have sessions on running an online craft business by successful creatives who know, but they incorporate tons of hands-on craft workshops, so you can try out new crafts. And, there are even more fun things sandwiched between all that good stuff that I’ll tell you about in a few. Needless to say, I bought my ticket!
Planning for Craftcation 2018
Obviously, get your travel plans in order. I stayed in a nearby hotel (within walking distance), and flew in from Idaho. If you’re flying, keep in mind that you’ll likely have to fly into LAX (unless you can find a decent flight into Santa Barbara), which is over an hour away from Ventura, so plan on driving or taking the train. We rented a car, because we were staying a few extra days.
The conference schedule is numero uno, so buy your ticket and start deciding what workshops and presentations you want to attend way ahead of time, because when it’s time to sign-up, they will go faster than hotcakes! You will need to know exactly what you want, so be prepared. On that note, don’t pack your schedule too tight. Although Craftcation incorporates short yoga or meditation classes, make time for a walk on the beach or a long lunch each day.
I tried to keep a balance of business to craft workshops, but ended up a little “craft heavy”. Not that I cared, because I thoroughly enjoyed each and every class I attended at Craftcation and would take them all again. Note on crafts: remember that you have to bring everything home that you make, even if you’re flying, so be sure you have the extra space, otherwise you’ll be paying to ship it home.
Once you have the schedule you want (or something very close), the rest is a piece of cake. Craftcation isn’t like other conferences. It’s a bit more fun, a little more laid back, with an insanely creative vibe, so pack accordingly.
Check the weather and pack in layers for this time of year (April). Think casual dresses, cardigan and sophisticated sandals or dark denim and a smart blouse. I know you’ll want to go business casual (I did too), but you’re totally fine going smart semi-casual.
Also pack an extra tote for all of your personal items you might want to have on hand. Suggestions: water bottle, snacks, schedule, notebook and pen, lip balm, and extra space for swag!
A Glimpse of My Experience
The very best part of Craftcation for me was just being surrounded by like-minded people who were as geeked out on crafts as I was, and soaking up all of that creative energy in the air!
From a business perspective:
As an online business owner for many years, I have taught myself a lot in regards to marketing, blogging, and facilitating an online presence, but it wasn’t getting me where I wanted to be.
When I came across Craftcation, I discovered that some of their presentations could address the issues I was facing, like better time management, collaborations, and social media marketing.
As it turns out, one of my favorite sessions I attended was “Collaborating with Brands to Grow Your Business”. This was a panel of five creative and successful women (Rachel Mae Smith of The Crafted Life, Jeran McConnel of Oleander+Palm, Jennifer Perkins, Sarah Khandjian of Sarah Hearts, Jennifer Priest of Smart Fun DIY), all discussing different types of collaborations, including how to pitch, build professional relationships, and negotiate pricing. It was incredibly informative, and encouraging to hear their personal stories.
One thing that has been plaguing me for quite some time is whether or not I should rebrand the business. Fortunately, there was a workshop on this by Olivia Omega, who really helped me sort out the pros and cons of such a big decision, while offering alternative solutions to consider, like brand optimization.
From a crafter’s perspective:
As a general crafter, I had so much fun exploring the plethora of hands-on craft workshops at my disposal! Obviously, I couldn’t attend all of them, but the ones I did attend, I absolutely loved.
Two of my favorite classes were taught by Anne Weil of Flax & Twine. I found her to be kind, down to earth, and easy to follow when it came to instructions. This says a lot about her teaching skills, considering she was showing a group of strangers how to hand crochet and arm knit – no easy task! And, my arm knit cowl turned out beautifully!
Robert Mahar taught a Craftcation souvenir embroidery sampler class that I thoroughly enjoyed, but was incredibly slow at creating. It’s something I will be working on at home for the time being. Robert is a hoot, and I found hime to be a genuine person, who was happy to help each of us, one-on-one.
- Wanderings: The concept behind Wanderings is for attendees who want to use their hotel rooms to set up a pop-up shop, craft experience, or any other type of setting to show off their brand or product. Let me tell you that creatives don’t mess around, and every one of the 17 rooms we visited was a unique and fun experience.
- Extra Events: Outside of the regular schedule, there are a couple of lunches (one was at the City Hall – gorgeous!), a lovely brunch, keynote dinner, art walks, a meet-and-greet, happy hour, stitch and bitch, and even a beer tour!
- The Pier: Oh my gosh, the pier! With views of the beach shoreline, Channel Islands, fishing, and the surrounding waves and seagulls, it’s no wonder the City Pier is such a draw to tourists and locals alike. Did you know it’s 1,600 feet long? Perfect for a morning jog or evening stroll.
- Iron Craft Ventura: Crafters go head-to-head in a timed craft competition with surprise craft “ingredients” for the grand prize – a ticket to Craftcation 2019 ($450 value)! This was so fun to watch, even my husband got a kick out of it (photo above).
- The Swag: So. Much. Swag! If you want to peek, I took a pic of it spread out on my hotel room floor (shown above) and still couldn’t fit it all in the pic! Plus, it doesn’t even include a beautiful ceramic paint set that I won at the Darice vendor table.
- Downtown Ventura: Not only was the food incredible, but the downtown is quintessential California – sun, palms, wheatgrass, and board shorts. My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed perusing the shops, parks, and just wandering around.
I highly, highly recommend this conference for those who love to create and make. It’s a crafter’s paradise, great place to share stories, and will inspire you to do even more great things with your creative business, whether you sell a product, service, or are showing people how to DIY.
It’s really worth it just for the chance to network and make new friends. The people that attend this event are some of the nicest and funniest people around. If you decide to go, don’t forget to say hi to me, because I just might be there again next year. 😉