Chart Your Own Trends

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Does a day go by that we don’t hear about the latest trends in the gift, leisure or craft industry? Yet, to most of us the new and exciting trends are beginning to sound like a broken record. Is there really anything new out there in craft land? Depends on whom you ask! Trends by definition should be techniques, motifs, medium, colors, and supplies that grow in popularity over time versus a fad, which comes and goes in a blink of an eye. There are trends that are standing the test of time and should be taken into consideration when creating your crafts to sell and planning your merchandise displays.

The strongest trend to consider is general lifestyle. The lifestyle of the consumer or buyer is too hectic and fast paced for comfort. This has brought a need for the good old days and a slower beat from the drummer. Our customers want to relax while browsing. The consumer wants warm and friendly customer service. Nothing promotes sales better than a smile and an answered question. Bottom line is that the consumer wants to enjoy his or her shopping experience and feel like his or her money was well spent.

Lifestyle changes explain the popularity of many of our current motif or style trends. The garden look. Western. Lodge and country. Simple folk creations. It can also explain the popularity of collectibles. Items like teddy bears, pigs, dolls, rubber-stamps, and hearts. These are all places and objects near and dear to your customer’s heart. More often than not, these things represent a journey or visit back home or to childhood. Places where they relax and unwind. No phones. No blaring TV or stereo. Just peace and comfort. There is no deep thought behind it nor any psychoanalysis needed. Memories of happy, carefree times are a large part of crafting and leisure activities.

A need for comfort also explains the high demand for home decor items. At one time this need to decorate the home was called nesting. The public was tired of going out and dealing with the grand scale rush to be entertained. The consumer who we all know is a crafter at heart wanted to stay home and be king or queen of the domain. The home is now viewed as an expression of self. A personal vision of the world at large. A house is just a house until it becomes a home. It becomes a home when the family decorated the walls, tables, and bookshelves. Personal and personalized.

Yet, if you are like me the question of exactly how to define home decor is an endless search in the dictionary. As a matter of fact, home decor isn’t in any of my dictionaries! Narrowing home decor down is a difficult task, but view it as anything that helps customize an abode. Wall hangings, floral pieces, pillows, lamps, towels, storage containers, quilts, desk arrangements, table enhancers, rugs, flowerpots, bookends, and more. In other words, just about any craft that pops into your head. The difference is in presentation. You have to show the consumer the setting. Show your customer how to decorate the home with crafts. Create a small round table complete with table covering and a floral centerpiece. A bathroom vanity with matching accessories from tissue holder to guest towel. Don’t forget a handmade candle or homemade soap. Give your consumer ideas.

Lifestyle makes up our trends, but lifestyle is always changing is subtle ways. How do you as a busy professional crafter keep up with the changes? Mind reading the consumer isn’t part of your talents? Paulette Jarvey of Hot off the Press presented a wonderful list of ways to help chart trends at a Society of Craft Designers Educational Seminar. These basic tips are helpful to all of us in the craft industry. Simple and easy to fit into the regular workday, you may find the ideas helpful in your plans for meeting the needs of your consumer:

  • Attend trade and consumer shows
  • Read the craft consumer and trade journals
  • Watch the gift market
  • Read Home Decor magazines
  • Visit art and craft shows
  • Observe the displays in furniture and home accessory shops
  • Keep color, fabric, ribbon, lace, yarn and other swatches handy
  • Keep a notebook and pen on your person for quick notes
  • Keep a file system organized by themes like Americana, Garden, Victorian and also by craft like paper, painting, jewelry, or dolls
  • Find the common themes and threads of what appeals to you…these are the trends.

Sharon Tittle of Creative Delights in Fresno, CA contributed a great idea that she uses to chart trends and colors. Sharon is a professional craft designer and Wearables Artist who designs and sells fashions from denim jackets to formal wear. Sharon’s hints to trending:

  • Look through all types of magazines and catalogs. Cut out pictures and colors that catch your eye. Collect any photos available to you.
  • Divide a poster board vertically in half. On one side glue or tape down pictures and photos. On the other side, write: Colors, Textures, Objects/Themes and Techniques, leaving space for you to fill-in with responses from observing the pictures and photos.
  • For example: You cut out a bright quilt, a family at a picnic, and an ad for Christmas toys. Colors: Bright, Bold, Red, Blue, Pink. Textures: Soft, Warm, Flat, Smooth. Objects/Themes: Home, Family, Outdoors, Fun, Pleasure. Techniques: Quilting, Sewing, Cooking, Woodworking, and Staining.
  • Place finished Trend Board above your work area and keep adding to it as the year goes on. It can be a reference guide when deciding new lines and up-dating current product line.

Our Own Tips to Trending:

  • Create an index box of ideas to develop…one idea per card
  • Sit in a mall or visit other retailers stores and watch the customers
  • Cut out appealing displays and designs from magazines and catalogs.
  • Take a minute to review all new books and design packets
  • Ask your sales clerks to talk with the customers at check-out…what are the customers doing with the products they purchase
  • Listen to your class teachers and ask for their input
  • Visit model homes in your community for home decor ideas
  • Have a home decor contest in your store…select a room and have your customers decorate it!
  • Join local craft groups like chapters of the Society of Decorative Painters or a church group
  • Get involved and participate in a craft class at your shop or other facility

Don’t let trends and trending overwhelm you. As a member of the crafting industry and of your own local community you know more than any of us “experts” do. Trust your instincts when selecting new products and incorporating new trends. The trend of Southwestern never flies in the state of Florida. Seashell motifs are rare to find in Iowa. Trends are to be used as guides. Trends let you know what is happening in the big picture and you need to use the trends to help in your part of that picture. The experts are good. The manufacturers, distributors, designers, professional crafters, gift industry buyers, and others who earn a living by presenting to you and the consumer the best and latest spend time and effort on the task. There is no one, sure-fire trend in our industry. It is the combination of all the techniques, motifs, media, and home decor fashions that sell product.

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