If there's a heaven for crafters, it's the Hobby Industries Assn.'s annual convention.
Billed as the world's largest craft and hobby trade show, it's where thousands of vendors--from mom-and-pop-run businesses to large corporations--show their wares to buyers and the press. Fabric, yarn, rubber stamps, stencils, scrapbook supplies, paints, ribbon, paint brushes, paper, silk flowers, beads, mosaics--it's all here, covering two convention floors.
It's both an exhausting hunt for hot new products and tomorrow's trends, and a fascinating look at myriad product innovations.
The convention's scope isn't surprising, considering crafting's explosion over the last few years. Those in the field say it's primarily fueled by our yearning for something made by hand to balance this cyber-driven world.
Yet technology plays a large part in today's craft market.
"Technology is what makes crafts faster," says Susan Brandt, the association's director of communication. "Since people have less time, they need things they can be successful with in less time--paint that dries in an hour rather than overnight, glues that go through the washing machine."
They also want versatility, Brandt says. "The consumer is very anxiously looking for other uses for products. So something that can be used for scrapbooks can also be used on stationery and invitations."
At February's convention in Dallas, several trends in home decor and personal crafts were evident.
Mosaics are big and can embellish everything from outdoor stepping stones to lampshades. The scrapbook industry continues to grow with innovations that include vintage-looking papers for old photographs, decorative paper cutters and a lettering CD-ROM. Decorating the outside of the house has become as important as the inside and has been made easier with weather-resistant paints and garden accessories. Knitting and crocheting have gotten a boost from yarns in gorgeous colors and textures. And kits continue to be extremely popular for parents as a low-cost way of introducing children to different crafts.
We asked those involved in the craft industry, from store owners to buyers to a television host, for their picks from the show. Here's what they said:
Chris Morley, product director for home decor, QVC;
Cindy Zontek, buyer, QVC:
Chris: A little more prevalent this time were stained glass and mosaics. I noticed some expansion of the memory-related [scrapbook] products, and we found some new products, like a cutter that cuts about six or eight different shapes. People who are really into the scrapbooking craze will buy it. We also saw Archival Mist, which, when you spray it on paper, makes it acid-free.
Cindy: I saw some silk painting products, and I'm wondering if we're going back into fabric embellishment, which was a big trend several years ago. Silk painting has always been a difficult process, but now the fabric has been pre-printed to make it easier. We're also seeing a real emergence of painting as a trend--decorative and artistic painting.
Carol Duvall, host, "The Carol Duvall Show," HGTV:
I saw a lot of things for the patio, patio paint in an enlarged line of colors, stepping stones, mosaics. The outdoor area is really growing. Also, the last couple of years I saw mosaics coming back in, but they weren't that great looking. Now it seems to be upgraded a little bit. I saw a lot of paper--decorative paper, handmade paper, paper bags for gifts. I'm thrilled, because paper has always been one of my favorite mediums. And then, of course, the rubber stamping and scrapbooking products. Fiskars now has all these different decorative blades.
Beverly Rivers, editor in chief, Crafts Showcase magazine:
Crochet and knitting is big. There are really beautiful chenille yarns for wearables and for throws, and a lot of wonderful homespun yarns in intense, bright colors. The handmade garments they were showing looked like something from a really fine clothing store, and it's exciting to me that if you see a handmade sweater in a boutique that's really pricey, there are patterns that really match up to that. Also, there are paints for every surface, from metal to exterior surfaces, glass and candles. There were so many innovative uses of trims, edgings and fringes. Now they've come up with projects that show unusual ways to use them on window treatments, boxes, pillows, bags and purses.
Marcy (and Al) Welland, owners, Create Your Own crafts emporium, Santa Monica:
We saw these great pens for hand-tinting black-and-white photography, called Spot Pens. They're really easy to use. Also there's a kit from Sculpey that takes a baby's hand or foot and makes a three-dimensional mold out of plaster of Paris. Chatterbox had some great templates for journaling in scrapbooks, and some of the rubber stamp companies had some cool new images, like Uptown's David Walker and Running Rhino lines.
Eric Dickenson, senior buyer, Michaels arts and crafts stores:
There's still a lot of interest in memory books, which doesn't surprise me. That's a very big category, especially with the millennium coming up. People are doing a lot of memory-type things, like time capsules. I also saw a lot of bead projects, especially for kids. I'm seeing a lot of interest in glass crafting--mosaics on glass, glass etching. And there's still a lot of interest in wood, such as wood shelves, wood furniture--small pieces--that you can paint and embellish and it gives you a nice home decor piece.
More information about the Hobbies Industries Assn. can be found on its Web site, http://www.i-craft.com.