Crafts trend speaks to simplicity and ‘a human instinct to create’


When it came time for motherhood eight years ago, Kat Kwan wanted to be able to provide for her newborn while being able to choose her own schedule.

Realizing her gig in nonprofits was not the ideal job, she decided to take a risk: support herself and her family with her art.

“In many ways, I had jobs that were 9 to 5 or were partially working on weekends,” said the Fullerton resident. “It didn’t give me the time I needed to be with my son. I needed something that would be more flexible and I could tune into my creativity.”


Kwan, who has been making jewelry with gemstones and leather for family and friends since she was a teenager, is part of the trend of people making an income from their handmade crafts.

The last decade has seen a resurgence in the craft world, in no small part because of the Great Recession, which officially ended in 2009, said Pamela Diamond, spokesperson for the Minneapolis-based American Craft Council, which has supported crafters nationwide through workshops, conventions and magazines since the 1970s.

“I just think that really catapulted into a time where people started thinking about what’s really important to them and how they want to spend the precious days of their lives,” Diamond said of the recession, suggesting not only a profit motive but a sort of back-to-basics mentality.

She said that of the council’s 25,000 members, about 85% are not professional crafters but rather creative types who prefer instead to do crafts as a hobby or charity work.

Locally, members of Huntington Beach’s Senior Center in Central Park make scarves, sweaters and other items to sell, but they donate the profits to the center.

The Dana Point nonprofit Knit for Love makes hand-knit and crocheted items to give to the homeless, impoverished and sick people in 39 countries.

But for people like Kwan, crafting has turned into a full-fledged, profit-turning business. She sells her jewelry at craft shows and also relies on the sites and, charging $70 to $300 an item.

Kwan said people are longing to be their own bosses and work their own schedules while also building something that can stand up against hard times when jobs are scarce.

“It stems from people like myself who are artists but worked in corporate America and left or were laid off and then said, ‘Now what?’ Those jobs in America are not there anymore,” she said. “Unless you’re able to reinvent yourself and be able to articulate your own work ... you have to be able to represent yourself.”

Diamond said that while the crafting industry has boomed in the last several years, it’s also been experiencing a “shifting” with technology.

Take Etsy, a peer-to-peer e-commerce website largely focused on handmade or vintage items and supplies. It’s been operating since 2005.

Dayna Isom Johnson, Etsy’s “trend expert,” said the Brooklyn-based website, which offers more than 40 million products, started because of this return to handmade items.

The founder was an artist and wanted to have a destination to sell his goods in the e-commerce space, Johnson said.

“Handmade has always been kind of our bread and butter,” she said. “People come to Etsy because they want that special gift they can’t find anywhere else.”

Johnson said she believes this so-called renaissance has taken place the last few years because people are looking for customized, unique gifts.

She also said the shoppers are into supporting creative entrepreneurs.

Gregory Jueneman, who owns Santa Ana-based skin-care company Baltic + Pine, said he started the company two years ago after he learned to make soaps and lotions as a hobby to ease his chronic dry skin.

After receiving requests for the products from friends, Jueneman, who said he has always been crafty, quit his position as a retail manager to pursue Baltic + Pine full-time and open his Etsy “store.”

He said he makes the soaps in large batches — about 200 bars — once a month with no “gross additives or artificial things.” The same base recipe is used for everything, but then he adds scented items like lavender rubs and rose petals.

Jueneman’s items sell for $9 to $22.

Aside from Etsy, his products are also sold in 30 stores, at farmers markets and on

He said he considers the resurgence of handmade goods to be a “return to a simpler time.”

“I think people are really looking for things that make them feel comfortable and safe,” he said. “Making something yourself is a great way to do that.”

Annabelle Isky, who sells hand-knit and hand-crocheted scarves, hats, dish cloths and other items at the weekly farmers market in San Juan Capistrano, said she’s constantly knitting and crocheting everywhere she goes.

Each garment can take several hours to several days, so there’s “a lot of love” that goes into them, the 76-year-old San Juan Capistrano resident said. Her items sell for between $5 and $300, she said.

As she was walking around the MerMade Market in Dana Point, where local crafters and artists are invited to sell their goods annually, Taylor Pascua said she loved the uniqueness of the handcrafted goods.

“It’s not just an assembly-line-made thing that everyone has,” said the 20-year-old Laguna Niguel resident.

Kim Turcotte of Huntington Beach, who also visited the MerMade Market as a consumer and creates and sells mermaid-inspired crafts, said she is often drawn to handmade gifts because of how personalized they can be.

She said she believes there is more meaning behind a gift that is unique and not mass-produced.

“Today everything is so commercialized over the holidays,” she said. “It takes away from the spirit of giving. I don’t find handmade gifts that much more expensive either. It’s nice to know who you are actually making a purchase from and to be able to meet the designer and creator. You have a chance to get to know more about your purchase, and it makes the gift you are giving that much more special.”

While crafting might not be as trendy in the future, Diamond insists the industry and the activity itself will survive because of human needs.

“It will come and it will go like every trend, but it will also remain constant at the same time,” she said. “It’s a human instinct to create.... It’s as much a part of our DNA as it could possibly be.”