Craft evolves from kitch to cool to bespoke.

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Many of us harbour fantasies about taking up knitting or crocheting. Some of us have revisited old hobbies like pottery and silver-smithing, and quite a few have even started turning the craft revival into a business. A local craft curator says there is no stopping the world-wide rise of the modern artisan generation.

The value of handmade craft is here to stay and is set to increase as mass production continues apace, says Princess Tsotetsi, Senior Project Manager of the Craft Collective at Decorex SA.

The era of craft has evolved in everything from beer, food, jewellery, fashion and décor. From genuine products to marketing gurus jumping on the bandwagon, there can be no doubt that craft has become the new black.
According to US designer Eric Schultz, a 2012 Mintel report found that 40% of American households earning over $150 000 preferred to buy handmade décor items to mass-produced ones.

On the upper end, hand-crafted items are termed “bespoke design”; on the lower end is the emerging market craft environment that is being recognised world-wide for its unique handmade appeal.

As Project Manager of the successful Craft Collective pavilion at Decorex SA – Africa’s premier décor, design and lifestyle exhibition – Princess has seen both the worlds of rural and urban handwork evolve over the past 15 years.

Princess believes that the market’s appreciation for handmade craft will continue to grow as consumers identify a new kind of value in objects of desire. “The new luxury is owning something no-one else has, and that is why handcrafted items – which by their very nature are unique – are going to increase in value.”

The craft industry will also boom with an increasing demand for customisation of goods.

“Absolute luxury is owning something that was made especially for you. The handcrafter is open to discussions with the consumer about creating bespoke products – something that could never happen with a mass-produced item,” Princess said.

“We are simply not a one-size-fits-all generation. In everything we do – music, media, retail – we are able to customise our experience and that’s why crafters are perfectly positioned to take a driving seat in the economy.”
Princess said that the most exciting aspect of the development of the craft economy was the unrealised potential that lay inside every single crafter.

“As demand for handmade goods grows, we are going to see more and more crafters crossing over into the formal economy and establishing sustainable businesses.”

“There is also a greater flexibility in the way crafters do business, meaning they are open to collaborations and new ideas that do not impact on a mammoth production line,” she said.

More than being the new black, craft is the new business frontier.

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