by Tina Manzer
A number of influential tradeshows were held in the past three months, and industry pundits continue to weigh in on the trends presented. Biggest among them was the ever-growing impact of “tech” and the ways it changes the things we make and, certainly, how we view them.
“It is clear that video content and digital access is here to stay,” wrote Stacey Trock in her “Show Report: Creativation 2020,” for the Craft Industry Alliance (craftindustryalliance.org). The crocheter/ blogger/marketing consultant singled out exhibitor Penless and its decorative QR-code stickers that bring video into the picture (so to speak) of scrapbook pages.
The tradeshow of the Association For Creative Industries (AFCI), Creativation was held in Phoenix in January. Educational sessions were offered to attendees before the show opened and for the first time, they included a series from AFCI’s Digital Content Creator section. “With topics like ‘Email Marketing’ and ‘Instagram Stories,’ the sessions were widely attended by all segments,” reports Stacey.
Then in February, toys inspired by digital-first brands represented one of the hottest trends at Toy Fair. Called “IRL,” it encompassed action figures and dolls, unboxing toys, board games, and role play items that originated from nonlinear platforms like Netflix, social media, and e-sports platforms, explains The Toy Association. Also included were “digital toys that cross into the physical world and encourage active/social play, and traditional and nostalgic toys with a digital twist.”
Back at Creativation, Stacey noticed an increase in beginner-friendly tools, and pointed to OLFA’s brand-new beginner craft knife. With its minimally exposed, easy-to-change blade, the knife is suitable for craft dabblers and children age 8 and up.
“Sparkly” options, like iridescent and mirror-finish paints and colored gilding were also a theme, in juxtaposition to a trend toward earth-friendly materials. EarthSparkles, a biodegradable glitter introduced by Wow! Embossing Powder, based in the U.K., combined the best of both worlds.
For the first time, Creativation was collocated with four other organizations: The National NeedleArts Association (TNNA), the Alliance of Independent Retailers (AIR), The Collins Group, and Crafters’ Home. Each group hosted its own member events and participated in AFCI’s annual trade show.
AFCI and TNNA are both managed by association services company SmithBucklin in Chicago. “Although there are no concrete plans for AFCI and TNNA to hold their shows together in the future, many in the industry speculated this was a likely path as both organizations face declining tradeshow participation,” Stacey wrote.
Many Creativation attendees commented on the noticeable decline in show size over the past two years. Stacey estimated that 210 companies were represented by booths on the show floor, and 43 of them were located within the TNNA pavilion.
Reacting to tech defines trends in Germany
At Creativeworld in Frankfurt, people’s desire to make more things by hand fueled product trends. “Individualization, ‘we culture,’ mindfulness and deceleration are societal trends in which creative handicrafts play an important role,” says show host Messe Frankfurt.
The result is a movement it calls “Work-out.”
“Its focus is on making things with our own hands, and on rough work with raw materials such as concrete, plaster and cement,” according to bora.herke.palmisano design studio, commissioned to introduce the trends. “There are attractive techniques here for achieving strong surface effects with irregular, original and imperfect textures.”
Other materials used to create texture are fragile and pliable, like seaweed, willow and rattan. “They can be plaited, knotted or woven for use as seat cushions, table runners, table mats and curtains.”
Materials that are recycled or upcycled (fabric remnants, scrap wool, leftover paint) form the basis of another trend called “Re-form.” It incorporates techniques like action painting, batik, dip-dyeing and patchwork. “Everything goes; especially intense colors and combinations using a variety of materials,” note the designers. “Patterned designs are overprinted; and t-shirts, backpacks and sneakers are decorated with paint sticks. Scrap wool is woven or knitted regardless of structure and color, and multiple colors are squeegeed or spread onto canvases with spatulas.”
The designers discussed a third trend influenced by young creatives but enjoyed by all ages. Called “Update,” it takes the form of applying words – freehand – to everyday objects like backpacks, hoodies, laptop cases and even furniture using markers, paint brushes, foil transfers and casting resin. The focus is on customization.
“This year’s Creativeworld celebrated freedom wholeheartedly,” concludes Messe Frankfurt. “There is no limit to the combination of materials and techniques, but a need to combine old and new, whether it’s furniture, accessories or clothing.”
The underlying theme was sustainability. Exhibitors discussed their products’ recyclability, biodegradable ingredients, reduced packaging, refillable cartridges and certified sustainable wood with enthusiastic buyers. On display were papier-mâché objects made from scrap paper, beeswax cloths for reusable storage, and compostable plastic beads. “It is important for us to embrace the ‘Fridays for Future’ movement, to build a world where nature matters, and to try to do without packaging materials,” notes Katharina Jacobs from craft company Rico Design.
Creativeworld growth categories
Urban art: “Retailers are not afraid of street art anymore,” Molotow CEO Jürgen Feuerstein explained to Messe Frankfurt. “Even for children, the range of chalks and paints for asphalt is growing.” Information about techniques and concepts continues to play a big role, and users turn to retailers for informational support, ideas and a broad mix of products.
Resin: Its impressive possibilities – from jewelry to cast artwork with a high-gloss finish – were showcased, and continue to attract a large following.
“Evergreen” craft products encompass favorites from the past. The art created with hand lettering tools and accessories, decoupage materials, ink and rubber stamps, washi tape, and die-cut supplies continues to evolve. Techniques that perpetuate personalization in paper form like notebooks and diaries, recipe collections and bullet journal planners remain popular.
Acrylic pouring: Alcohol-based inks are extending the fluid-art theme with color gradations and droplets.
Pastel shades continue to dominate. “Pale pink, dusty pink and soft pink are indispensable in the cosmos of the creative person,” says Messe Frankfurt.
Wearable art created with facial stamps and tattoo pens is growing, says the trend report from Creativeworld. And then there’s cosplay. “Costume play” is one of the most popular multimedia arts among makers today, according to Ivy Decker on the blog Maker Files. Generally focused around conventions or other large events, cosplay makers create hyper-detailed and realistic costumes to transform themselves and others into their favorite pop culture characters from all sorts of media. For all kinds of maker brands, cosplay is a market segment too valuable to ignore.
While a simple costume made of easily accessible components can cost as little as $30, the majority of cosplay makers spend hundreds of dollars per costume year after year. “When you consider how detailed many of the more advanced costumes can get, and how many products and materials it takes to create them, it makes sense.
“While most cosplayers will get multiple wears out of their costumes, the desire (and sometimes pressure) to build bigger and better costumes means a growing investment in tools and materials over the years,” Ivy adds. According to the blog, nearly 43 percent of cosplayers create one to two new costumes per year. Just over 32 percent create three to four, and 25 percent create five or more. Most of them (73 percent) sew, nearly half of them (42 percent) apply makeup, and another 42 percent are adept at painting/weatherproofing. Other techniques involved are wig styling, foam sculpting and thermoplastics, and working with circuits and LEDs.
At NAMTA’s Art Materials World, Logan Graphic Products is introducing its new line of cosplay costume-making cutting tools.
They can be used on all types of EVA foams up to 1-inch (13 mm) thick, along with various thermoplastics.
See their ad on page 26, and visit their booth #1608.