mak­ing it as a crafter

How one de­signer has nav­i­gated the tricky tran­si­tion from crafter to ar­ti­san en­tre­pre­neur

Mollie Makes (US) - - CONTRIBUTORS -

To make a liv­ing fol­low­ing one’s bliss has long been the dream of many an artist and crafter, yet for most, the path to at­tain­ment can be a long and wind­ing road. For Kelli Ronci (prop stylist and craft au­thor/ de­signer), her cir­cuitous jour­ney was one of pur­su­ing ideas, cre­at­ing op­por­tu­nity, and ul­ti­mately find­ing sus­tain­abil­ity. From her first ven­ture, which re­sulted in a col­lab­o­ra­tion with renowned UK de­signer Paul Smith, to the launch of her on­line shop, Corda ( www.cor­dade­ fea­tur­ing her line of ex­quis­ite cro­chet ac­ces­sories, Ronci ul­ti­mately landed on a busi­ness model she could be­lieve in.

Along the way, she had to nav­i­gate the chang­ing land­scape of the hand­made move­ment, prod­uct man­u­fac­tur­ing, and be­liefs about what con­sti­tutes a hand­crafted good. As her busi­ness evolved, Ronci had to tackle some of the re­al­i­ties as­so­ci­ated with sell­ing one’s wares: How does one pro­duce ef­fi­ciently? Where does one man­u­fac­ture af­ford­ably and eth­i­cally? How does one keep the prod­uct “hand­crafted”?

Upon find­ing a lack of nee­dle-arts man­u­fac­tur­ing in the US, she de­cided to look for where her craft was still be­ing pro­duced, and ul­ti­mately found a fair-trade man­u­fac­turer in Bo­livia that con­nects de­sign­ers with ar­ti­sans, while of­fer­ing them health and ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties. Granted, this ar­range­ment is not with­out its chal­lenges – com­mu­ni­ca­tion prob­lems, qual­ity con­trol, cul­tural dif­fer­ences with re­gard to our 24/7 ex­pec­ta­tions – but for Ronci, “these in­evitable is­sues are far out­weighed by the value of know­ing that the women who are re-cre­at­ing my de­signs are able to make a fair wage through their craft.” It was also im­por­tant for Ronci to stay true to her “crafter” roots: “Con­tin­u­ing to hand­craft limited-edi­tion and one-of-a kind pieces in my stu­dio keeps me grow­ing cre­atively as an Amer­i­can ar­ti­san.” Her abil­ity to strad­dle both the man­u­fac­tur­ing and hand­crafted worlds is ev­i­dent in the suc­cess of her line, which is grow­ing steadily.

To fel­low artists who dream of de­sign­ing a hand­crafted line she ad­vises, “It’s help­ful to have additional means of in­come as you are start­ing out, such as free­lance styling, de­sign­ing or il­lus­trat­ing, and If you want to ex­pand and take on more whole­sale or­ders, con­sider look­ing for ex­ist­ing ar­ti­san “in­dus­tries” to col­lab­o­rate with.Think about how to make cre­at­ing and sell­ing your work sus­tain­able.”

Many of Kelli’s de­signs are made from hand-painted, 100% silk yarn, which give the pieces an el­e­gant look and grace­ful drape.

Kelli in her Mill Val­ley stu­dio, sur­rounded by her cre­ations.

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