The organizers of Midwest Craft Con have been involved in the indie craft scene for years, and chances are you’ve seen them around Ohio! This week we meet organizer Grace Dobush.
So who are you?
I’m a 33-year-old cat mom in Cincinnati, Ohio. But for real, I’m a freelance writer and wholehearted creative entrepreneur. In addition to working on Midwest Craft Con, I co-organize Crafty Supermarket, an indie craft show that’s celebrating its sixth birthday this year, and I wrote the Crafty Superstar business guides that came out in 2009 and 2012. What you might not know is that my “day job” is completely unrelated to craft: I regularly write for publications including Wired and Quartz about tech, politics, history and culture.
How’d you get involved in the craft world?
I started making things to sell after taking a bookbinding class and a printmaking class my freshman year of college — around 2000 there was also this burgeoning craft community online. I was very into indie rock, and I wondered if anybody else was into “indie craft.” It turns out there were tons of people with the same idea! Those early 2000s message boards were like petri dishes for the indie craft community, and people were starting businesses that are now still going strong.
I started selling my linocut cards and handmade books online, and started selling at shows in Cleveland and Pittsburgh to make a little money on the side as I was finishing my journalism degree and working as a copy editor and later a magazine editor. I moved from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati in 2007 and really missed the creative scene that was there in PGH. In 2009, I went to the Summit of Awesome in DC, where I met a few other crafters from Cincinnati, and we were like, “Why don’t we know each other?” So me and my new friend Alisha Budkie started Crafty Supermarket — which initially was going to be a craft show combined with a book release party for Crafty Superstar, but turned into a much bigger thing! We had rented out the back room of a bar and had 15 vendors back there, and 1,000 shoppers showed up! So the next show we upgraded to 45 vendors and drew even more shoppers, and six years later, my friend Chris Salley Davis and I run the show, and we’re expecting 100 makers and 5,000+ shoppers at our show on Nov. 28 at the Music Hall Ballroom. (The picture below is from the aftermath of our last show.)
What’s the first crafty thing you ever remember selling?
If we go all the way back, the first thing I ever sold was a zine that I did in 9th and 10th grades called Music News. It had some collages and cartoons but mostly consisted of music reports I wrote based off of what I saw on MTV and read in Rolling Stone from my small town in north central Ohio. An issue cost 25 cents, and at its peak it had a circulation of 25! I had read about zine culture in Sassy or somewhere, and I had an idea of what zines looked like, but I don’t think I ever saw any other than my own in real life. (I only got access to the internet at the local library towards the end of Music News’ two-year run.) That was the first of many business ventures I’ve had!
Who in the craft business world would you love to get a drink with?
That’s such a hard question! Back in 2010 I had a dream dinner with some amazing fellow speakers at a creative conference in Seattle: Megan of Not Martha, Faythe Levine of Handmade Nation, Garth Johnson and Jenny Hart — we spent the evening eating, drinking and hanging out, and it was magical. So I’m not sure what could top that. Maybe Martha Stewart?
What books would you recommend most to creative businesspeople?
Back when I was starting out, a very wise crafter recommended Small Time Operator by Bernard Kamoroff, who’s an accountant. It spells out in very clear terms all the unfun business things that you have to learn to be successful. And I’d also highly recommend NOLO’s books by Richard Stim, who’s an attorney specializing in arts law. The Craft Artist’s Legal Guide is an essential read.
What are you looking forward to most about Midwest Craft Con?
Meeting so many makers who I’ve talked to online or emailed with but never met in person!
Join Grace and many other makers at Midwest Craft Con in Columbus, Ohio, in February 2016! Early bird tickets are on sale now.