Crafty Mart is excited to announce that we're extending our efforts to help nurture and develop our local maker community. That's what the MAKER SESSIONS are all about. With the assistance of the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, we have put together a second series of five panel discussions designed specifically for artists and makers to address some of your business needs. Want to know how to better turn your efforts into a sustainable income? This is for you.

The next in our second series of Maker Sessions is fast approaching! It will take place this Thursday, February 23rd at the Akron Art Museum, where a panel of people who have been there, done that will discuss the opportunities and the challenges of the craft show application process, and how to engage your customers on the day of the event. 

Our panel of experts will answer all of our craft show questions like, how to navigate the application process, what you can do to get on the organizers good side (along with pet peeves that you should avoid...), product packaging (with some creative, inexpensive DIY examples) and the importance of costumer service skills.

Meet our panel!

Carrie Nardini is the Founder and Director of I Made It! Market and the Neighborhood Flea in Pittsburgh, PA. Carrie is always looking for opportunities to promote her artists and has become slightly addicted to organizing and marketing events. Driven by some unknown force, Carrie has found her niche in the crafting world is to create events so she has put her beading needles and pliers away for the time being. She lives in the city with her husband, also a small business owner, and 5-year-old. In addition to her marketing degree, she recently added hockey mom to the list. 

Carrie will be sharing her expertise as a craft show organizer and curator to help vendors learn the tips that will help them stand out during the application process and sell out at shows!

Albert Macso is an Ohio native and Kent State University Graduate. Albert began his professional career as a financial statement auditor with the international accounting firm, KPMG; primarily out of the Portland, OR office. After several years of audit work, Albert transitioned to forensic accounting and business valuation.

Albert began Akron Coffee Roasters in 2014 with his college roommate, Tim Hollister, who had also spent the majority of his post-college period in Portland and other west coast cities. Upon returning to Ohio, the two could not find comparable coffee to what they had become accustomed to out west and began home roasting for their personal consumption. Looking to turn a passion into a source of income, Akron Coffee Roasters was born.

Akron Coffee Roasters is a small-batch coffee roasting company and retail cafe based in downtown Akron. The Company roasts specialty grade, single-origin coffee beans sourced directly from individual farms and mills through transparent relationships. The Company carefully roasts the coffee to highlight the unique origin characteristics of the beans. 

Albert will be giving us insight on how to best package your items and create a cohesive brand that will connect you to your customers. Akron Coffee Roasters has become known for their use of local artists and high-quality eco-friendly materials, which has made the recently opened retail store a community staple already.

Shannon Okey is a knitwear designer and craft book publisher. She founded Cleveland Bazaar in 2004, and currently serves on the Independent Book Publishers Association board. Shannon lives in Cleveland, where she works out of a converted factory building, and can be found on most social media as @knitgrrl

Cleveland Bazaar started with one annual holiday show in 2004 and has since grown to include year-round events, as well as an active online vendor community. In 2017 Bazaar will launch its small business education-focused nonprofit to expand on the opportunities we provide our vendors and other local startups.

We recently asked Shannon some very important questions.

CM: Why is buying handmade important to you?

SO: My parents and several close family members are artists, so I was raised in a creative environment where I really learned to appreciate how intensely personal and rewarding the arts can be both from a creative and career perspective. I admire the talents of everyone I meet in this industry and I try to learn from each person, because everyone has something to offer.

CM: What is something you would like to see more of in Akron?

SO: Growing up in Cleveland, we went to Akron for a handful of things. Wallpaper at January’s. Shopping at Quaker Square. And knowing my dad, probably record stores. As an adult I have really enjoyed watching Akron’s art offerings grow and in many cases, outpace what we have happening here. For example, the first ten years of Hi Fructose magazine art show that’s opening this weekend — that’s a really big get. So was the Mothersbaugh show at the art museum. Art activities have really made an impact on my personal interaction with Akron, so I hope this continues to be the case!

CM: What is your go-to karaoke song?

SO: “Walking After Midnight” by Patsy Cline. But once an entire bar in Munich, Germany bought me shots after I did a B-52s song so maybe I need to rethink that.

Photo by  Svelta Morrisson

Brit Charek is the Executive Director of Crafty Mart and the Co-Founder of the Midwest Craft Con - now in its second year - as well as a Founding Board Member of PechaKucha Akron. She prides herself as a conscious consumer and an advocate for artists and creative entrepreneurs, and will always be a punk rocker at heart. She's mom to two amazing kiddos and is married to an extremely handsome man who founded the Akron Ale Fest.

Brit started her journey with Crafty Mart as a vendor, and then took over for co-founders Juniper Sage and J Hudson in 2012. She has enabled Crafty Mart to grow from a bi-annual craft show to a full-fledged nonprofit community arts organization that educates the public about the high degree of effort, skill, and artistry involved in creating handmade goods and supports makers through entrepreneurial education and access to local business resources.

Here are some questions we asked Brit:

CM: Why is buying handmade important to you?

BC: I love that the things I use and have in my house have stories and people behind them. It makes me smile every day!

CM: Bowie, Beatles or Rolling Stones? Why?!

BC: Can I have Bowie AND the Stones? When I was little, my dad used to change the lyrics of Bowie songs and sing them to me. Then I noticed that he did the same things for our dogs. He does it for my kids now, so I guess everything has come full circle! I fell in love with the Stones after watching the documentary “Stones In Exile”-- it’s beautiful and I’d highly recommend it.

CM: What job did you have in high school?

BC: I worked at Dover Lake Waterpark flipping burgers and Brandywine Ski Resort in the winter in the rental room so that I could snowboard for free. Pretty classic Akron stuff :)

CM: What is the one TV show that you never miss?

BC: I just recently re-binged all of Parks & Rec, and I might just go back and do it again!

The panel will be moderated by the talented Nicole Delamotte, Freelance Writer and handmade enthusiast.

Catered food will be provided, and food and drink for purchase are available at the Art Museum's Cafe. Don't miss this chance to network with fellow artists and makers along with free admission to the Art Museum's exhibits and galleries.

While you're at the museum, make sure to check out their current exhibition, which just opened last week: Turn the Page: The First Ten Years of Hi-Fructose. This is a unique opportunity to see in-person the works that have been featured in the popular (and beautiful!) art magazine over the last decade.

Whether your ambition is towards a hobby that pays for itself, a professional operation that is your livelihood--or something in between--these Maker Sessions will give you practical and usable tools to help you protect, produce, and thrive!

Registration and snacks will take place from 6-7pm, and the program will begin in the Museum Auditorium at 7pm with a panel discussion followed by Q&A with the audience.


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