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Nationwide Crafts Study Underway at Appalachian

By Jane Nicholson

BOONE—Two Appalachian State University business professors will soon begin a study of the handcraft industry’s economic impact nationwide.

Professors Dinesh Davé’s and Mike Evans’ work will help create a national database in which state-by-state comparisons and trends in the industry can be followed.

Asheville-based HandMade in America is managing the $50,000 study, known as the CODA Survey: The Impact of Crafts in the National Economy. The Crafts Organization Directors Association (CODA) is sponsoring the study. The organization supports the work of craft administration professional of state, regional and national craft-related organizations.

The idea of conducting this national research grew from a 1994 study that looked at the impact of the crafts industry in Western North Carolina, according to Evans. That studied showed that the industry’s total economic impact in the western region is $122 million and provides more than $25 million in incomes.

“We want to measure annual sales, both wholesale and retail,” said Laurie Huttunen of the national study. She is director of services for HandMade in America. The non-profit organization promotes the crafts industry as a form of sustainable economic development and provides public relations and business support services to craftspeople.

Huttunen hopes that at least 20,000 crafters and others associated with the crafts industry will respond to the survey.

This study will look at the revenues generated from craft and handmade

production. “We will look at wholesale and retail craft sales, how these businesses operate and where products are sold, such as in galleries, craft fairs, out of the studio or by mail order,” Evans said.

“They are small businesses, but have a significant impact.”

Davé and Evans also will survey the various materials in use, such as glass, porcelain, clay, fiber, wood and leather, to determine which craft products generate the most sales.

A renewed interest in the culture of a region is helping fuel what Evans calls cultural heritage tourism. “Clearly it seems to be flourishing across the United States, and this interest is probably being driven by the Baby Boomers who are purchasing crafts and original art work.”

Davé and Evans will use a combination of methods to collect the data. “For the first time we will collect information through the Internet,” Evans said. They also will promote the survey through magazines and professional crafts organizations throughout the United States.

Huttunen says the information collected will help organizations such as HandMade to better document the industry’s nationwide impact and help illustrate the significant economic, educational and cultural value of the crafts industry.

“Our first research study showed that craft people are making a respectable living and are within the norms of the typical household income in North Carolina,” Evans said.

North Carolina has the fourth largest crafts industry in the nation, according to Huttunen. New York City and the Hudson River Valley ranks first, followed by the San Francisco Bay area and Santa Fe, according to Huttunen.

“Crafts have four times the economic impact of burley tobacco, which is the largest cash crop in Western North Carolina,” she said.

“The crafts industry will continue to be an invisible industry until its role is better understood,” Huttunen said.

The project begins in February. Evans hopes to publish results in December.

For more information about the project call Huttunen at (828) 252-0121, or Evans at (828) 262-6222. HandMade in America’s website address is