Self-Employment Ideas: Handicraft Industry

This article has an overview of the different self-employment ideas that the handicraft industry offer for anybody looking to earn an extra income stream on a full time or part-time basis.

Definition of Handicraft

Self-Employment Ideas: Handicraft IndustryHandicraft is also known as artisanichandicraft or artisanry. It is a particular kind of work where decorative and items to be used are made completely by hand without the use of machinery or modern technology. Simple tools are sometimes used, but never anything complex. Handicraft is a traditional main sector of craft, and usually this particular term is associated with the traditional means of making any goods. The individual craftsmanship of the items is incredibly important, given that these kinds of items usually have either some kind of cultural significance or religious significance. In modern market they offer a USP, too, which is the fact that they have not been made through mass production and are completely unique. [1]

Is the handicraft a Hobby or a Self-Employment Opportunity?

Most handicraft aficionados start with handcrafting as a hobby. If said handicraft aficionado is talented enough, the hobby turns into a self-employment business opportunity. The handicraft industry consists of hobbyists-turned-businesspeople. [2]

UK-based Linda De Ruiter is a perfect example of the above. In the mid-2000’s, De Ruiter lived in a small home with her five children. She was in dire financial straits, until a friend asked her to help at a knitting stall (De Ruiter’s hobby was knitting). This opportunity gave De Ruiter an idea to start a specialist yarn knitting business called Tall Yarns ‘n Tales.

I started very small, using one corner of my friend’s stand to try out my first product ideas. When they were well-received, I booked my first small stand by myself. I used our savings to buy my first stock. I thought it would always be a glorified hobby, but I am still growing very fast,” said De Ruiter.

The Craft Hobby Association-UK was founded to support hobbyists and handicraft aficionados. The association’s director, James Hesse, told BBC News, “We’re feeling really positive about crafting in the UK right now. The craft industry has always been a popular one in the UK and is also a sector that has been pretty much unaffected by the financial crisis – if anything it’s had the opposite effect. Because people haven’t been going out as much and have been cutting back on lots of luxury items, they’ve turned to their hobbies as a way of escapism.[3]

Caroline Hanks, another hobbyist-turned-handicraft aficionado, dug “out her mom’s old sewing machine” and sewed children’s “eco-friendly fabric party bags”. Caroline eventually tapped into the adult market and set up an e-commerce handicraft website called Funk E Angels. The Facebook page description reads:

Brought to you from the East End of London, Funk E Angels bags are a celebration of the musical and cultural influences that have inspired founder and creator, Caroline Hanks. Time spent living in Barcelona and Dublin made a great impression, shining through in the cocktail of fabrics, textures and prints she uses and, despite having had no formal design training, Caroline’s love of street art, fashion and music merge seamlessly with her natural ability to mix cultural influences. And, with prices starting from just £35, everyone can own a piece of this East London brand. Sourced, cut and constructed in the East End, Caroline’s bags are individual and limited edition.

Funk E Angels is more than just an accessory. It’s an experience. [4]

Top ten most Important Handicraft Products (in no particular order)

Ceramics:  Earthenware, stoneware, porcelain.

Glass crafts:  Mosaic Art, Glass Beadmaking, Glass Blowing, Glass Etching.

Fibre Crafts:  Appliqué, Crocheting, Embroidery, Felt-making, Knitting, Lace-making, Macramé, Quilting, Tapestry art, Weaving.

Paper Crafts:  Paper Modelling, Collage, Decoupage, Origami, Papier-mâché

Woodcrafts:  Wood-carving, Wood-turning, Cabinet making, Furniture making, lacquerware

Jewellery:  Includes processes like embossing, repoussé work, engraving, enamel-work (types include champlevé, cloisonné, bassetaille, plique-à-jour), granulation and filigree decoration.

Giftware:  This industry comprises of homewares, wooden toys and games made from native timbers, natural cosmetics etc.

Musical Instruments:  Include rattles, bells, stamping tubes, thumb piano and the xylophone.

Stone Crafts:  A wide variety of stone-carved miniature artifacts and jewellery made up usually of rare stones such as Shoushan stone and Tianhuang stone.

Miscellaneous Crafts:  Basket weaving, Beer-making, Book-binding, Doll-making, Enamelling, Floral Design, Ikebana, Knife-making (cutler), Leatherwork, Metalworking, Model-making, Tattoo Designing, Toy-making. [5]

What is the most Exciting Handicraft Product?

The handicraft industry is diverse and ubiquitous, therefore it is impossible to pinpoint a specific handicraft product. The best-selling handicraft products are usually beadwork, jewellery, wood crafts, glass crafts, ceramic crafts and fibre crafts. An article explains:

Certain types of crafts (jewelry, for example) are typically found in abundance at craft fairs, and the increased competition caused by multiple vendors selling the same type of product can make it very difficult to make sales. In order to make your craft a top seller, you need your products to stand out from the pack; you need to sell something that craft fair shoppers can’t find at any of the other vendor booths. Regardless of the overall popularity of the type of craft you’re selling, do something to make your products unique and different and thereby more attractive to shoppers. If, for example, you are a jewelry artisan, try using obscure materials in your pieces, rather than sticking with the standard stones and beads that many jewelers use.[6]

What is the fastest growing new Handicraft Product?

Trends indicate that eco-friendly handicraft products are currently dominating the handicraft industry. Perhaps the most interesting new handicraft product comes from Cape Town, South Africa. The business, called “All Women Recycling”, uses Africa as its main theme. Their clever tagline, “Kool little boxes straight outta Afrika”, is what makes this product and business so unique. They sell a product titled “kliketyklikbox”. It is described as “a versatile and trendy, yet practical and upmarket, eco-friendly gift box recycled from plastic 2-litre cool drink bottles. Women who have been unemployed for longer than 2 years are taught the skills needed to create these boxes, while at the same time learning business management, life and sales skills.[7] [8]

Their main goal: “Keeping our country clean one bottle at a time”.

Designer, handmade handicraft products are also extremely popular. Most of these handicraftitems are created exclusively for each client. Another UK-based handicraft designer has made waves in the UK for her hand-dyed, natural fabric prints. Helen McAllister, who had to quit her job because of poor health, used the opportunity to “indulge her passion for printing on fabric”. After winning a magazine competition, McAllister’s handicraft business flourished. One of her best customers is Prince Charles. Yes, Prince Charles.

Prince Charles commissioned the cushions for his tenants in the Duchy of Cornwall. He chose five animals and we printed the Duchy of Cornwall coat of arms on the back. They were truly one-offs. It was our largest-ever commission and business had to be suspended for six weeks while producing it. We screen-print the cushions, hand mix our colours – by eye – and use stitching on many cushions to make each one unique. I’m still surprised and delighted that something which began as a hobby is now able to support me and my team of staff at Helkat Designs,” says Helen. [9]