Keeping with the PA theme this month, I interviewed Tara Gentile of Handmade in PA, a blog and online artist community focusing on “supporting arts and crafts in the keystone state.” Tara is a freelance writer, blogger, and social media strategist who also writes for Etsy Marketing, PAadventure, and guests on a number of other online resources.
My mom (http://rosieswhimsy.com) was actually the inspiration for the Handmade in PA.net blog. I started promoting her business after my daughter was born in July and I was hooked! When it became apparent that Pennsylvania had an amazing arts & crafts scene but little in the way of communication between Philly & Pittsburgh, let alone Central PA, I decided to start a blog to highlight all the good things going on where we live. From there, readers have suggested different extensions of the site – flickr group (http://flickr.com/groups/handmadeinpa), community (http://handmadeinpa.ning.com), and an Etsy team.
Oh man! That’s a tough one. Philly, for me, was a given. I knew there was good stuff going on there – awesome consignment shops, hip craft fairs, etc… Probably because I’m an “east-of-the-Susquehanna” kind of girl, I didn’t know about all the fabulous stuff going on in Pittsburgh! It’s been a real joy to find out more about our sisters (and brothers!) to the west. Lancaster has a very up-and-coming scene and that’s where I would watch closely over the next year or so if you’re interested in craft in PA. And Harrisburg crafters, where are you?
I would start by ridding yourself of the tendency to think, “I need _____, I’ll go to [insert fav big box store].” It’s a nasty cycle – once you’re in the door, you can buy anything that you would need or want. Try your local farmers’ markets, consignment stores, Goodwill/Salvation Army, and craft markets. Walk down the main street of your town and visit the locally-owned stores. If you can buy it in a big box store, you can probably find it made by someone in your community – including make-up, cleaning products, and clothing.
And, of course, the internet. The “world wide web” has actually made it even easier to shop local! You can use the “Shop Local” function on Etsy (http://etsy.com/shop_local.php) or stop by Handmade in PA.net to find out the latest news & selections of PA craftspeople.
As I said above, the craft scene in PA is finding its way to the center part of the state. Lancaster, which has seen a resurgence of culture of all types, is the next hot bed of activity. I’m quite sure that Harrisburg and York will follow suit. I suppose that’s literally where the craft scene is headed, but more figuratively, the PA Guild of Craftsmen and I are working on bridging the gap between the membership of their organization and the “indie” craft movement that has attracted Generations X & Y. Indie crafters can make a living producing their work, they can move into fine craft and fine craft can move into younger generations, and PA will be the spot that happens!