Mission & History
CRAFT is dedicated to the growth and vitality of the craft industry by supporting, developing and celebrating the business of handmade American craft.
CRAFT, the Craft Retailers and Artists for Tomorrow, was incorporated in Pennsylvania as a not-for-profit trade association headquartered in Philadelphia in July 2002.
CRAFT is a successor to two prior associations active in the industry, ACRA, American Craft Retailers Association, a volunteer led and administered group, and ACA, American Craft Association which was created upon ACRA’s absorption into ACC, American Craft Council. Although both organizations attempted to meet the needs of storefront retailers, neither was able to deliver much in the way of programs benefiting them, other than in the area of education. The ACRA/ACA model for Table Topics is the foundation upon which CRAFT based its educational programs.
A few years after ACC dissolved ACA, several gallery owners began discussions to form a new trade association to serve the needs of American craft retailers. After informal conversations and emails, a meeting was held in Philadelphia during a Buyers’ Market. Approximately 20 owners were present and it was evident they saw a need for a totally independent trade association of storefront retailers to address industry issues.
After another year of conversations and meetings it was determined that there was sufficient support within the retailer community to create the association with the assistance of professional management help. Fernley & Fernley, the oldest association management company in the country, was retained and with the monetary and philosophical support of about 20 Founders, the association was incorporated, bylaws were adopted and necessary IRS filings and approvals were completed and obtained.
Initial association officers and directors immediately set out to solicit members. Almost immediately affinity relationships were developed with industry suppliers as benefits of membership. Educational programs were the most successful of the early programs. The Table Topics programs, so popular with ACRA, were quickly resurrected and have grown. An offshoot of Table Topics was a series of educational teleconferences. In 2013, the education committee worked with the ACRE Las Vegas wholesale show to produce a one-day, high powered educational conference called CRAFT: The Summit. Two additional one-day educational conferences were held in 2014.
As time progressed, CRAFT opened its membership to wholesale artists, and in the spring of 2014, voted to allow membership to all those in the business of craft. Interest in CRAFT has been spurred by the success of American Craft Week which began as a grassroots movement in 2010. This nationwide program is a popular marketing strategy designed to spotlight handmade American craft.