Partners in Craft: CCA/ACC Collaboration a Career Jump-Start for Students

A CCA student greets visitors to the School to Market booth at the 2012 American Craft Council Show at Fort Mason.

California College of the Arts and the American Craft Council have in common a passion for furthering craft education and mentoring young makers.

It’s no surprise that CCA and the ACC have over the past years joined forces to produce a number of programs geared toward the practice and business of making and selling craft.

“The partnership of ACC and CCA is one of those situations where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” says ACC Director of Education Perry A. Price. “Perhaps the greatest success is our ongoing relationship; rather than a one-time partnership we have continued to look to each other for support and ideas to strengthen and promote the field. That is pretty exciting.”

Of their collaborations, two ongoing projects are generating exciting professional practice opportunities for students: the School to Market program and Making Meaning in the Marketplace symposia.

School to Market

“It [School to Market] began as a response to the many comments from working artists that an introduction to the marketplace early in their career was missing from their training, whether academic, an apprenticeship, or otherwise,” states Price.

“The challenge facing students today has faced all young makers -- how to succeed? It’s the terms and the terrain that have changed.”

For School to Market, the ACC partners with select schools to bring their craft and design students onsite to install a curated, collective exhibition of their work at one of four annual shows.

Past participants have included Rhode Island School of Design, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Savannah College of Art and Design, to name a few.

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School to Market Advanced Craft Workshop

CCA faculty members Anne Wolf and David Cole volunteered to coordinate the first School to Market exhibition at ACC’s Baltimore show in 2011.

After a trial run at the Baltimore show and nearly $11,000 in sales, Wolf and Cole saw the tremendous professional growth the opportunity afforded students and collaborated to propose a course for spring 2012 as part of the new Craft Curriculum initiative at CCA.

Their School to Market Advanced Craft Workshop, in part, centers on preparing students to propose and develop a product line to sell and to set up and run a booth at the ACC show in San Francisco each August.

“We are all very aware of the challenge to graduating students who have made a tremendous personal and financial investment in their education, but don't know exactly how to apply their talents beyond the studio,” says Cole.

“When they leave CCA, we want them to have as many avenues as possible to pursue their art-making practice. Venues like craft shows, open studios, online stores and specialized retail are the way that most practicing artists are actually selling their work.”

Real-World Selling Opportunities

The course also explores potential venues for selling one’s work, from galleries and boutiques to Etsy stores and pop-up retail, inviting guest artists to come in and share their experience with students.

“Our students finish the course with tested, ‘real world’ experience conceptualizing, producing and marketing their artwork," explains Cole. "We discuss graphic identity, merchandizing, pricing and even things like photographing and packaging the work.

"Basically, Anne and I wanted to teach the students everything that we wished we had been taught when we were in school. . . . They need to apply the same kind of creativity they employ making their work to the marketing of their artwork. What distinguishes successful artists is their embrace of the entire process of creation and dissemination.”

"The guest artists and craft mentors have been great models through whom our students can see a glimpse into their own futures,” adds Wolf, who points out many students have launched their small business by the end of the semester.

“It is extremely rewarding to see how the students soak up everything we cover, think about it, then put the information to use.”

Valuable Experience for Craft Makers and Sellers

The 2012 School to Market booth at the San Francisco show netted a number of professional contacts for students and follow-up sales for their work. In addition to the monetary rewards, participating students reported an increased sense of confidence in taking their entrepreneurial endeavors to the next level after the course.

According to alumna Crista Reid (BFA Jewelry / Metal Arts 2012), “Communicating with other practicing artists during class and during the ACC show encouraged me to become involved in the craft world and voice my ideas to the community.

“The things I learned during the class influenced how I think about making and taught me that I can sustain myself as an artist, given strong motivation, organization, and dedication to my practice.”

Alumna Qiana Ellis (BFA Jewelry / Metal Arts 2012) has since gone on to participate in the Renegade Craft Fair and Bazaar Bizarre to great success. “I got a pretty big head start. There are things it's just helpful to know in the first place. The class is a distillation of the knowledge of many craft sellers into a semester-long intensive.”

When asked if she would recommend the School to Market workshop to fellow students, Ceramics senior Christine Piper responded, “Yes! It is the closest to real-world practice you can get while remaining within the safety of the student context."

2013 marks CCA’s third year participating in the School to Market program and our second year showing at the American Craft Council San Francisco Show at Fort Mason.

We encourage all students working in craft media to submit their ideas for consideration for the 2013 CCA booth. Look for an announcement for orientation sessions and a call for work in February.

Making Meaning in the Marketplace

The American Craft Council’s Making Meaning in the Marketplace Program supplements School to Market and comprises a series of symposia that focuses on the next generation of craft artists and their burgeoning influence on the larger culture and art market.

Each year the ACC partners with some of the nation’s leading schools for craft media to co-create programming to meet students’ needs and consider the myriad of ways they might fit into the future of craft.

CCA participated in the 2008 series launch with “Making Meaning and the Marketplace: Craft and the Next Generation of Thought,” an event hosted by the Design and Craft Lecture Series.

Craftforward-ing

Learn about CCA's all-day event on March 2: Craft Forward-ing: Conversations on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, copresented with the American Craft Council.

Visit the Craft Forward website for program and event details as they develop.