Amidst an ocean of tech enthusiasts, tech entrepreneurs and every different type of corporation you can think of I somehow was put on a panel to speak about Navigating the New Handmade Economy at SXSW. It was kind of surreal and more than a bit overwhelming. My journey began several months ago when Eleanor Whitney, a dear friend of the Academy whose book tour was part of our first ever series of events, proposed putting a panel together for SXSW Interactive that was related to handmade and DIY businesses.
We were fortunate enough that enough interest was generated through SXSW’s panel picker process and my illustrious panelmates--Rena Tom of Makeshift Society and digital content consultant/maker of things Courtney Klossner plus Eleanor as moderator--and I were then headed to Austin!
Our panel went so well, with thoughtful questions from the audience, many of whom were also makers. We got to chat with several of them afterwards and were encouraged by their stories.
But then it was over. Months of prep for about an hour of “glory”... I still had the rest of the conference to soak up. That was probably the most interesting and difficult part of the trip. There was so much to see… so many other panels and events.
Because I am not of the tech world, most of them were not applicable to me. One of things I did notice amongst all of the corporate sponsorships, swag and lounges was that there is a lot more room for handmade at this conference… and I don’t mean in the form of more panels. From creating unique environments to allowing access for makers to be represented or even sell (Airbnb had a nice pop-up of handmade artists that was a nice touch!) I think would be a great way to shine a spotlight on handmade (and even a way to get it back more to it’s Austin roots).
I do have to say that in all of the madness, Austin was the loveliest of hosts. I had so much good food (breakfast tacos, BBQ, oh my!) and enjoyed stopping in at some of it’s local handmade establishments (you must check out Stitch Lab if you are in the area ever). And who doesn’t love a nice, walkable downtown area?
Lastly, I’d like to thank all of the donors to our crowdfunding campaign who helped to make this trip even possible (you can see them here!). Without your support financially and personally there would be no Academy!
If you’ve been to SXSW, how would you use it to shine a light on the handmade economy? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org or in the comments.