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Become a Member of AHAS

Membership applications will be accepted during our membership drive which is April 28-May 8, 2017. Please note that it can take up to two weeks to process once you've applied AND the membership drive is open. You will be notified either way. If you are interested in membership and don't want to make sure you don't miss the window, then you can  pre-apply now and your application will be processed then.


We are Makers Creating Great Businesses Together

While the maker movement is growing and becoming more celebrated in popular culture, makers themselves often still find themselves combatting notions of “granny crafts”, that they don’t have “real jobs” and an overall lack of a professional support system. It’s not uncommon for us to hear that makers feel:

  • Disconnected from their peers who are also doing great work.

  • Unsure of how to move forward in their business because they don’t have anyone who gets what they do to bounce ideas off of.

  • Out of place-- they are often more serious about their craft than traditional teams but have special needs compared to other entrepreneurs.

  • Under-recognized. Many of the current paths to awards are either based on the size of your network (“Hey guys… vote for me!”) or feel lofty and place high premium on craft as art.

Our members help each other stay current on trends, practices and what’s happening in the industry; share their experiences of selling at shows and online; and have meaningful social interactions with each other because we all need an outlet!

You are a Maker AND a Talented Professional!

Becoming part of a professional community of talented makers (and elite businesses that provide services to them) helps you become better at your business, demonstrates you are serious about your business and enriches your business support network.

We are more than just social hangouts or business workshops. The Academy of Handmade is a community of makers with knowledge from every step of the business journey. And we also throw an awesome awards show that shouts from the rooftops just how special handmade businesses are!


“I have met other stellar artists and creators in the community through the great workshops and gatherings the Academy of Handmade has hosted. It’s a super awesome organization that honors handmade artists as well as creates a professional association for handmade artists and business owners.” -Miriam Dema, Miram Dema Art & Design


"Even though I'm not within the physical region of the Academy of Handmade, being part of the community digitally has been inspiring, uplifting, and so educational! I've discovered some fantastic and inspiring fellow makers, plus the daily educational content is highly useful as I grow my business. I'm looking forward to seeing a full-on MidWest chapter in the near future!" -Elyse Welcher, Little Wings Design

"It's a place to belong. Having this community (which for me, is virtual, since I'm in the southeast) helps encourage me to keep at it and learn from othersFollowing along with different members, even from afar, and having content that's carefully curated just for creatives, connects us all together through community and education." -Sarah Mandell, Once Again Sam

"Creating a path to running a successful handmade business does not come with a manual and many young solo-employee companies struggle to connect with other businesses. During the last four years, I've discovered the key to success, for me, is networking and mingling with other successful entrepreneurs. Connections help to push me forward in all aspects of my business. I seek to surround myself with people who are smarter and more knowledgeable than myself. I've found all these things and more with the Academy of Handmade. I love the online experience of meeting people from all over but also connecting with my local chapter at in-person events. I am looking forward to continuing my journey as an Academy of handmade entrepreneur." - Rebecca Saylor, OodleBaDoodle and Co-Captain of SF Etsy

The community I've found in the Academy of Handmade has been invaluable to me both as an artist and small business owner, and for the growth of my stationery business. Before becoming a member, I'd participated in groups where support was inconsistent, resources were mediocre and engagement faded over time. AHAS is the opposite. The value of this community seems to continually increase with the addition of new resources and opportunities for creative business owners to connect and learn from each other in smart, meaningful ways. It is not only a space to connect with fellow artists, but a space to prioritize growth and accountability as small business owners. Rather than competing, I continually see members celebrating each other, sharing savvy business strategies and offering constructive feedback with true insight and generosity. Sharon Fain has built something truly remarkable with the Academy of Handmade, and I am so grateful to be a part of it. - Kimberly Taylor-Pestell, Lacelit


So much! We've really tried to provide you with access to a community and resources that can support your business. Below is the core of what we provide to members. For only $10 a month you get...

  • A digital resources library
  • 24-hour forum access
  • Chance to apply to exclusive mentorship program
  • Holiday Gift Swap with other members
  • Online chats, hangouts and calls
  • Discounts on chapter events
  • Local chapter support where available
  • Free nominations for the AHAS Awards
  • AHAS Awards voting privileges (for members only)

That's right, for the price of about two fancy coffees a month, a movie ticket (less than a movie ticket if you live in LA!), or whatever you spent on your last trip to Target (let's be honest, you can never get out of there without spending more than $10), you get:

Opportunities to Learn and Get Feedback: Our member-only online forum, Product & Design Roundtables, library of resources, and workshops all help to give you business support from your peers and experts in the field.

Social Gatherings and Support: It’s essential to have people that are friends in your industry. So, we try to facilitate social experiences including happy hours, studio tours and coffee meetups. Plus just knowing that someone else on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook is a member has made it easier for online social interaction and support to happen.

Shaping the Future of the Academy: Our Annual Members Meeting gives you the opportunity to hear what’s happening with the Academy, what other members are up to, reflect on your own business, and give input into where the Academy is headed. Don’t live in the chapter areas? No worries! We do our best to gather your feedback before the meeting.

Let’s Celebrate with an Awards Show! While nominations are open to the public, Best Artists are selected by members. Plus members get discounts on tickets to the awards show and free nominations.


  • You take your business seriously and are always looking to improve it

  • You take your craft seriously and believe in a quality product

  • You are looking to invest in a community and other makers

  • You believe that we are better together

  • Facebook groups are an overwhelm of information and drama

  • You are committed to making time to devote to your business and the maker community

  • You want to help others build their businesses

  • You are able to take and give advice, but know that ultimately you are in charge of your business and responsible for its success


  • You are looking for quick fixes and overnight success

  • You don’t have time to give back to a community

  • Your business is a hobby

  • You are unable to make a commitment for a full year to a community

  • You don’t want to do the work

  • You’re not open to new ideas and other ways doing things

The Director & CO-Founder

Sharon Fain, Director of AHAS

Sharon Fain was part of the handmade community for a few years when she came up with the idea for AHAS. The whole reason she wanted to start it was to celebrate the great things makers are doing through an awards show that was peer-based.

She also recognized that having a year-round professional community for makers not only provided support but also gave credibility to handmade business. Academy of Handmade exists to provide a place where people can connect with others who do similar work since it can be lonely making things by yourself.

Sharon has worked with makers through her agency Right Brain PR. Former clients include Few Bits, Make.Shop.Live., CRAFTED at the port of los angeles and Fruition. She spearheaded the organization and promotion of the second largest Etsy Party of 2012. She has been helping creatives with writing (having herself contributed to Design*Sponge), visual strategy and media relations since she was in college.


We are actively looking to start chapters in Portland, Minneapolis, Houston, NYC, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, Raleigh, DC and Columbia, SC. In order to make that happen, we need leaders. If you are interested in becoming a leader, we'd love to talk with you! Please email

Our current chapters are Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, Seattle, Austin and San Francisco. All local events are free or discounted for members. We have also recently introduced a policy where nonmembers are welcome to join us for up to three of our Signature Events (Product & Design Roundtables, Handmade Happy Hours, Lunch & Learns, and Coffee Talks) before we ask that they join as a member. Nonmembers are still welcome at our workshops and other events that are not designated as Signature.

Want to join a community of makers that are professionals, like you? We'd love to have you!

"I Have a Few Questions..."

Great! We’ve got answers (hopefully!). These are some of the questions we most frequently get asked. If you have more, don’t hesitate to email us at

Who is eligible for membership? Membership is open to anyone who is professionally involved in the handmade economy, either as an artist or supporter (more than a fan, but someone who is a resource to make handmade business possible). Because the Academy exists to strengthen handmade businesses, hobbyists, fans, consumers, fine artists and designers who do not handmake (provided that they do not support makers in some capacity) are not eligible to join but are encouraged to participate in events and activities open to non-members. When we say "handmade," we primarily think of those arts which have typically been considered "craft" vs. art or design. Your hands should touch what you make and you part of the the manufacturing process. OR your business should support others who do.

Could you define handmade a bit more? We can surely try! We know that handmade has so many different connotations and we seek to cast a wide but defined net in this area. Wide, because we believe that as much as we can define making mechanically, we know it is also an ethic and way of doing business. That said, here are the guiding principles of what we see as handmade:

  • Micro-Business Soul: You want to create a viable business for yourself doing the thing you love-- making a particular product or products. While you desire sustainable growth, you are not interested in becoming the CEO of “I Make_____, Inc.” You aren’t a tech start-up that wants to just create great ideas, prove they’re great then sell your business. Your whole reason for being in and staying in business is because you believe there is something special about what you have to offer through creating. You are not just involved in business or "design" decisions. That doesn't mean this won't change, but this is where you are at in your business right now.

  • Involved with Manufacturing Process: Because you have a micro-business soul, your path to sustainability does not involve farming out everything you can so you can make more money and creating factory-style assembly lines. It does involve outsourcing particular parts of your work, but ultimately you enjoy making products that others enjoy so you would never consider letting someone else have all the fun! You have and desire a high touch when you're creating your product.  

  • Involved in Creative Process: Your creative spark is what makes your business stand out from the rest. You have a special way of expressing yourself through your work. Your products could never be designed by someone else because then, they just wouldn’t be yours.  

What exactly is a supporter business? Anyone who supports the business of handmade through blogging, craft shows, coaching, consulting, graphic design, teaching, writing books, etc. This could be almost anything, but we ask that if you join as a support business that makers are key audience that you serve. We will ask you to discuss this in your application.  

I don’t live in a chapter area, can I still be a member? Absolutely! Our members are all over North America, though there are certain in person events you wouldn't necessarily be able to take advantage of. However, we have an online community through our members-only forums, a library of resources, monthly online expert hangouts and you can still take advantage of all of the special offers made available by our partners. Plus, you also get the benefit of free nominations and voting for the Best Artist categories.

But we totally understand if you are looking for that local connection to the maker community. That's why we are also actively looking to expand our physical presence in communities through chapters. If you are interested in starting a chapter, read more here.

What if I only make one or two things with my hands and the other things I have are manufactured by someone else? We recognize that your business might have a few different aspects to it. That’s totally okay! Just remember that there is a particular ethic to this community that was outlined above to know if we will be a resource for you and if you will be able to contribute to our members. 

I make printables or other digital product that I sell on Etsy. Can I apply? Yes, but because this role is one that does not involve handmade manufacturing, this is not a category we consider in our awards for Best Artist. That said, what you make is certainly part of the community and can help other businesses. We would love to have you as a supporter business!

I am an illustrator. How will I fit in with your group? Illustrators are welcome to apply who do not consider themselves fine art and are active in the manufacturing process. We would want to know more about this in the application process. To know if our community will benefit you, will largely be up to your judgment. Consider that our members are mostly part of the handmade marketplace scene (craft shows, farmers markets, Etsy, wholesale to boutiques, etc.) and not typically shown in galleries, etc. That said, we do have several members that have a handmade business and also make art.   

I am a designer that has all of my products made by someone else. Can I apply? For the most part, no, not as a maker. We usually consider “handmade” to either include the use of hands in the beginning creative process (through hand drawings, paints, etc.) or through the manufacturing process (taking a computer design and using craftsmanship to make that design into a product) or both. Because of the intensive nature of this kind of work, makers need support from peers who understand these labor practices, pricing structures and other unique aspects of making. However, if your business is able to somehow offer support to handmade businesses, we encourage you to apply as a supporter.

I have part of my work made by someone else. Is this still handmade? Most makers have some aspect of their work that is not created by them (usually certain materials). The degree to which it can still be considered making and not just “assembling” is somewhat subjective. Some people may have supplies they buy that figure heavily into their work, however it is their creativity that transforms it into something special. Others might work to create pieces they have designed then have someone else assemble or put on finishing touches. All of this can still be considered handmade. Please make sure to be as clear as possible in the application about the creativity you infuse into your work and your participation in the manufacturing process.

What if I am not doing my handmade business full time? We encourage business owners of all types and scale to join, but the point is that you are pursuing it as a business and not a hobby. That’s totally cool with us if that business is just on the side so that you can make some extra money or it’s part-time for now until you can get to a place where you can quit your day job.

What’s the application process like? The membership application involves the following steps and can take up to weeks to process your membership when applications open depending on the season.

  1. Application Fee and Membership Dues: You will be required to first pay your non-refundable application fee ($15) up front and your annual membership dues ($10/month) will begin after you have been accepted. Dues will be canceled if you are not admitted into the Academy (so we try to accept you within that two week window. If you are not accepted in that time we will refund you the money that you were charged).

  2. Application Submission: Please fill out the application form giving as much detail as possible. This will help us in deciding if you meet the eligibility requirements.

  3. Acceptance: Congratulations! You are now officially a member of the Academy of Handmade Artists and Supporters and may enjoy all of its privileges as well as the responsibility to celebrate, strengthen and connect with the handmade business community you have now joined.

  4. Non-Acceptance: If you do not meet the eligibility requirements, you will receive a notice telling you why. If you feel there has been confusion and/or error in the decision you may petition the Academy for another look at your application. Further details will be given at the time of non-acceptance.

I’ve got other makers who I am already friends with that give me support, why should I pay you money for that? Great question. If you feel like you get regular support and social interaction through facilitating your own events and attending experiences you believe like-minded folks are at, then that's awesome! Many of our members are also part of other business support organizations because we know that everyone has unique business needs. More than anything, we want you to feel like that you have the resources and support for your handmade business readily available to you. If you've found this elsewhere then fantastic!

I run my business with a partner or partners. Is there any kind of group discount? It depends. Email so we can talk about it more.

This is for a year. What if I want to quit? We understand that "life happens", but are VERY strict with our one-year commitment. Your payments are for a full 12 months and this is not a "cancel any time plan." A year is a year and it's important for us to maintain a commitment to community through this. You can remove yourself from membership, but your payments will continue through your committed year. Signing up is a promise to us that we depend on for financial predictably, work flow and other items that might not be a big deal to a corporation but affect our small business greatly.

You are a talented maker and you deserve a community of peers who can help you become better at your business, show that you are serious about it and enrich your support network.

Academy of Handmade does not and shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status, in any of its activities or operations. These activities include, but are not limited to, membership, hiring and firing of staff/contractors, selection of volunteers and vendors, and provision of services. We are committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all members, volunteers, vendors, and anyone else that works with our community.