We are Makers Creating Great Businesses Together

It's exciting for us to begin our first expansion with a chapter in San Francisco! 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 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!

Just Because You are a Maker Doesn’t Mean You Aren’t 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


“I’ve gained insight into my business and gained some really great friends, since becoming a member of the Academy of Handmade. I had already showing at craft fairs for a couple of years and yearned for something more. The Academy’s workshops and inspiring communities gave me a fresh new perspective on my business and my life as a handmade artist.” -Jennifer Thomspon, Merrily Yours

Your San Francisco Chapter Leader

When we thought about the next phase of the Academy, we knew that creating local chapters would be vital to really foster connectedness among members. Because its the thriving maker community and interest in supporting professional makers (plus some of our members were already there!), we knew that San Francisco was the logical choice to start our first chapter. We had met with Rebecca Saylor, who was already helping makers through her position as team captain with SF Etsy. It was a natural next step to help our group as we seek give deep and meaningful support to professional makers.


"The maker community here in the Bay Area is a critical piece to helping me make my business a success. I'm excited to help launch the Academy of Handmade San Francisco chapter to inspire and encourage other professional, creative business owners grow and expand their brands." -Rebecca Saylor, San Francisco Chapter Leader and owner of Oodle Badoodle 

The Founders

Hi! We’re Sharon Fain and KC Sears and we were part of the handmade for several years (KC as a maker and Sharon through her business support) when we decided to create the Academy. The whole reason we started it was to celebrate the great things makers are doing through an awards show that was peer-based. We also recognized that having a year-round professional organization of makers not only provided support but also gave credibility to handmade business. We want to provide a place where people can connect with others who do similar work since it can be lonely making things by yourself (or just you and your cat!).

Sharon Fain and KC Sears, co-founders

Sharon Fain and KC Sears, co-founders

As a handmade artist, KC ran her own upcycled craft business, Make.Shop.Live. Her work has been shown at several juried craft shows, including Renegade, Unique, Patchwork and CRAFTED at the port of los angeles. She holds a degree in fiber arts from Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and was also an Etsy Ambassador.

As a handmade supporter, 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. Together with KC, she organized and promoted 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.

“So, What Do I Get with Membership?”

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.

Opportunities to Learn and Get Feedback: Our member-only Facebook group, Product & Design Roundtables, library of resources, and Next Level business 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 craft parties. 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 LA or San Francisco area? No worries! We do our best to gather your feedback before the meeting and provide viewing opportunities (both live and recorded).

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.

AND Special Offers from Great Partners: We work with some pretty stellar businesses that want to make you special offers just because they know you are professional maker!

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 academyofhadmade@gmail.com.

What kinds of activities will be part of the San Francisco chapter? Will it be the same as LA? While we are headquartered in Southern California, we've identified that our two key events are our Product & Design Roundtables and our social hangouts. These will be the main events happening for this chapter. You will also be connected to our general Facebook group where you can ask questions any time of your fellow makers (like, "Has anyone done this show?" "Who wants to share a booth?" and "Anyone know of a good vendor for________?"). We know that this will change and evolve over time as we are in our infancy, but we know for now that will be our key programming.

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 (or do not support makers) 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 are part of the the manufacturing process in some way (i.e. you aren't outsourcing everything but the "design"). 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 Mentality: 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. 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 mentality, 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!

  • 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 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 the LA area or San Francisco, can I still be a member? Absolutely! Our members are all over the country, though most of our events take place in LA and Orange County or the San Francisco/Bay Area. However, we have an online community through our members-only Facebook page, a library of resources on our members-only web page 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.

We are also actively looking to expand our physical presence in communities through chapters. If you are interested in starting a chapter please email academyofhadmade@gmail.com.

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 original to them. 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 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 3-4 weeks to process your membership depending on the season.

  1. Application Fee and Membership Dues: You will be required to first pay your non-refundable application fee ($10) and your annual membership dues ($75) up front. Dues will be refunded if you are not admitted into the Academy. You can also opt for a payment plan for $10 a month that includes your application fee.

  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 academyofhadmade@gmail.com so we can talk about it more.

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.