The Art Of Selling Handcrafts

By Nancy Calhoun
Wednesday - May 06, 2009
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By Nancy Calhoun
Executive director for Handcrafters and Artisans Alliance

There’s absolutely no question that the economic picture in Hawaii is changing, and that retail business is slowing down. Doing business in the conventional sense is suffering as a result of these changes. It is this kind of change that requires individuals to reach deep and think outside of the box - address things from a different perspective, and be more innovative.

I’m a handcraft artist. My business background began at age 10 when my father bought a retail business and I was his weekend helper - the cheap labor who washed the floor, polished the inventory, dressed the windows and eventually learned to love working with customers, and making sales of a product that I loved and became knowledgeable about - fine jewelry. I have a B.A. in mathematics from the State University of New York, worked as a computer programmer, a full-charge bookkeeper, office manager and eventually a full-time mom. That’s where the handcraft artist comes into the picture. I found an opportunity to earn money through my creative enjoyment.


Using my creativity as a base, I looked for opportunities to sell my handmade items, and help with our family expenses. This search and research led me to where I am at this point in my business experience. I create, produce and participate in craft events statewide. I help others to find these opportunities as well. Along with two other ladies, I helped put together an organization called the Handcrafters and Artisans Alliance. From this umbrella, I have worked for 10 years to put together events where our state’s artists and artisans can display their work for sale. I assist groups who wish to use this venue for fundraising activities, assist individuals to find venues where their particular products could be profitable, and assist both groups and individuals to understand that there really is income available for work they create with their hearts and their hands.

Rebecca Williama, Nancy Calhoun, Cynthia Glenn and Audrey Halsall

The signature event for the Handcrafters and Artisans Alliance is our monthly Waikiki Artfest in Kapiolani Park. This event has grown since its inception from 20 to almost 100 artists and handcraft artisans monthly.

This venue is workable for both beginners and seasoned artists, both fine artists and handcraft artisans, and offers a vendor-friendly structure where the artists can display and sell their own art and handmade products. Our membership also is able to work in other venues that are marketed for them, such as Waikiki Sunset on the Beach, the Honolulu Festival Matsuri, and the Pan Pacific Ho’olaulea. We’ve offered assistance for events at Foster Botanical Gardens, Jefferson Elementary School, the beginnings of the Spam Jam and the Rediscover Oahu program, among others. These events offer opportunities for creators of handcrafts and art to sell their work and, hopefully, be profitable.

My advice to folks seeking business opportunities in today’s economy is to trust in their own skills - artistic or otherwise. Don’t hesitate to advertise your skills, and look for marketing in new and unusual places - my search led me to the Waikiki Artfest and Kapiolani Park. Let people know that you are available to work, and what skills you can bring to them. Just as with any other business, advertising yourself and your skills is paramount in finding income opportunities.

In today’s economy, don’t wait for business opportunities to come to you, or to find you. Make your own opportunities - it really does work! For those folks who enjoy artistic outlets, stop by the Artfest, and meet our artists. This just might be the right business opportunity for you!!


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