“Meet the Instructor” Blog Series: Meet Julie Fei-Fan Balzer


Registration for the 2016 CHA MEGA Conference & Trade Show is open! Over the next several weeks, we’ll be introducing you to some of our Workshop instructors so you can hear about their live classes and what you can expect to learn from them.

julie fei fan

This week, we are kicking off the “Meet the Instructor” blog series by meeting Julie Fei-Fan Balzer! Julie has attended the CHA MEGA Show as a buyer, sales person, demo artist, designer and exhibitor. This year, she’ll be attending as your instructor for Beautiful Boxes, sponsored by Brother International Corporation.  In this Workshop, you will explore the ScanNCut 2, the world’s only electronic cutter with a built-in scanner, and learn to make mixed media boxes that will look great on display at your store.

Watch this video to get more information about this Workshop, plus Julie’s seasoned advice for attending the CHA MEGA Show!

Meet the Webinar Host


JoeRotella_400x400Meet Joe Rotella of Delphia Consulting. Register to attend his webinar, Hosting and Marketing a Special Event, live on September 30, 2015 from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. EST, at no additional cost to your CHA membership.

Professional Experience

My professional focus has been on the user experience with new technology since I started my career in the early 1980s, working on the first PCs developed by IBM. After a distinguished career at Bell Labs, I became an Officer at Delphia Consulting. I now serve as Delphia’s Chief Marketing Officer and lead its Internet marketing practice.

I’ve also been a designer for as long as I can remember. My mother started my family on crafting. She crocheted, and when she brought home a Brother knitting machine, I was fascinated. Soon enough I was creating designs from christening dresses to ski wear. I’ve dabbled in macramé, string art and latch hooked rugs when they were hot in the 70’s. Now, at 50 years old, my eyes are on paper crafting. My work has appeared in Scrap & Stamp Arts, Just Steampunk! and Somerset Studio Gallery magazines. Also, I filmed a segment of Crafting at the Spotted Canary, hosted by Joy Macdonell, in 2011, and many segments for Scrapbook Soup TV.

Biggest Problem My Clients Face

Competition for audience share in the craft and hobby space is getting fierce. As parts of the industry consolidate, the pressure to get customers – like visitors to your site, readers to your blog or customers for your products, is growing. My clients are typically small independent stores or professional crafters that are looking for creative ways to differentiate themselves from the competition. Their resources are limited and they are looking for the biggest bang for their investment.

Why Should Business Owners Attend This Webinar

Special events can be a great way to attract new customers, retain existing customers and reinforce your brand. The challenge is learning how to market your event to attract attendees and them give them a “Wow!” experience so they will come back – and bring their friends! By investing an hour in this webinar, you’ll learn about the benefits of hosting events – demonstration, classes, workshops, trunk shows – get tips on how to do it well and hear ideas to make your events special.

CHA Webinars feature top speakers and leaders sharing tips, resources and solutions for today’s business world. CHA members have unlimited access to webinars for no additional cost to their dues. Visit www.craftandhobby.org to learn more about CHA education programs and membership.

Importance of Volunteering on a Board


By Mike Hartnett

Industry Awards- Mike HartnettI became aware of HIA, CHA’s predecessor, in 1979 when I was hired as Assistant Editor for an industry trade magazine, Profitable Craft Merchandising. I had no idea what a trade association was or what it did.

I quickly realized how important a trade association is to the success of its members and industry. It provides a venue for members to conduct business (trade shows); educates its members (seminars and webinars); and is the industry’s public relations arm (awareness). If I care about my readers’ success, I better help HIA.

As time went by, I served on various committees, and then on the HIA Board; I followed that by serving on ACCI (another CHA predecessor) committees and the Board. Finally, I served on the CHA Board.

Why did I spend so much time doing all this? Looking back, it was the best investment of my time in the industry. Here’s why:

If you’re on a committee, you can make real changes. For example, years ago, CHA MEGA Show exhibitors of a certain type were not scheduled together in one area of the Show floor. Why? Major Paint Company A did not want the booth to be anywhere near Major Paint Company B. Finally, retailers got together and complained to the Trade Show committee, whose members recommended a change, which the Board approved. So, now the Show has sections and the paint buyer doesn’t have to walk two miles to see three particular exhibitors.

When I was on the HIA Board, designers formed a committee and petitioned the Board for money to produce a pamphlet listing all of the freelance designers’ contact information and areas of expertise. That never would have occurred to me (because Board members and the staff aren’t mind-readers) if not for that committee; it was a great idea. Often new manufacturers have a product, but don’t know any designers who could create projects for them. The brochure helped both manufacturers and designers, yet it never would have existed without input from members.

The time required for serving on a committee is not much. Usually, there is a meeting at the Show and a few conference calls each year.

As for serving on the Board, you get a much broader view of the industry and how it works. It’s truly a revelation. If you’re a retailer, you’re focused like a laser beam on your business – as the overall industry continues to change all around you. The same is true if you’re a manufacturer, publisher, importer, designer or distributor. It’s so intellectually stimulating to focus your brain on a broader picture for a change.

More time is required – two weekend Board meetings a year; however, even that extra commitment is worth it because of the wonderful friendships you make with fellow Board and staff members.

Truly, serving on committees and/or the Board is well worth it.

Part Two: Expanding Our Creative Toolbox and Our Horizons by Carmen Flores Tanis


Our Craft Industry Today Fall 2015 issue explored new technologies that CHA members using to add value to their business success. Carmen Flores Tanis sat down with a few more CHA members to learn the innovative approaches they are taking to turn their ideas into tangible products.

The Value of Prototyping
Build It Workspace interior by Carmen Flores Tanis
One of the beauties of print on demand is the ability to test a design before committing to print two, three or 100 items. Did you know this prototyping process is available on other kinds of machines? Catherine Lengsfeld of Build It Workspace uses an electronic die cutter to test designs for wedding favors before having them turned into steel rule dies for her traditional hand-cranked die cutting machine. Electronic plotter and vinyl die cutters, common tools of the trade for sign and banner shops, have shrunk in size and have been adapted to cut fabric and cork, in addition to vinyl and paper materials, and even engrave metal. Lengsfeld explains that while the digital die cutter is not meant for high rate production, it works beautifully for prototyping designs, which can then be mass produced on a different machine.

Lisa Elston, Product Manager at Ellison/Sizzix, is very involved with STEAM education programs and  agrees with the importance of prototyping. (STEAM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math, a movement championing the integration of creative skills with scientific thinking in school and business environments.)  Elston explains that this ability to try ideas with electronic die cutters allows students to make mistakes and apply what they learn to subsequent design variations. “Students are able to create ideas faster and with fewer issues and problems.”

Manufacturing at Home
Rob Bostick of  JudiKins uses his laser cutting machine for a different purpose. Up until recently, Bostick would design stencils using the graphics program Illustrator. He would import his design into a Sizzix eclips electronic die cutting machine for testing. Once he was happy with it he would send it to a vendor who would then manufacture the plastic stencils for him in large quantities. That all changed when his vendor upped the prices.

After doing the math, Bostick decided to purchase his own laser cutting machine. In one fell swoop, Bostick changed his workflow and became the manufacturer for  the JudiKins line of plastic stencils. “The biggest problem was running the minimums,” says Bostick. “Doing the manufacturing in-house allows us to create new products on the fly. We can dream of something, design it, make it, test market it and not have to worry about putting a lot of investment into having one stencil made up. We can make just one or 20 to take to a show.”

Bostick says, “When it comes to designs, you really have no clue how they are going to sell until you get out in the marketplace. Now we can make really short runs to test the market. Then we can invest more in the designs that sell. It helps us to create more images faster and to try different designs easily.”

Laser engraved pumpkin by Catherine Lengsfeld

Designer Tracy Alden is a master of mold making and resin casting. Although these materials are not new, they are resurging in popularity. Alden works with curators to make replicas of pieces for small museums and underprivileged groups that cannot afford to travel and view the original artwork. As a member of the Alumite design team, Alden starts her projects by sculpting an original work out of polymer clay or non-drying artisan clay. From the original, she casts a mold that she can then fill with any number of materials – plaster, clay, resin, paper maché, or even chocolate!

For her jewelry pieces, Alden casts between 20 to 100 pieces for a particular mold and makes each one slightly different through the careful use of inclusions, such as glitter and leaves. “It’s a simple way to customize and make one-of-a-kind pieces,” says Alden. I take personal pride in being able to mold my own creations and in pushing the boundaries of the materials. And there has to be a joy in what you’re doing. Then you’ll feel encouraged to make more and that means more sales and more money.”

Missed “Part One” of this series? Download the digital version of Craft Industry Today Fall 2015 to read learn about more technologies, including print on demand, screen printing and more.

CHA: “Not just an expense, but an investment well made”


Not just an expense, but an investment well made, as we continuously see the value when we meet new potential national and international customers at the Show.
– Sonia Viteri, Tombow

The 2016 CHA MEGA Show is a big expense if you’re not a member of the Craft & Hobby Association (CHA). Whether you’re exhibiting or not, Non-Members pay more to be at the largest craft industry event in North America.
IMG_3476The CHA MEGA Show is the only trade event of its kind in North America, bringing together the global creative and craft industries to conduct business. Buyers from these categories, who represent over 35,000 storefronts and 55 countries, will be at our Show in January.

  • Art materials
  • Business services
  • Containers & storage
  • Digital craft
  • Furniture & lighting
  • Home décor, DIY & framing
  • Holiday & seasonal
  • Instructional channels
  • Jewelry & bead
  • Kids crafts & kits
  • Leather & metal crafts
  • Models, hobbies, collectibles
  • Needlecrafts, sewing & textiles
  • Paper crafts
  • Woodworking & more!

Join CHA and receive a better return on your investment. You’ll save 40% on booth and badge prices! When you exhibit, you will receive a 10’X10’ booth where you can demonstrate and sell your new products to our buyers, plus four badges to walk the Show floor.

In addition to incredible savings, CHA membership will give you access to:

  • Webinars for no additional cost to your dues, which are available 24/7 and designed to enhance your business skills
  • Craft Industry Today magazine and industry news in monthly newsletters
  • Research on trends and the state of the industry
  • Discounts on education and business products and services
  • Listings in online directories
  • Product specific communities

Make the investment and start saving – JOIN TODAY!

The CHA Designer Section Trends Committee Report


By Linda Swingle
CHA Trends Committee Lead

The CHA Designer Section Trends Report provides a close-up and intricate perspective of current trends in arts and crafts.

Trends Committee members are professional designers with extensive experience and ties to manufacturers. Through CHA’s global network, our members provide vital information regarding the overall direction of the industry. Additional resources used to compile the Trends Report include multiple social media platforms, digital publications, printed publications, and good old-fashion reporting techniques, like interviews with select companies, industry associates and leaders.

Our dedicated columnists submit bi-annual reports featuring what’s trending now as well as creative ingenuity that is coming down the pike. As trends develop, the landscape of the craft industry develops with them. Artistic license drives sales. In turn, manufacturers develop supplies tailored to trends while keeping traditional supplies available. It is an interesting perspective, as I do not believe one can exist entirely without the other. Viva! The evolution of creative trends is born!

As craft and art techniques continually intersect, rules no longer pertain to the creative process. Mixing various materials with unique or accepted techniques paves the road to new trends. This is especially true as professional crafters and artisans express ideas to various publications and posting through social media.

Our 2015 Designer Section Trends Report covers the following categories:

General Crafts

Mixed Media

Children’s Crafts

Needle Arts

Home Décor

Paper Crafts

Jewelry Arts

Wearable Arts

By providing avenues of interest through various product categories, our Committee will expand its research and findings for future CHA Designer Section Trends Committee Reports. Anticipated growth will enhance our studies while providing opportunity for members to expand and grow their businesses through professional association and recognition.

The success of the Designer Section Trends Report is due to contributions by our volunteers. The level of appreciation and respect for our Committee members is beyond words. It is a win-win creative situation as we grow and develop skills on a personal and professional level!

For more information, or to join our committee, please refer to postings in the August CHA Member News, through our CHA Designer Section Facebook group or message Linda Swingle on Facebook.  

Share your story of innovation in arts and crafts with the Smithsonian National Museum


banner-homeThe Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History launched a project to pinpoint where in the world inventions happen. The goal of the project is to answer the question, “What kind of place stimulates creative minds and sparks a surge of invention and innovation?” The Museum is compiling an interactive map that depicts these places. Yet, it’s currently missing something – stories about innovation in the arts and crafts industry! Help CHA fill the gap by telling your Place of Invention story, where and how you and your company made its mark in the history of our industry.

How can you add a story to the map? Think about the following three questions:

  1. Place: What’s special about this location?
  2. Invention: What was invented there?
  3. People: Who made it happen?

Submit your Place of Invention story. After you complete the online form, check back in a couple of days to see your story on the Places of Invention virtual map. Visitors from around the globe will read your story on the website and in person at the Places of Invention exhibition gallery at the Museum in the Lemelson Hall of Invention and Innovation.

For more information, visit http://invention.si.edu/tell-us-your-places-invention-stories.

Join the “See You at CHA!” Blog Hop



You are invited to participate in the See You at CHA! Blog Hop to celebrate coming together at the 2016 CHA MEGA Conference & Trade Show!

Hosted by the Social Committee of the CHA Designer Section, this big behemoth of a blog hop will be a tremendous opportunity for all CHA members to reach loads of colleagues and customers as we share our plans and promotions for the Show.

The link to an online registration form is at the end of this post – sign up early and plan ahead to generate lots of excitement for your week at the MEGA Show in January!

Hop dates: December 7-11, 2015
You will pick a date within this week to post on your blog. The master hop schedule with links will be posted on the CHA blog in November. Right-click and save the banner graphic above to use as a blog hop badge.

Participants: CHA members and craft media sites who/that plan to attend and/or exhibit at the MEGA Show (all membership categories).

Hop theme: The 2016 MEGA Show and CHA’s 75th Anniversary
Your blog post can be about any of these topics:

• New product sneak peek(s)
• Demo, class, seminar and/or make-n-take schedules
• Show specials and/or related offers
• Project inspiration and/or tutorials
• Memories of past Shows and/or craft industry anecdotes
• What you’re excited about seeing or doing at the 2016 Show
• Tips for getting the most out of the Show
• Behind the scenes Show and/or travel prep

IMPORTANT – Joint $$$ giveaway!
No blog hop is complete without a chance for people to win something fabulous!

Each blog hop participant will be required to contribute a minimum of $5 to the prize pot. We’ll be using Tilt.com to securely collect funds online from participants. The final sum of funds in the prize pot will be used to purchase a VISA gift card for the winner.

The more money in the pot, the bigger the prize value and the more traffic and excitement it will generate for everyone! You’ll receive a code for a Rafflecopter prize drawing widget to put in your post. The entry options will be limited to just three: a blog comment, a tweet or a pin. All blog hop participants (CHA employees excluded), their staff, and their customers, fans and followers are eligible to win – both domestic and international.

Click here to sign up today – the deadline to join is September 30. 2015.

Feel free to post any comments or questions you might have about the hop in the See You at CHA Facebook group. You can also email the blog hop organizer with questions: Lisa Fulmer – lisa@lisafulmer.com.

About the Social Committee of the CHA Designer Section:
We moderate a Facebook group called See You at CHA, where attendees and exhibitors can connect, socialize and network prior, during and/or after any CHA Show. CHA members in all membership categories are welcome to join, as well as craft media reps. The Social Committee is here to help you navigate the Show, share experiences, meet new people and learn about fun things to do at the Show. You can even use the group to find a hotel roommate, airport shuttle pal, or dinner companions – we want to do whatever we can to help you have a great experience at CHA!

Member-Get-A-Member: Earn Money When You Refer a Member to CHA!


Get ready to work for the easiest $25 you’ll ever get! CHA’s Member-Get-A-Member program gives all active CHA members a chance to earn money!

Here’s how it works
If you’re an active CHA member, recommend your qualified non-member craft and hobby peers – retailers, suppliers, manufacturers, designers, small business owners, and other industry professionals – to apply for CHA membership. Tell them about the benefits you’ve witnessed as a member, like having a voice in your industry and boosting your sales at the annual CHA MEGA Conference & Trade Show. If your referral becomes a member, we’ll give you a $25 American Express gift card!

There’s no limit to the amount of gift cards you can earn! Just make sure your name is included on your referral’s application. Gift cards will be paid when membership is approved.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact our membership department via membership@craftandhobby.org.

What are you waiting for? Start referring new members today!



Note: Referrals may not have been a CHA member during 2014.

Top 10 Reasons to Exhibit at the CHA MEGA Show



The 2016 CHA MEGA Conference & Trade Show is taking place January 7-12, 2016 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, CA. As an exhibitor, this is your opportunity to exhibit at the oldest and largest craft industry trade show in the U.S. and get your product in front of thousands of buyers!


Incase that’s not enough of a reason to convince you, here are 10 more reasons to exhibit at the CHA MEGA Show:

  1. Generate new sales leads with thousands of big box and independent retail buyers who are ready to place orders
  2. Join 400+ exhibiting companies that are showcasing more than 9,000 SKUs
  3. Get exposure – Promote your brand and products to more than 150 global media outlets
  4. Leverage face-to-face networking opportunities
  5. Up-to-the minute exposure to all of the latest product trends and forecasts you need
  6. Expand internationally by reaching valuable buyers and media from more than 55 countries
  7. Develop new partnerships and expand your professional contacts
  8. Launch new products
  9. Increase brand awareness
  10. The only place you can conduct a year’s worth of business in four days


Valuable buyers from more than 35,000 stores want to place orders with you!

Sign up to exhibit today!

Exhibiting Questions?IMG_4301

For U.S. inquiries, click here or contact Nadine Schwartz via nschwartz@craftandhobby.org or 201-835-1203.

For international inquiries, click here or contact Andrew Morton via amorton@craftandhobby.org or +44 1425 271964.