Thursday, July 16, 2015

Los Angeles Company Reaches for Stars for Handmade Artisans

Katherine Kotaw
Published: July 14, 2015
Los Angeles Handmade Crafts Company Reaches for Stars for Handmade Artisans

The CraftStar, founded in 2012 by Los Angeles native Bethan Davies, pledges to do what no other online craft company has done: build a robust e-commerce site without losing its integrity as a handmade-only venue. And Davies, whose producing career included executive-level positions at the BBC, Capital Radio and On Air with Ryan Seacrest, brings unmatched star power to her mission.

"As other e:commerce sites are filled to the brim with re-sellers (people who buy from China and other countries overseas, then re-label and sell as “handmade”) who price the hand-makers out of the market, we’ve seen our niche: real handmade. We’re the only site out there who can honestly say we don’t tolerate re-sellers and we close them down within 24-48 hours of them opening. We are a fair and honest marketplace for sellers and buyers alike. Nobody is going to buy a “handmade” crochet piece on The CraftStar and have it arrive with “Made In China” labels on it."

The Common Thread Between Stitches and Stars

And how do you grow a business to mass-market scale if it relies on women and men toiling over jewelry, quilts and greeting cards in their studios or basements, one bead and one stitch at a time?

That's easy, Davies says with the knowing smile of a high-powered producer: you make some of them stars!

Certain artisans, artists and crafters possess the "it" factor: the undefinable combination of amazing talent, unabashed ambition, spell-binding stories and exuberant personalities that deserve to make them famous designers and outright celebrities. And, when that happens, Davies says, all handmade crafts-people will benefit as the value of handmade items will justifiably rise. A woman who engraves children's handwriting onto silver pendants will sell alongside other handmade jewelry artists, not a factory that cranks out machine-made jewelry.

Davies intends to harness her 25 years in the entertainment industry -- and a consultancy at the Home Shopping Network -- to raise the profile and profit margins of handmade items. And to achieve her bigger goal: to help those who turned to making crafts when illness, unemployment or retirement forced them out of the mainstream workplace.

Everyone benefits from star power, Davies says. For every person who lands a deal with a major company or lands another dream gig, thousands of out-of-work artists, disabled veterans, struggling single moms and strapped pensioners will earn more for their one-of-kind, handmade crafts.

Davies, who has worked with the most famous names in the world, says there's a treasure trove of entertainment talent among The CraftStar community that is unrivaled by any Hollywood casting agency.

Handmade Crafts and Handpicked Talent

Davies is actively seeking and vetting potential A-list makers of handmade crafts. Her Dream Team is not limited by number or type. Anyone who makes handmade anything is invited to contact Davies at But to give artists and artisans an idea of what she's looking for, Davies points to to a few members of The CraftStar community:

  • Claudia Bruno was a film photographer before the digital era inspired her to seek a new outlet for her artistic drive and talent. Today, instead of documenting the lives and concerts of rock bands, she uses her darkroom to chemically alter metals, creating unusual patinas that give striking color to the steampunk jewelry she creates. An animal rescuer, Bruno's work has appeared in Boston magazines and earned commendations from the Getty Museum Conservation Institute.
  • Rochelle Witt was on a quest to save her daughter's life. Witt, the mother of a handicapped child with severe allergies, spent two years researching allergy-sensitive bath and body products. She is now the owner of Earths Own Bath and Body, a line of natural, organic products.
  • Jay Richardson was an army veteran whose job took him to the top of 1,000-foot communication towers before a MRSA infection nearly killed him several years ago. He turned to engraving wood and glass as a form of physical therapy and now spends most of his days making "bike tats," handmade engravings on motorcycle parts, including windshields. Sometimes, when his workload piles up, he entertains rival motorcycle gangs in his living room, giving them a choice to drink a beer and wait their turn civilly or take their differences across the street, "and the last one standing is the one I'll serve first." To date, his clients have chosen beer over brawls.
  • Dee Bennett started selling jewelry to stores when she was 10 years old. Customers -- including world-famous celebrities -- now purchase dog-themed jewelry at her Poochy Couture store.
Handmade Crafts and Homespun Stories

Part of what makes handmade jewelry, handmade soaps and other handmade crafts special is the story behind them. There's a story behind every piece created and, whether the story is whimsical, poignant or practical, audiences connect with it. That's why, Davies says, manufactured goods will never replace handmade art and why The CraftStar will distinguish itself in the crafting industry.

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