What I Didn’t Expect to Learn at my First Creative Conference: Craftcation

This year, I took a big step in my creative life. I attended my very first creative conference. After comparing a few different ones, I decided on Craftcation, a makers conference that I had heard of for many years, but never thought to actually attend. I had this idea in my head that vacation days are to be used for trips to far away lands with new adventures, not for a conference in my home state that would take time away from exploring. Girl, was I wrong.

I had no idea just how much I needed a place like Craftcation in my life. I knew that I would enjoy the classes and learn a lot about the business side of the craft/maker world, but I didn’t know until I got there just how much I needed that sense of belonging and community. And I am not ashamed to say that I cried tears of joy multiple times during those 4-5 days.

So let’s take it from the top shall we?

Deciding to go…

In February, I launched this site. I’d been feeling a creative itch inside of me for a while, and I finally committed to scratching it. This was the year that I would commit to my own creativity. Now, lucky for me, I married the greatest, most supportive husband in the world, and the minute I mentioned Craftcation in a gchat at work he replied with, “Do it!”

So I went on Dear Handmade Life (the company that puts on Craftcation) and learned the event was sold out. But I could try to buy a ticket from someone who couldn’t attend, and I did just that. I grabbed a hotel room at The Pierpont Inn which was just 3 minutes down the road from the Ventura Marriott where Craftcation is held. I did this all immediately after Corey and I discussed it because I knew that if I didn’t sort it out immediately, I would chicken out and find excuses not to go.

Craftcation Weaving Workshop - photo by Jessica Griffin Photography

Making a Plan…

A few weeks after that, it was time to sign up for workshops. Let me tell you, it felt like I was transported back to college and trying to get all of the classes I would need to graduate. There are so many amazing craft, sewing, and business workshops all happening throughout the day that making your schedule is a puzzle unto itself, and then of course, you have to cross your fingers that you are quick enough on the draw to get into all of your top choices when registration opens.

Craftcation Business Workshop - photo by Jessica Griffin Photography

Here are my tips for you:

Figure out your goal for the conference. Are you wanting creative freedom? Take a bunch of classes featuring skills you’ve never done before. Are you ready to take your business to the next level? Focus on getting into the right business classes.

Make a huge list of all of the classes that you want to take and make sure to also write down who the presenter is. I had multiple business classes on my list that had the same presenter, so I decided that I would choose the one class from that presenter that would cover what I specifically needed. This will help when it comes down to building the puzzle that is your schedule.

Now it’s time to start your schedule building. Find the classes that you definitely need to take and build your schedule around those. You will probably go through 4 or 5 iterations of your schedule until you get it just right. And you will have to make some painful sacrifices because there will definitely be time conflicts.

Craftcation Silver Ring Workshop - photo by Jessica Griffin Photography

Workshop Registration Day…

And then comes registration day. Have your classes listed in priority order and make sure you have your back-ups.

And here is my very sneaky tip that I don’t even really want to tell you because it is so good…

In the minutes leading up to registration opening, go to the event page for each class that you want to take and open them all as separate tabs. Keep them in order of priority. When the registration time hits and the code goes live, copy that code, and then just work your way down the line of tabs, signing up for each class and pasting the code as you go. I got into all of my top-choice classes and was done registering in 3 minutes! (I told you it was a good tip)

Bringing Gifts/Business Cards…

With registration complete, the only thing left to do was create business cards. This year, as the blog is still young, I didn’t want to commit to ordering business cards, so I repurposed some Conversation Starters that I had made for my family’s Thanksgiving dinner. I slapped my instagram handle and website address on them and they were good to go. And you know what? They were an absolute hit.

Craftcation Business Cards - Conversation Starters by Short and Loud

You don’t have to have a card or gift, but I will tell you that if you are there as a business, it’s best that you have something to give out. At the end of the conference, I probably had 100 business cards in my bag and I promise I went through and followed each and every one of those business and instagram. And so many of them did the same for me. With a business card or small gift (I got lapel pins, soap, pens), you will immediately expand your community.

And so it begins…

I arrived in Ventura, CA at 11am even though conference sign-in didn’t even start until noon. I was vibrating with excitement. Craftcation had it’s own phone app this year so for the days leading up, there were messages from fellow Craftcationers from around the country, all building energy towards this moment.

I arrived at the Marriott at noon and got all of my swag! And seriously, I mean swag. When you sign-in, you get a sweet Craftcation tote bag that is full of information for the week, product samples, craft magazines, lapel pins, markers, discount codes, etc.

After going through my bag, I hesitated. I had an hour to kill before my first workshop and I was watching all of these friends be reunited around me. And here I was, alone on a couch. Then I spotted the Pop-Up Shop across the way, so I made my way over there to window shop (which turned into actual shop). And that was the turning point. In that Pop-Up Shop, I realized what I was actually about to take part in.

Craftcation Pop-Up Shop - photo by Jessica Griffin Photography

The shop was stocked with products, kits, and books from all of my favorite designers and makers. And it was full of women who were all just as excited about these makers as I was. At home, I tend to point out these creatives products in stores, and I met with a “oh, that’s cool!” But here, there was a base knowledge of this world. Everyone in that room had already heard of Amy Tangerine, Lisa Congdon, Emily McDowell, UglyBaby Shower Art, Flax and Twine, I could go on and on.

Finding my people…

I bumped into a woman as I was looking at embroidered patches, and instead of the real world moment that would have been brushed over with a small smile and apology and then move on with our lives…Instead, I met Tabitha. It was her first time at craftcation as well. We immediately picked out items for each other, and then stood in line (a very long line) and learned all about each other. And we learned about everyone around us. It was the happiest, most joyous long line I had ever been in. In that line, I also ran into Sabrina, the woman who commented on the same Instagram post as me, encouraging a total stranger to finally go to Craftcation. I can’t thank Sabrina enough for replying to me that day.

You know who else I met in that line? Jessica Griffin. The same Jessica Griffin who was the official photographer of Craftcation and whose photos are used in this blog post. What I’m saying is…any moment of fear and doubt about being alone that weekend had vanished.

Craftcation Felt and Tassles Workshop - photo by Jessica Griffin Photography

I had found my people. Honestly, I had found the people that I wasn’t even aware were missing. I’ve always been a maker since I was young, but it was always a solitary effort. At Craftcation, I was surrounded, for the very first time in my life, by women who all understood what I did, why I did it, and respected the passion behind it. There was an immediate shorthand in all of the workshops. Everyone already knew how to thread a needle, use an exacto-knife, and work an embroidery hoop. Pardon my language, but it was f*cking thrilling.

Craftcation Attendee Jillian Gomez of Short and Loud Blog - photo by Jessica Griffin Photography

And then the thrills kept coming…

From there, the week was an absolute whirlwind. In no particular order, here are some things I accomplished: made a silver ring, learned to punch needle, was kidnapped by Eliza and Jessie of CraftHangout and recorded a podcast interview, went running on the beach, breakdanced, made a woven trivet, made beaded earrings, had the guts to talk to the camera on an instagram story, accidentally sat at Nicole’s table and got my business card featured on the Dear Handmade Life instagram, learned invaluable lessons about Pinterest, went to an ipad pro/pencil meet-up and met Lindsay and Chelsey, was taught iphonegraphy from Sarah, met Holly IRL, and cried my eyes out at Amy‘s keynote speech.

And that’s probably only a third of what went down.

Craftcation Dinner on the First Night - photo by Jessica Griffin Photography

What I am trying to say is that Craftcation was beyond anything I could have expected. Spending 4+ days surrounded by complete positivity, encouragement, and creativity was life-blood that I didn’t even know I needed. I left Craftcation invigorated, humbled, and more connected to a real community than I ever have.

So…are you joining me next year? Because I am officially a lifelong Craftcationer.

Craftcation Attendees - photo by Jessica Griffin Photography

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4 thoughts on “What I Didn’t Expect to Learn at my First Creative Conference: Craftcation

  1. Jillian, I needed this post this morning. Thank you for reminding me of all the greatness of Craftcation. Like you, as a first time attendee, I cried tears of joy several times while at Craftcation. I have been implementing what I learned into my business and have felt like I can be successful. Last night I had a huge moment of doubt and started wondering if I was on a logical life path. You just swept me back to Craftcation and re-energized me to keep pursuing my dreams. Thank you! ♥️ Stephanie

  2. 😭😭 This post was amazing! (I had to laugh because I used the same technique to register!!) I’m so happy that I decided to get up in your business with that comment, and that you made the jump instead of thinking I’m a weirdo, lol. Craftcation gives me so much each year, and you absolutely captured that in this post!!!

  3. Thanks from another Craftcation first-timer-turned-lifer! The personal and professional benefits I got from attending are immeasurable. Hey, your registration tip is a great one! 🙂

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