Who is Really Celebrating Artists?

By Carolyn Edlund

Entrepreneur Magazine’s website has an inviting-looking contest, asking for submissions to their Indie Merchant Holiday Gift Guide. The very first paragraph states,

This holiday season, let’s celebrate the artisans, craftspeople and other independent merchants who create one-of-a-kind items that make for special gifts. From now until Thanksgiving, we invite all eligible businesses to tell us about ONE item that you sell that is the perfect gift for someone special this holiday season.

[Bells ringing, birds singing]

But then take a look at the FAQ section:

I designed my product, but have it manufactured in China. Can I still enter it?
Yes. We understand that manufacturing is an integral part of doing business. Items do not have to be hand-made.

Whoa—What?!?  [Record-scratching sound]

I suggest that Entrepreneur Magazine hold whatever contest they want, but don’t pretend to support and celebrate American artisans and craftspeople when they really don’t. That’s disingenuous at best.

Is there anyone out there in the creative community who doesn’t know that products Made in America are under attack? Items pouring in from China undercut the prices and livelihoods of American entrepreneurs, as well as knocking off artists who design and produce in this country. Having items produced overseas kills American jobs – that’s a fact.

If you’d like to submit your original handmade product to a contest that does respect the integrity of the arts and crafts industry in this country, consider submitting one image to The Arts Business Institute, to appear in a series of three articles on “Great Handmade Holiday Gifts” which will run on Thanksgiving week. Each image selected will be shown with a link back to the artist’s website. It’s free to enter. No items manufactured outside of the U.S. or Canada will be considered.

Send one image of your work + a description + retail price + your website address by midnight on Thursday, November 17, 2011 to: [email protected].

Carolyn Edlund, the author of the Artsy Shark blog, proudly co-writes content for The Arts Business Institute, a nonprofit which for the past 16 years has taught workshops on the business of art to artists and craftspeople in the United States and Canada.


  1. Carolyn,
    I work with from time to time with a boutique in Pasadena, CA that has a policy of no MMP –meaning no mass manufactured products. They understand that with some creative applications multiples are created, but the objective is to understand and recognize where the line gets crossed into manufacturing instead of a series or limited edition run. It’s truly one of Pasadena’s hidden gems: https://www.facebook.com/majesticalroof

  2. Carolyn,

    Thanks for this post and sharing the links to both Entrepreneur and The Arts Business Institute.

    “One-of-a-kind” and “made in China” are pretty much mutually exclusive terms, and surely not a distinction shared by only a handful of people.

    Encouraging and promoting the idea of purchasing handmade, locally produced or items made in America is hard enough without these misleading Entrepreneur-type contests.

  3. Totally in agreement with you there, Carolyn. It’s like they think that because something LOOKS handmade, then it IS handmade. *headsmack*

    • They are trying to get mileage off playing homage to American artisans and craftspeople, while promoting those who take jobs away from them. Despicable.

  4. Thanks for this very informative article. It brings up another issue that I have faced recently.

    Every couple of months I will get emails from various poster companies or fine art website e-commerce site asking to put my paintings on their site for sales as giclees, posters and greeting cards. The advertising looks very enticing until I go to their sites to review and see in very tiny type that they are located in China! Once they have my hi-res images, how would I trust that they are paying me commissions on everything they are selling of mine or if they are putting my images on other products without my knowledge and commercializing my images in ways that I don’t promote?

    While the internet is a great tool for the artist, you have to be very careful about who has your art and what they are doing with it.

  5. I think your intuition is right, Joyce. It’s a shame that scams, hackers and ripoffs seem to be dominant on the internet.

  6. Is there more to do then just being annoyed at the magazine? I am a great believer in education (I know you are too, Carolyn) and wonder if they can be lobbied to rethink this approach. It would seem to be a win win for them to be able to say they have a focus on work originating from studios found only in North America and produced by artisans only found in North America.

    Can a petition be started? Buy American is not just a slogan anymore, it’s a movement!

    • McKenna, I honestly think that the magazine is more focused on franchises and other models rather than micro-businesses. But here’s something you may be very interested in. Check out the American Made Alliance for more information on promoting American small business, buying locally and fighting copyright infringement, imports from China being brought in and having their origin stickers removed or covered to defraud the public, etc.

      Yes I am definitely in your camp, and am working with individuals who are in Washington, DC lobbying legislators to get tough about this topic. Check out this video about how the Smithsonian Museum of American History gift shop has been pressured to comply and start selling American-made merchandise.http://bit.ly/vyDVpU The Smithsonian has been slow to implement, but it’s a start.

      • I am a member of Wholesalecrafts.com and we have had discussions and are aware of the GREAT work that AMA and ABI and Wendy Rosen has been doing to get American Crafts inserted into the dialog. I just sold to a Smithsonian affiliated Museum recently, so the work to educate and the pressure on that organization is working!

        You are spot on re: that mag being all about franchises and big biz: BUT I remain curious about the potential to turn around THAT thinking, too. After all, small biz still is the motor of our economy and a nod to the hands-on artisan community would not offend some big box companies opinion of the Mag.

        Sorry… just love this particular soap box! AND… I can’t ignore an opportunity to push the agenda towards Entrepreneur Magazine. THEY should be ready, able and willing to embrace Made in America as a part of their editorial agenda.

  7. Great post – and an issue well worth highlighting. I’ll be mentioning it in “who’s made a mark this week?” on my blog next Sunday

    • Thanks, Katherine. This contest is one small factor, but it does point to the difficulties that small businesses in the US have with imports making life difficult.

  8. Thank you for this great article and the link to The Arts Business Institute.

    I always seek out products that are made in the USA – and send messages/letters thanking companies for manufacturing in our country. I just wish more people would purchase USA products.

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