CERF Study Provides a Craft Industry Snapshot

By Carolyn Edlund


The Crafts Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) recently released a comprehensive study called “Sustaining Careers, A Study of the Status of U.S. Craft Artists” which contains many insights into the reality of the craft community today.

The survey conducted for this report compiled input from over 3,500 craft artists in all 50 states on topics such as sales and income, trends, insurance and preparedness for emergency. The report is extensive, and contains a lot of surprising statistics that show artists still have many challenges in their small businesses.

Some of the findings:  

  • The respondents are truly small businesspeople. Eighty-five percent of the craft artists surveyed work solo, without any employees. Fewer than 1% of respondents employ more than ten people.
  • The vast majority are home-based businesses. Only about 20% of craft artists locate their business on a property which is not also their home.
  • Nearly half of craft artists working full time report between $0 – $10,000 total net income. This figure was consistent across all career stages, ranging from students to early, mid and late-career craft artists.
  • Although almost half of respondents knew another craft artist who had been impacted by disaster, not as many are really prepared for an event that would halt their business. About 50% did not have cash reserves to make it through one month without income.
  • Craft artists, and their collectors, are part of an aging population and changes are taking place. Collectors are not as likely to be in “acquisition mode” but may be dispersing their collections instead. Artists are finding it more difficult to keep up with physical rigors of production and retail show exhibition.
  • Craft artists report that retail sales at shows and fairs are increasingly volatile, creating a lack of confidence and driving them to pursue other methods of selling – including online sales, home shows and other venues.
  • The majority of artists responding took some precautions, having fire extinguishers and smoke detectors in the studio, and storing flammable liquids safely. However, there was a disconnect when asked about insurance coverage, as 60% remained uninsured for business-related losses.
  • Artists are concerned about the reduction in education available for the next generation to learn skills and techniques of working in the craft mediums. This impacts future artists, collectors and teaching opportunities.

This report is chock-full of thought-provoking statistics and information that any artist can use for planning, loss prevention and legacy building. Read either the full 54-page study or the Executive Summary here.

CERF is a nonprofit organization dubbed “one of the leading voices for safeguarding artists’ livelihoods”. They provide an enormous amount of information on protecting your art or craft business from disaster, from practical steps to increase studio safety to appropriate business insurance. CERF also has a program which offers grants and loans to craft artists who have suffered business-threatening emergencies. Altogether good people with a great mission! I encourage artists to visit their website and subscribe.


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