The Crafts Industry and Its
Importance to the Economy
Featuring CODA's landmark survey statistics, last
update on the Organization
Updated September 2016
by Barbara Brabec
IT HAS LONG BEEN KNOWN that America's handcraft industry was making a
significant contribution to the American economy, but there were no statistics
to prove it until early 2001, when the Craft Organization Directors Association
(CODA) released the results of its landmark study. It confirmed what many
industry leaders instinctively knew all along: Craft businesses have long been
important to this country's economy, contributing nearly $14 billion a year (see
details below). Although this industry has been hard hit by the current
economy, it will bounce back in time, just as it has done after various other
recessions in the past.
The first clue about the size of this economy came in 1995 after HandMade in
America, a nonprofit organization, made a study of 22 counties in western North
Carolina and learned that crafts were contributing $122 million annually to the
economy of that part of the state. Later, a similar study in Kentucky revealed
that craft artists were contributing more than $52 million to that state's
annual economy. These findings encouraged CODA to do the first major national
study on the size and scope of the crafts industry.
Over 84,000 surveys were mailed directly to craftspeople who earned all or part
of their living from the sale of handmade products, and CODA released the
results of its study of 7,500 completed surveys on April 1 at the CODA 2001
Conference in Asheville, NC. Here are some of the surprising facts and figures
that were released at that time:
There were then 106,000-126,000 craftspeople working in the United
These business owners (79
percent of whom were homebased) were generating sales of
between $12.3 to $13.8 billion per year.
The average gross sales/revenue per craftsperson was $76,025.
Income from craft activities comprised 47
percent of household income on average,
and 22 percent of craft households were deriving all of their income from craft.
Retail sales accounted for 52.9
percent of annual sales, with just over one-half
of these sales being made at craft fairs.
The average craftsperson derived 27
percent of annual sales from wholesale, and
11.2 percent from consignment to galleries.
There have been no new craft industry surveys by anyone since 2001 to tell us
how the above facts and figures have changed through the years, but at least the
2001 CODA statistics proved to business and government leaders that craft was a
viable and sustainable industry worthy of investment and support. The survey
also drew attention to the important relationship between crafts and cultural
tourism. States that were armed with accurate statistics could then partner with
economic development agencies to encourage growth and development of this
important sector of home-based businesses.
Basically, the CODA study findings validated the crafts industry as a vibrant and
growing network of small American businesses while drawing added attention to
small and homebased businesses in general.
October 2009 Update on CODA
CAMILLE RONAY and her husband Bill are now
retired. But for many years Camille has been active in promoting Georgia
artists. When I learned that Georgia Made Georgia Grown LLC was going to host
the 2010 Conference in Savannah, I asked Camille for an update on CODA. She
"CODA doesn’t have the money do to another craft study, although it is very
much needed. They have, however, hired an MIT graduate to do a study to see what kind
of information has already been collected by various Creative Economies/Economic
Impact assessments. This person wants to study the studies, then report on what’s out
"I have 'studied the studies' myself, trying to find what I need to make
Georgia’s research in tune with others. There are many states that have done
assessments many ways. Here in Georgia, for instance, we had to change our focus
to creative entrepreneurship. In Georgia, our legislators have embraced the
concept of entrepreneurship, although there is no clear definition among them of
"I’ve found a researcher at the University of Georgia who is very excited
about measuring entrepreneurship in Georgia; our issue is how much
entrepreneurship we can get funding for. We are meeting now with a state
representative who is falling all over himself to make Georgia #1 in technology
entrepreneurship. He wants to recruit technology entrepreneurs from all over
everywhere. We want to measure what we already have. So this may not be a good
fit at all, but we’re trying to see what we can do with this person. (He is a
politician above all else, so we are appealing to his women voter concerns.)"
Each year in April, CODA holds an annual conference in a different location,
providing an opportunity to network with peers, learning about national trends
and issues, and to experience local craft/art projects and venues as well as
hearing from national speakers. Each conference host determines a current and
relative theme tied to contemporary issues in craft. Sessions are developed
around this theme and local/regional and national speakers and presenters are
asked to participate.
In 2011, the Craft Organization Directors Association (CODA)
CODA Review 2011: Craft Artists, Income, and the U.S. Economy, and The
American Craft Council picked up on that information and published in their
Oct./Nov. 2011 issue the article, "Craft: State of the Market." which his
available on the website.
On January 7, 2013, CODA announced that it was suspending their day-to-day
operations, explaining why they and so many other craft and home-business
organizations that once served so many creative people nationwide are no longer
Changing times and a variety of new ways to communicate have made the sharing of
information easy, and webinars are taking the place of conference attendance. As
grant dollars for nonprofit operations have diminished, so too has the ability
to operate small organizations that do not have a well-developed base of
individual support. As with all associations that operate with a volunteer board
and limited staffing, it has become increasingly clear that daily demands in
everyone's work precludes moving forward. Many of you have reported experiencing
the same in your organizations."
* * *
Check the CRAFTS INDUSTRY department
for more articles about the history of the crafts industry.