12/3/21

CHA to AFCI to NAMTA

Seven years ago this month, a dream of mine came true. After four years of working toward the goal, I finally qualified for membership in the Craft and Hobby Association (CHA). I consider December 2014 to mark my official transition from craft hobbyist to a professional in the craft industry. 

With my CHA membership came a lot of fantastic opportunities. Over the years, I've worked with a bunch of companies I love (these are my current affiliate partners), taken on many freelance writing and designing assignments, served as a brand ambassador, spoken at conferences, seen my projects published in books, and met some of my best friends. I can trace just about everything that has happened in my crafting career back to my CHA membership and the steps I took to qualify. 

Over the seven years I've been a member, a lot has changed with this trade organization. Membership categories came and went (I was a Creative Professional, then a Designer, then a Digital Content Creator, even though who I was and what I did hadn't changed). The organization rebranded in January 2017, when the name changed from the Craft and Hobby Association to the Association for Creative Industries (AFCI). 

For a variety of reasons, AFCI struggled. It was obvious to most of us that it was only a matter of time before AFCI would cease to exist. So it was no surprise in August when AFCI members were notified that we would be voting to merge with NAMTA (the International Art Materials Association). The merger became official last month, with NAMTA absorbing AFCI. My AFCI membership, due to expire at the end of this month, rolled over into a NAMTA membership. 


While AFCI focused more on crafts (including the scrapbooking / paper crafts, kids crafts, and edible crafts that I do), NAMTA has historically been exclusively for fine arts manufacturers and retailers. Until this merger, they didn't have membership categories for anyone outside of those two roles. They have added a Creative Professional membership and are doing a great job welcoming former AFCI members into the organization. Still, fine arts is not what I do. Sure, I've recently jumped into the world of professional-quality colored pencils, but I'm using them for crafts, not fine art. I'm struggling to decide whether or not continuing as a NAMTA member makes sense to me. 

One major consideration is the annual trade show, Art Materials World. For 2022, it has been branded "Art Materials World Featuring Creativation" and will take place in Orlando in April. 


While I know I would have a fun time, I don't know that it makes sense for me to attend. If it were on the west coast, I'd strongly consider going. But the travel time and expense in getting to Orlando, not to mention the hotel costs (during spring break!) and possible COVID issues, make me question whether I should sit out a year and reconsider for 2023. And if I do decide to skip the trade show, does it still make sense for me to maintain a paid membership? Probably, but I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

2 comments:

  1. I can see how you are torn. I would probably keep my membership even if I didn't go to the convention.

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  2. I totally agree with you!

    I'm a danish retailer in papercrafting, and I'm a bit unsure of how much space the cardmaking/scrapbooking world will take up in the new association.

    I decided to renew my membership this time anyhow, even though I'm not going to Orlando (mostly due to the pandemic situation).

    I cross my fingers that in 2023 it will be possible for me to go again (after 9 shows I really miss the physical networking opportunities).

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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