Over the last ten years, Bernadette Clancy has been working as a management consultant for state supports within Ireland specializing in design and innovation solutions. Through her years of experience, Clancy naturally came across the arts and crafts sector and noticed that artists face different challenges than the average startup. Clancy explains, "Artists don't like talking about themselves because usually, they don't know how. When pulled away from creative pursuits they feel lost and tend to lose focus. That's where I felt the need to help." Crafters of Ireland (COI) was born from the desire to create a safe space for artists to focus on their work while hosting, social media, and promotion are done for them, at a cost that doesn't break the bank.
"In 2018, I started looking at business models like etsy.com as well as shops that hold goods to sell off commission and I understood the gaps and the expense were keeping talented artists down," Clancy told the IPBN. "I wondered how I could do things differently and still make a small profit. I knew I could design a bespoke, innovative service aimed at providing worldwide exposure for their work, so I designed COI for people who want to be self-sustainable, to earn a decent living from their craft, while I make a living to continue to sustain this service for them."
The Crafters of Ireland online marketplace was created to be more than just a place to showcase the work of visual artists in Ireland, it was built to market the artists themselves. Through exposure on other blogs, the site's own blog, features in magazines (Womans Way magazine, the World Trade Magazine, and Donegal Woman Magazine for example), the COI Youtube channel, international exhibits (like the recent ones in the USA and China), and the upcoming virtual exhibition with the IPBN on July 8, Clancy is more than living up to her side of the bargain, leaving space and time for the artists to do what they do best: create.
The nominal subscription fee coupled with the commission of the artist's choice is all Clancy expects for her service of, as she says, carrying this group of people to the goalposts and letting them carry on. Clancy is adamant that artist-chosen commission is a way to level the playing field, because if an artist sells a product, Clancy can use that success story to promote new works and new artists. Everybody wins.
Clancy noted, "To bolster this risky business model...I have started to provide business advice/mentoring to a wide range of micro-businesses from an array of industries. I continue to promote this aspect to what I do. I have spent the last 17 years educating myself either in physical college or online in all that encompasses entrepreneurship and I use elements of what I have learned over the years as a self-employed consultant to help start-ups and artists."
But there is still work to be done. Crafters of Ireland is continually looking for help in the areas of promotion to spread the ward far and wide and invite all interested parties to come on board to be a part of something truly special. Having some sort of connection to Ireland is key, but Clancy is sure everyone has one, no matter how far back it goes.
That's why Clancy and the five artists representing the marketplace are so excited about the upcoming event. This is a networking event not only for the artists showcased but for the company as a whole, supporting the artists who will not be showing in this exhibition. And the momentum it will bring will have a lasting positive effect on the marketplace, just as Ireland will have in your heart once you set foot on the Green Island. No wonder bringing home a hand-crafted item by an artist from the area can help that feeling last.
Registration for the event is open until the end of the day on July 6. Zoom links will be sent the day before the virtual event to all who registered.