By Her Own Hand: Crafts, Creativity, Commerce, and Community – Women-Owned, Tourism-Related Craft Businesses in the Verde Valley, Arizona

Friday, 20 July 2018: 08:30
Oral Presentation
Linda INGRAM, George Mason University, USA
The economic restructuring that occurred during the 1970s due to globalization and social change ushered in significant changes for rural communities. As a result, tourism became a popular method within economic development programs for increasing revenue, often through cultural festivals. Many female crafters have chosen to utilize these events as venues for selling their crafts in order to enhance their livelihoods. The purpose of this study was to learn about female crafters in a rural area who have turned leisure activities/hobbies into home-based, handcraft tourism businesses. The focus areas for examination were 1) the meaning of creativity and craft in their lives, 2) the evolution of their creative experience from leisure to business, and 3) how they then contribute to and/or affect community development as a result. This study examined how women empower themselves through creativity and then use that power to create small businesses which, in turn, affect their lives, families and communities. In-depth interviews revealed that crafting entrepreneurs have much more complex relationships to creativity, business, and their communities than previously understood. Crafters approach small business ownership as lifestyle entrepreneurs and, in spite of many preconceptions, have diverse skill sets that inform their creativity and entrepreneurship. These study results open the door to further research on crafting entrepreneurs with the understanding that crafters take their leisure so seriously that they endeavor to reach the level of artisanship, and have shown themselves to be empowered businesswomen positively affecting their communities.