Selling "World Heritage" Craft

I would like to thank The Organization of World Heritage Cities, the Getty Conservation Institute and the city of Evora for the opportunity to offer the Aid to Artisan concept and method, “From Maker to Market", to the World Heritage Cities represented here by so many dedicated and forward-looking city officials, preservationists, planners and dreamers.

Craftsmen built your famous and fabled cities and still have an important role in their maintenance and restoration. A skilled and prosperous artisan sector is a major asset and an important factor in both the recognition and sustainability of your cities. They do the skilled and essential repairs, of course, but in a natural way they also preserve traditional culture by making it familiar and popular.

You already know the many colorful ways to increase a visitor's appreciation of your city – the festivals, the sol y luna performances, the folkloric ballets, the puppet shows, the concerts and theaters, boat trips and buggy rides, the cafes and restaurants, museums and galleries.

Because you, as preservationists, already know the value of your own culture and identity, I'd like to skip to a clearly commercial aspect of culture and show how crafts can be a mare important part of your city's economy.

Visitors spend a lot of money on crafts. An average traveler will buy five gifts to take home at about $10 each. one or two special objects for themselves at about $100 each. That's $250 . Multiply your own visitor count by $250 and the total will be impressive

Nassau, in the Bahamas, not even a World Heritage City, receives 3,000,000 visitors annually, and, were they to spend their quota, it would mean a $7,500,000 bonanza. Sadly, most of the islands crafts are wade elsewhere.

A PATA travel expert told me that his group of twenty Silk Road travelers had each planned la spend about $2,000 on carpets, miniatures and calligraphy but were frustrated because they could find nothing of quality to buy. What a loss ($40,000) for the local artisans.

It’s a pity they didn’t know about the ancients silk. ikat workshop in Margilan, Uzbekistan, where. Steered by ”Lonely Planet ". thirty-three members from Washington DC .Textile Museum bought in one afternoon as much silk ikat as the factory had sold all year long.

Unlike airfare and prepaid package tour costs, money spent on crafts spreads instantly and undiluted into the local community and it's not just income to the artisans, as welcome as that would be, but a cross-cultural, person-to person experience as well.

Crafts are a popular souvenir for visitors, ranking close in importance to cool drinks in a cafe, and watching the process of making crafts has become as attractive a ”destination" as a lecture on frescoes. Learning, participating, has become a pleasure, as proven by the enormous success of study-tours like the Elderhostel tours. (Elderhostel sends 250,000 visitors, ail of them 55 or more, out each year.)

ATA Method
I'd like to suggest the Aid to Artisan methods as ways you might incorporate the artisan sector and its talent and resources into your city's future.

Artisans as partners
At ATA we recognize that artisans have the skills and often the motivation to develop successful enterprises. It has been our experience that, while governments, international, federal or local and NGOs like ATA can and should offer assistance in the field of information, publicity and promotion, sales and special events, sites and subsidies, the artisans themselves, either individually or in associations, and their vendors mill be the driving force.

Understanding the market
The ATA method starts with the market. Who comes to the city? And what do they buy? This doesn’t require expensive market studies if you already have data on your visitors (country of origin, age, occupation, season and duration of their visits etc.).

Inventory the human resources
We survey the artisans to find out who they are and what they make. We study their historical, cultural and economic background as well as their current status. And as soon as possible we make our work visible. Too much time on research does not instill confidence in either participants or our sponsors so we often begin by publishing and distributing maps, brochures and guidebooks And we always buy samples.

An exceptional well done guidebook like one put by Hand-in-Hand, a North Carolina partnership of government, business and educational institutions, can be very effective – crafts contribute 122 million dollars annually to North Carolina’s economy.

We inventory material resources - the work sites (workshops, Factories. studios), the raw materials and techniques, the tools and equipment, the natural and competitive advantages and constraints and, even at the outset, we help to resolve the problems.

ATA is particularly well known for product development and we often suggest or design variations on traditional handcrafts that we know will suit the market. This is not intended to change the traditional craft, but to add other salable products to the mix.

We analyze the sales venues - artisan centers, markets, shops, galleries, roadside and street vendors, hotel gift shops, airport shops and advise on ways to increase sales through changed location, store design, merchandising, and through local recognition, publicity and sales training.

Need for training - A city can offer artisans on-going seminars in business, particularly in understanding costs and pricing. Standard record-keeping courses are also invaluable. So is access to credit. And it's good business sense to encourage, as in Islamabad, the training of today's artisans in the ancient and highly skilled building trades such as stucco, carved plaster, mosaic. Craft schools are themselves magnets for travelers.

All this background knowledge is doubtless known to you already, and has only to be recognized as a necessary framework for strategic planning far this sector.

None of this interests your visitors. What DO they want? They want to buy something evocative, authentic, well-priced and portable. They usually don’t know what it is because they haven't seen it yet, so it’s not cost-effective to spend market research money asking them. They do know what sects their buying energy and, emotional as it sounds, this is a serious factor in designing an artisan promotion and marketing program.

Visitors like to shop and they want to enjoy the shopping experience. This usually means a convenient location, a friend1y greeting, clean and attractive premises and a feeling ofsafety. They also expect to receive change, to get receipts and they hope to be able to use credit cards.

Crafts as Merchandise – From Souvenir' to Fine An Visitors want to believe they have made a good choice, that their taste is excellent and that they have not been overcharged. They want their friends to admire and even to envy them

They like choice. If there is only one mohair shawl in the market stall they will not buy it. They like to believe they have chosen the best. They want it to be special

They like a story to go with the object, sometimes told by the artisan, sometimes a simple hang-tag, or sometimes the story is the story of their own adventurous search

They like to think the thing they bought actually works, is useful and, therefore, not a foolish purchase.

They say they worry about carrying it, about size and breakage and how to fit it in a suitcase

Every traveler wants to buy ceramic and glass, especially here in Portugal where the styles while ancient, are also lively, perfectly suited to today's lifestyle and I am eager too. I wonder.... Will the artisans ship? How much will it cost? Is there insurance?

I've mentioned crafts and the decorative arts but have intentionally left antiques out of this discussion, even though antiques are one of the most wanted tourist purchases. At Aid to Artisans our mission is to help today's artisans We want collectors to buy the work of living artisans, people whose craft and way of life may not survive without the patronage of collectors, importers and tourists, all, in our own way, preservationists.

We very much hope that you, as leaders in some of the world’s most important and precious cities, will discourage the sale of antiquities end, instead, encourage the patronage of your own living artisans in every way you can.

As much as the blue tiles of Samarkand, the pyramids of Mayan cities, the lacy stone palaces of Jaipur, the gargoyles and goddesses of Paris and Capri and the wonderfully restored temple of Borobudur, the artisans are your treasures too.

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