I visited the Japan Hobby Show for the first time and it was breath taking.
Literally. I can’t speak Japanese and there were SO FEW people speaking English – so I was nodding A LOT and lost for words…for a change.
Mainly because I’ve never seen so many people descend on a venue for crafty stuff. It was like arriving at a very tame and very polite Grand Final – everyone emerging from public transport hubs to descend on the venue pumped and ready for action. Ready, set… sew!
Crafting and hobbies really are a way of life in Japan and the population size (Tokyo has 13 million people) means there are lots of people attending the exhibition and participating in workshops.
Lots of art and craft supplies
I saw all sorts of craft supplies, jumped into a couple of workshops and found a few great products for HOW to sell.
Minne Handmade – Japan’s Etsy
Next to the Hobby Show hall was a huge hall for Minne, an online marketplace which is Japan’s answer to Etsy. I discovered Minne as a magazine bought from a Japanese newsagent which features lots of makers with tips, tutorials and info on the handmade world. I then found their online marketplace. I now have discovered their live event.
When I asked my Japanese friend if it’s was like Etsy she said “What’s Etsy”? An indication that the size of Japan and relative lack of English speaking capability means that huge online marketplaces can sustain themselves by just selling to an internal audience. In other words Japanese hobby makers sell inside Japan, without needing to sell internationally.
I met students making gorgeous little ceramic hair clasps, to 60 year old plus women friends who had teamed up to make and sell little fabric purses. Overwhelmingly the stalls are run by women and the level of skills and craftsmanship amongst (mostly) non-professionals, was remarkable.
My friend said one of the reasons for the popularity is that many Japanese women find childcare places so hard to find (mmmm sound familiar?). The paid workforce is quite inflexible with leave policies, so many women are choosing to run a small hobby-business at home instead of jumping back into paid work after having children. It’s interesting to see how technology and the same work/life patterns have enabled the hobby/handmade retailer to emerge across first world countries.
When cruising through the hundreds and hundreds of stands, there were some trends emerging:
- Stellar constellations – on ceramics, framed prints, jewellery – all shades of dark blues peppered with sparks of white, gold and silver representing stars in the night sky. It’s a “thing”.
- Mini plastic food as jewellery – from cutesy mini bento box brooches to kind-of-gross-but-funny Wagyu beef strips earrings and teriyaki chicken leg key rings. It’s def a “thing”.
- Covered buttons as hair clips – Not a new “thing”, but they are popular.
- Brooches, brooches, brooches. – Any type, any design. But I think that’s always been a Japanese “thing”.
I managed to do a couple of workshops, which is do-able when you’re watching but not understanding the language. One was simple book binding using a lovely cotton hemp.
We built a notebook from adding sheafs of paper sandwiched between two paper covered cardboard pieces. As we added a sheaf of paper we threaded the cotton cord around it. It was surprisingly easy to get it wrong.
The little notebook case I made from Tilda fabrics (they’re the very pretty retro-style florals) had so many bits to it. My teacher had done lots of preparation beforehand, which made it quite easy for us to compile the semi-prepared pieces. The detail of each one was quite incredible.
I did find some brilliant new products I’m in the process or ordering so we can sell them online and at Craft Fairs.
Multi – coloured zippers that allow you to mix and match different sides of a zipper piece – in divine colour combinations.
Iron – on washi tape which means you can decorate fabric items – clothes, shoes, library bags, pencil cases, books, and even have nice looking clothing labels.
Dress patterns for those fab Japanese tunics – we’re starting to translate them so you can follow the pattern in English.
Patterns for little pouches, fabric slippers, small tote bags.
New fabrics – I found gorgeous little large hanky sized finished fabrics pieces, normally used for wrapping up lunch or gifts which make very lovely hankies and scarfs.
All up, loads of inspo and products for HOW to bring to you online and at the Craft Fairs.
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