The Craft Industry Alliance is BAD for the Quilt Industry (and what we should do instead)

This was supposed to be the second of three posts, but I decided in the end to make it one. In no way am I trying to reduce the seriousness of the race issue going on at the Craft Industry Alliance, but this is just one more aspect to the discussion surrounding them.

For those of you who missed it, there’s something awful going on in the Craft Industry Alliance in regards to silencing and tone policing Black and BIPOC voices, including the notion that a Black member is considered a bully when a White member who uses similar comments is not. You can read Sam’s Post about it here. Then read Ebony’s post here. And if you want to read about the Craft Industry Alliance’s stance about it all, read their public apology here. (This situation is fluid and evolving and I even had a Facebook Live to one of the most egregious things which you can watch here.)

And if that wasn’t enough to want to make you to run as fast as possible away from this trade organization, like many are doing, I wanted to take a moment to think about my membership in this organization, which I have found problematic long before race was an issue with it.

I’m a data and analysis person, and so I have made you a spreadsheet of all of the specific quilt industry coverage, so you can read it for yourself.

*A quick note about the data, the Podcast for Craft Industry Alliance was at one time the While She Naps Podcast, so I have left out most of those except for one or two covering the Industry as a whole. Most of them are personal profiles. Also note, not all of the coverage by the Craft Industry Alliance is written by Abby, but she does pay for that coverage to the writer. Also, I copied the article titles directly from the blogs in question, and the While She Naps blog’s titles are in all caps, so that’s just how that is on her blog.

Abby is self proclaimed “not a quilter” but her coverage of our industry shows a very UNHEALTHY obsession with it and with certain companies’ failures. Sure Abby has made a quilt before, but she will tell you, as she told me, she’s not a quilter.

Abby Glassenberg started out writing about the Quilt Industry on her While She Naps blog. Abby enjoyed the coverage that seems to expose inequities in the industry and I even think that some of that is good to a certain extent.

After the Craft Industry Alliance is formed with Kristin Link in 2015, Abby appears to not be able to put industry criticism or opinion pieces over on the Craft Industry Alliance page. She puts the most critical pieces on her personal blog, as you can see from the data. I felt that Kristin was a good influence on her, not letting her opinion about the Quilt Industry come over to the Craft Industry Alliance.

When the Kristin left the Craft Industry Alliance, I had several conversations with other quilt businesses who expressed concern that the Quilt Industry coverage was going to take a nosedive. Without Kristin to reign in her opinion pieces, I and others were concerned about more critical opinions about our industry to come out. It took under a year for her first truly critical piece to come out, and let’s take a look at that one in particular.

In April 2020, the Craft Industry Alliance wrote an article called “Quilts, Inc. Will Not Refund Exhibitors for Cancelled Spring Quilt Market“. Mind you, there was no coverage at all at this time, during COVID-19, about other quilt shows closing or postponing and also keeping vendor’s money. This article included a heavy opinion piece at the bottom by Abby that started with “In my opinion…” which you can now read as a comment by her below the article. Why is it now separated from the article? This is why:

I had had enough. Abby’s bias towards Quilts Inc., in particular, has always been heavy (see the data). She never covers the rest of the goings on in the Quilt Industry, just the ones she wants to either spotlight or take down a peg.

In case you think it stopped there, now let’s review the last bit of coverage about the Quilt Industry, this article about the “Quilting Trends Survey Results 2020“. The first version of this article, which no where doe it state it was edited to add graphs, etc, did not include the graphs and also included a statement about how the data was not going to be released at all. You only know that if you read it as soon as it came out, which I did. Abby was contacted by Premiere Needle Arts to offer the graphs and to correct the information about the data being released, but Abby doesn’t tell us that. It makes me wonder why she would release info without reaching out to Premiere Needle Arts in the first place, as I would rather have the correct info the first time.

And this isn’t even addressing that nowhere in ANY of the Craft Industry Alliance coverage do we have Quilt Industry coverage on actually current industry matters such as major quilt shops closing, quilt shops innovating to stay open, various quilt shows postponing, VDTA/SDTA (a major sewing trade org) shutting down entirely, or the complete mishap over at Missouri Star/Mister Domestic over Black Lives Matter and their problematic Juneteenth sale.

Add to this the Craft Industry Alliance’s glowing coverage of Etsy. Abby Glassenberg is frequently called upon by mass media to weigh in on news topics regarding Etsy. As a member, I asked who in the Craft Industry Alliance owned Etsy stock in September 2019, especially since I had seen critical topics posted by members about Etsy to be told that “this kind of post isn’t productive.” To this day, I still do not know if anyone, including Abby, owns Etsy stock. *For the record, I, and no one in my household, owns Etsy stock.

So if the Craft Industry Alliance isn’t going to be a positive force for the Quilt Industry, why do I stay here? I’m here to tell you that I’m not. I’m cancelling my membership. The Craft Industry Alliance is supposed to be positive and forward thinking about our segment of the industry, but I continue to see coverage by the OWNER of the group to be problematic. She hires out the fluffy coverage but the hard hitting damaging ones are written by her. I can’t support an organization that doesn’t seem to have my industry’s best interest at heart. No amount of discounts on printing or free webinars are worth this to me any more, which was my main reason for staying.

Businesses in the Quilt Industry are terrified to be the focus of a piece written about them by Abby Glassenberg. I have consulted with companies who whisper in fear about being targeted by her. If that’s the case, then why does the sewing industry continue to support the Craft Industry Alliance?

It’s time to be done with it. You should not fear coverage by Abby Glassenberg or the Craft Industry Alliance because her coverage of our industry NO LONGER MATTERS. I have lost all faith she can do right by us, and until I see a true change, I won’t be returning. (Not to mention the problematic race issues above!) If you feel inclined to remove your support, that’s up to you, but I cannot put my business’ money towards something that constantly covers us this way.

So, where does that leave us? The SSQS and VDTA have not been able to stand back up, and with no true sewing trade organization ( a non-profit, one with an elected, diverse board of people in the industry from all sectors and management levels) then we are continued to be left without a leader here. I’ve been saying this for some time. People look to Jenny Doan/Missouri Star, or Karey Bresenhan/Quilts Inc., as leaders because they are the biggest businesses in our industry, but they are just that. Businesses. (And the fact that one has a problematic BLM statement and the other has none is not lost on me here.) There are for-profit store organizations, like American Quilt Retailer, or FabShop, but they are for stores. We needed someone to lead us through COVID-19, BLM, closings and mergers and unrest, and more. We don’t have that leader yet. But we do need one soon, I just won’t be looking for it in the Craft Industry Alliance. Abby may decide to change her institutional biases along with her racial ones over time and I hope that she does. In the meantime, the Quilt Industry no longer needs to worry about how we are portrayed there. Let’s build a new and better one.

For those of you in other sectors of Craft, look to your own segment’s coverage by the Craft Industry Alliance. It is positive? Is there any coverage at all? And then make your decision too.