Interview with Anna Raddatz of AshevilleCrafts.com

January 3, 2012

Anna is a fairly new face in the Asheville area, she’s been in town for a year now and currently works as the Development and Communications Associate at Mountain Bizworks. When I saw hat she had started web site, Asheville Crafts, I was immediately interested in her story. Anna has already posted information about HandMade in America with an interview of Gwynne that can be found here.

To learn Anna’s background and what her website’s plans are, I had my own interview:

Where are you from? What type of education have you received?

I grew up in Spokane, WA; went to college in Ohio; then spent 9 years in New York City. I got an English degree from Oberlin College. But every few months I get an itch to learn something new. In the past few years I’ve taken classes in pottery, woodcarving, sculpture, digital photography, bass guitar, and interior design. My dream is to go to Penland!

How has craft influenced your life?

I grew up in a crafty household with parents who encouraged any and all creative projects. We lived out in the woods so my sisters and I were always running around making weird things out of sticks and pinecones, or heading out to the garage to try a paper mache project. My mom taught me how to sew, crochet, embroider, and work with clay; and my dad taught me the basics of photography.

When I moved to New York in 2000, I found craft was a great way to meet and connect with people – a way to whittle down 8 million people into an approachable (and really friendly!) handful. Some of the first people I met there were Callie Janoff, who co-founded the Church of Craft, and Tsia Carson, whose design firm, Flat, produced the initial GetCrafty website and later created Supernaturale . Back then, the indie craft movement was just getting started, and it couldn’t have been better timing for me. In a stressful place like NYC, it was great to come home to a sewing machine and my own little creative project.

Over the years, I’ve struggled a lot with questions of, “what should I do with my life? what is my calling?” I still don’t quite know yet, but I do know that the one constant in my life has always been craft.

What brought you to Asheville?

My boyfriend (now husband!) and I were starting to realize that we were looking for more than the city could offer (i.e. more than we could afford there). We wanted a garden and a real home and time and space for hobbies and projects. But I was nervous about leaving NYC, so, in collaboration with a friend who had just left NYC, I started a website (lifeafternewyork.com) for former and questioning New Yorkers. (When in doubt, start a blog!)

In order to ease the transition a bit, Justin and I decided to try out several cities around the country to help us decide where to move. We got rid of most of our stuff, put the rest in storage, bought a car, and took off! We spent 4 months in Austin, TX, then planned to spend 3-4 months in Asheville… but, once we got here, immediately realized that we had found our new home. It’s hard to argue with mountains, craft, barbecue, and beer! Luckily, I found a job at Mountain BizWorks, which sealed the deal. We’ve been here about a year and a half now, and feel so lucky to call Asheville home.

What type of work do you do at Mountain Bizworks?

I work in development and communications. Mountain BizWorks is going through a really interesting time right now, developing services for larger small businesses, including larger loans and high-level consulting. But it still offers great courses and coaching in business planning, marketing, and financial management – all of which can be useful for crafters who want to make money with their work. I’m always amazed at just how many local businesses have been helped by Mountain BizWorks.

What would you like to accomplish with AshevilleCrafts?

I would love for AshevilleCrafts to be the go-to place for both locals and tourists to learn about what’s new in the Asheville craft community. As a relative newcomer myself, it’s taken a while to piece together all the bits of the Asheville craft puzzle – what are the events, businesses, organizations, and makers that make this such a thriving handmade community? It just seemed like the missing piece was an Asheville-specific site that brings it all together in one place – and that isn’t beholden to a specific philosophy (i.e. traditional, studio, indie, etc.), medium (e.g. fiber, glass, wood), or neighborhood (e.g. River Arts District).

On the personal side, AshevilleCrafts combines three things I love – craft, writing, and photography – into one project. It motivates me to explore my new hometown, and enables me to support craft artists even when I can’t afford to support them with purchases.

If you could have any handmade item on your Christmas wish list, what would it be?

Oooh, that’s a tough one… I think it would have to be something cozy, like a quilt from Chomp or this great asymmetrical jacket from Sew Moe.

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Needless to say, at HandMade in America we are thrilled to see a newcomer to the WNC/Asheville Craft Scene- Please take a few moments to visit AshevilleCrafts today!

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