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LOCAL Announcement :: Miscellaneous : Women

Crafty Richmond Entrepreneurs Join Forces to Rub Out Mass Production with the Richmond Craft Mafia

Representatives from nine major craft families have banded together to publicly reveal the beauty of handmade items and show shoppers from Richmond, Virginia and beyond the error of their big box shopping ways. With their newly formed family ties and a brand new holiday show just around the corner, they have every intention of taking over this town.
Nine locally-owned businesses specializing in handmade goods have formed a professional alliance. They call themselves the Richmond Craft Mafia (RCM) and like any other “familia,? they celebrate births with a party.

Inspired by the parent organization, the Austin Craft Mafia (www.craftmafia.com), RCM president Leila Wylie began looking for people with like interests in Richmond so she could talk shop. "My husband is very understanding," she explained, "but he can only talk about fabric for so long." Now he doesn't have to. Wylie, 26, soon found four other women with similar creative interests, crafty talents and entrepreneurial spirits via a business owners' forum on the internet.

Wylie makes no excuses for the group's provocative name and slogan ("Rubbing out the mass produced"). "Our businesses are relatively edgy," she said. "They're marketed to the modern consumer. I really like the fact that it is called the Craft Mafia. I think it grabs attention."

Wylie, who creates stylish diaper bags and other family fashion, explains that the function of the mafia is to provide a support network for small, craft-related independent, or indie, businesses. Founding members consist of Wylie of Mamie Originals, Dawn Anderson of Lark Studio, Nicole Lee of Soleil Rouge and Michele Keiper of Flower Peddler. Since the inception of the Richmond Craft Mafia, the group has grown to include Kirsten Hirsh of Baa Baa Yarn, Adrien Hamilton and Kate Poroszok of Keen Designs, Kelly Farrell of Dada Haus, Beth Allums of Monkey & Me, and Maryellen Kim of Twist/Maryellen Kim Designs. The group intends to use their collective economic power for advertising and craft-related events, among other endeavors.

One such event is the Richmond Craft Mafia’s kick-off event, the Handmade Holiday Trunk Show on December 9th, 2005 from 6pm-10pm at the Bainbridge Art Center in Richmond's Manchester art district. The show will feature food, beverages, and of course, beautiful handmade gifts just waiting to be purchased. Each Craft Mafia member will be displaying their wares, and with everything from handspun yarn to hand-poured soap, gleaming jewelry to trendy tote bags, it will be a one-stop shop for holiday shopping.

While all the member-businesses are led by women, Wylie insists it was by chance and not by design. “Our only rules are that you must have a business or be in the process of forming one, the vast majority of your items must be handmade, and you must be an active participant in the group,? explained Wylie. The Mafia has closed its doors to new members for the time being, so if you want into the “familia?, you just might have to marry in! An application is available online and new applicants will be put on a waiting list for review.

With the right connections and a little strong-arm marketing, the Richmond Craft Mafia will soon be making consumers aware of their unique indie businesses and functional items. It will prove to be an offer that just can't be refused.

High resolution photo and member bios are available.

Leila Wylie
Mamie Originals/Richmond Craft Mafia

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