By Haley Moore, April 28th, 2012

The spotlight was on startups at SXSW Interactive this year, but over at the conference’s first CraftCamp in Palm Park, we got to talk about a different kind of small business: artisan-driven commerce.

I wish I’d had the chance to spend more time at CraftCamp this time around, because one of the most interesting panels of the conference was there.  The talk, driven by Tara Gentile and Adam King, was a crash course in premium pricing.

Most artisans think of premium pricing and high end artifacture as something from a different world, even if the work they produce is high quality.  According to King, the key to bridging that gap is to listen to and watch high end consumers – find out what they value and how they make decisions.  He said that most high end consumers make purchasing decisions differently than the people who make the things they buy.

Gentile said that artists should focus on creating their best work and pricing it accordingly, rather than pricing to meet a given market price.

The message resonated not just because of the promise of profit, but because in a time when artists have to compete with factories, sometimes even on their own turf, the high end may be the only place where we can realistically thrive.

The event also featured a crafting table sponsored by Spoonflower, an online fabric printing shop that is arguably the nexus between the tech startup world and the artisan craft world.  They use an on-demand business model similar to self-publishing book outfits like Lulu.

The other big sponsor was Stitch Labs, another tech startup that looks to unify various storefronts with a single backend.   The presence of these companies left me wondering, though, whether there isn’t more money to be made from the crafters than from their customers.

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Haley Moore is a newspaper reporter, artist, and playwright based in north Texas. She has worked on several indie, fan and commercial Alternate Reality Games.

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