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The New World Crafts Fair

Since 2011, buyers and artisans have gathered  annually in Antigua, to attend the New World Craft Fair, the biggest trade show of Guatemalan and Central American handmade products. Visitors to the Fair can find handmade goods that reflect the many  cultures from which they derive, with a modern design aesthetic. The goods on display include a variety of local techniques including  incorporating everything from wood to recycled materials, and natural fibers to forged steel.

In 2019, Nest joined  twelve buyers from the US, Canada, and Hong Kong at the New World Craft Fair. In addition to walking buyers through the show, and introducing them to artisan businesses directly,  Nest also lent our expertise to inform best practices for working with and sourcing from artisan producers. In a one-hour session, Nest’s Director of Artisan Sourcing and Brand Strategy, Amanda Lee, shared lessons learned from Nest’s 14+ years experience artisan-vendor and client relationships. The session provided a deeper understanding and context for the ways in which artisan producers have different operational and production structures, and suggestions for how brands can help to support those differences. The buyers were encouraged to view the business relationship as a collaborative partnership, to think about creative ways to solve problems together, and the importance of open communication.

Amanda Lee, said of her experience at the fair: “The New World Crafts Fair is a special trade fair in that the setting is quite intimate and personal. It provides rare opportunities to speak with and engage with artisan businesses, to learn more about their work and share ideas. Conversations through face-to-face interactions continue to be the cornerstone of successful partnerships, where all parties can learn from one another to ensure a mutually beneficial and meaningful partnership. Nest is proud to help facilitate these introductory conversations and hopes to continue supporting collaborative artisan and brand partnerships.”

The Buyer Perspective

  • 87% of buyers rated their experience very good or excellent
  • 100% of respondents said the fair met or exceeded their expectations
  • 87% said they intended to participate in the fair again
  • 75% said they planned to continue a relationship with an artisan producer they met at the fair

One buyer said that the most valuable aspect of the experience was, “Connecting directly with the makers and co-designing in person.” She was previously working with a vendor on a very small scale, sourcing basic items. When she realized that the vendor was also going to be attending the fair, she was able to work with them directly on specific projects, launch new developments, and most importantly, was able to learn more about their capabilities. She gained exposure to lines of business that she never knew were possible and continued to build a deeper relationship.

The artisans who participate in the fair each year have a unique opportunity to showcase their assortment for buyers from around the world at a single event. For those in remote regions, this enables businesses to travel with their wares only once, saving time and costs. The individual interaction the fair provides can open doors that are sometimes only revealed with time. Ian Gonzalez, of artisan business La Casa Cotzal, participates in the New World Crafts fair each year. Of his  experience working with buyers at the fair in 2019 Ian Gonzalez shared: “It was great to have Nest introduce new buyers to our business.  Some buyers were able to place orders immediately, and others we had the pleasure to meet and open initial exploratory conversations.  You never know where these conversations can lead, sometimes it’s a while until you hear from them again. One of the brands that we were introduced to last year and hoped to work with have reengaged with us and we are working on some new developments for this season. We’re glad to have met them last year at the fair, and are looking forward to the possibilities of working together.”

New Opportunities for Engagement

As the realities of COVID-19 set in in 2020, AGEXPORT, the organizers of the New World Crafts fair, had to reconfigure their plans and move the fair online. While this excludes the possibility of spending time in beautiful Antigua with the artisans in person, it allows more buyers to engage with more artisans in a less formal way. The online fair is live running until the end of the year, extending the opportunity for buyers to procure product for multiple seasons. Less inhibited by travel costs and scheduling considerations, more buyers can participate directly in the virtual experience. Nest is pleased to be once again working with New World Crafts Fair to expose buyers to unique crafts. One buyer who attended in 2019 said this was the best part: “Getting to meet and learn about artisans (and their products) that we most likely wouldn’t know about without this event.”

If you are a buyer interested in learning more about the New World Crafts Fair, visit here.

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