After months of teasing and enticing designers to sign up for a conference about the role of craft in design, Anonymous abruptly cancelled Crafty 2010 a week before it was scheduled to happen. “Yes. The rumors are true. Crafty is postponed indefinitely”, read a post it uploaded on to its its Facebook page last Saturday.
When contacted about the cancellation, Anonymous partner Felix Ng apologised for the decision, explaining that ticket sales up till then were “a long way to go” from reaching a “respectable audience size”. While he had considered lowering ticket prices and even offering free tickets, he decided against it as this would only devalue the efforts put up by the speakers and collaborators. Moreover, he said that this would contribute to the problem of audiences who didn’t believe in paying for content.
In the weeks running up to Crafty 2010, Felix said the conference received great feedback from around the world, but for some reason the excitement did not translate back to ticket sales. When asked if he thought that Singaporean designers were not interested in craftsmanship, Felix thinks it is quite the opposite.
“So far our post-mortem points to the possibility that we designed a conference that Singapore needs, but don’t want (yet),” he replied in an e-mail interview.
There were also rumblings that the conference tickets were too expensive and there was no subsidy for students, he said. However, Crafty 2010 was meant for working professionals and it was not going to be a “half-baked event” where speakers showed pictures of their work that one could already view online. In fact, at the price of $250 for each ticket, Crafty 2010 was not going to be profitable at all. Moreover, the conference had no sponsors, which in Singapore was “commercial suicide”, he said.
“[It] makes us a little insane I guess, because we rather spend our time making sure the content is great rather than chasing corporate sponsorship,” he adds.
According to Felix, Crafty’s ticket price was comparable to recent design-related conferences held in Singapore. Tickets to a Kenya Hara lecture last year cost $600, while the Business Evangelism 2010 conference featuring Malcolm Gladwell, Pico Iyer, Marc Ecko and Stefan Sagemeister were selling tickets at $2461 each.
While Crafty 2010 is cancelled, Anonymous is going ahead with A Crafty Paper, a 44-page newspaper featuring a foreword by Duane King and profiles of 15 other individuals, which it produced for the event. It will now be published as Bracket, a eight-volume publication that will be published between now and 2012 on topics ranging from craft, hunger, and ethics to failure.