When the pandemic forced everyone into their homes, there was a big movement of people redecorating or renovating. But even as Tampa Bay has opened up and removed pandemic restrictions, local craft galleries, artists and small businesses are seeing an uptick in sales of home decoration items, handcrafted functional items and plants.
“I’m seeing the demand for items that people use at home go through the roof, and makers are busy trying to keep up with the demand,” said Florida CraftArt gallery manager Liz Cooper. “We’ve noticed a lot of items that can be used around the house on a daily basis have been selling more to make daily occurrences more beautiful.”
She said the St. Petersburg fine craft gallery has been selling charcuterie boards, drinking vessels and serveware at a much higher rate than usual, about double. The gallery’s exhibition “Epicurean Delights: The Art of Fine Craft Dining,” which ran from March to May, yielded the sale of 27 items. Its current exhibition, “Beautiful Bountiful Bowls,” opened in May, and 23 bowls have already sold.
Cooper thinks the sudden appreciation for high-end, handmade home items has to do with living more of our lives on social media and Zoom this past year.
“Making an Instagram filter isn’t enough anymore. You need the actual goods, too,” she said.
Valerie Scott Knaust, director of St. Petersburg’s Morean Center for Clay, said in an email that she has seen a big jump in sales of both functional and sculptural objects. She said people are more interested in the process, too.
“A new reverence for the handmade object has begun” she wrote. “Great news for all artists after a really tough year.”
Artist Paul Hoagland makes wheel-thrown functional pottery. He has a studio at the Morean Center for Clay and sells work there, and also at Florida CraftArt and the Chihuly Collection. His items have been selling so quickly that he’s having to scramble to make inventory.
He said tourists are still coming to town, when in previous years the summer sees a big slowdown. He described being very busy with traffic and sales in his studio.
“I said to Valerie (Knaust), ‘What’s this all about?,’” he said. “She said, ’Yeah, this is the new reality.’”
Reneata Griffin opened St. Petersburg gift shop Neat Neat Neat during the pandemic. The shop features items from American small-batch companies. She said she can’t keep a particular doormat in stock. It depicts snakes, alligators and tigers and costs $38. Griffin said she also keeps running low on kitchen towels and eco-conscious cleaning items and utensils.
While increased foot traffic accounts for sales, smart use of social media is also causing items to sell out.
Crystal Desilet also opened her Tampa succulent florist business, Cactus Moon, during the pandemic. She said in an email that lately her sales are definitely up. She uses social media to promote “trending” plants.
“Items are selling out quite quickly, especially when I promote them,” she wrote. “I’ve seen a big uptick in followers and engagement on my social media accounts as well.”