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April 1, 2014

Indiana artisans finding ways to showcase goods

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — When Aaron Dickinson started his woodworking business, he focused on hand-crafting furniture for people's homes.

But that, the Hancock County man discovered, left behind a lot of leftover material. It was eyeing the scrap pile that led him to make his first cutting board, a project that changed the scope of his business entirely.

"I would make cutting boards out of the mountains of scrap and found there is, indeed, a very large market," he told the Daily Reporter of Greenfield.

Last weekend, Dickinson's hand-crafted wooden kitchenware was on display at the Indiana Artisan Marketplace, a two-day event at the Indiana State Fairgrounds that aims to celebrate the best in Hoosier art.

Former Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman created the Indiana Artisan organization in 2008 as part of an economic development initiative to strengthen local arts-based businesses.

The first few years were spent growing the program by recruiting artists to submit their work for consideration. To be designated an Indiana Artisan, artists must prove their work is handmade, and it has to be judged as exceptional in quality by a jury of artists.

Today, the nonprofit organization boasts 268 artisans representing 59 Indiana counties.

Once the artisan base was significant, the organization planned its first marketplace, where artists gathered to display their wares, network with fellow vendors and show off their skills to potential customers.

Four years later, the marketplace has become a hub for artists to network and share their work with some 6,500 potential customers who attend the event.

Dickinson was one of 107 vendors who gathered to show off their talents and offer their work for sale at the fourth annual event.

Though Dickinson still makes a considerable amount of furniture, the majority of his business today comes from folks wanting items like those he sold over the weekend — hand-crafted cutting boards and utensils all made from Indiana hardwoods.

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