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I've created a line of wooden peg looms to make potholders and projects of other sizes. Read the story behind the looms and check out my etsy shop.


West Michigan sounds off about the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

Like so many other makers and fans of the handmade movement, I’m very disappointed that lawmakers passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) without carefully considering how it would impact small handmade businesses. I’m all for making sure kids have safe toys, but disagree with the language of the law that will require handmade business owners to pay for expensive testing of all products intended for children under age 12, even if the materials they are using have already been tested and deemed safe by the manufacturer.

(Photo courtesy of Tina Vink) Josie Vink, 5, of Dorr, models a K Bella Bambino skirt designed by Karin Harmon, of Grand Rapids. Harmon worries she will have to raise the price of her designs after Feb. 10, when the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act takes effect. The law mandates third-party product testing for lead and other dangerous toxins. Harmon said it will cost $770 for the tests that will destroy the skirt in the process.
The sad irony is that many of the artists and crafters who will be impacted by this legislation got into making toys, clothes and other goods for kids because they wanted safe alternatives to products manufactured overseas.

I’ve written about people like West Michigan sock monkey maker, Dulce VanDyken, who crafted herself a career after losing her job. Now, because of the CPSIA, she’s talking about not making monkeys anymore because she can’t afford the testing. In this tough economy the government needs to encourage people operating small businesses, not create impossible roadblocks that force people out of business.

This week I wrote my Grand Rapids Press art and craft column about the issue and posted the emails I received from local makers (and a few from out-of-state) on my newspaper blog. (Scroll down below the column to read their stories.) Sadly, more than a few are contemplating having to shut down.

It’s doubtful that lawmakers will hold hearings to change this law before it takes effect Feb. 10, so now is the time to make noise. Blog about it and write to your elected officials and tell your friends to do the same. And, if you haven’t already, join the Handmade Toy Alliance, which is doing a great job of keeping artists and crafters updated on the latest CPSIA information. And you can sign petitions here and here.

We all want safe toys and goods for our children, now we just have to educate our goverment about how to do this without crushing handmade businesses. What suggestions to you have to solve this problem? Post your ideas below.


Comment from Deborah Spagnuolo
Time: January 25, 2009, 10:52 am

Thank you for keeping this issue alive. I had not heard of it until reading it here. It’s just a shame to lose good creative outlets and sources of income for something that seems to have good intentions but unexpected effects for a large community of small businesses!

Comment from tasha roe
Time: January 25, 2009, 3:14 pm

THanks for keeping this important issue in the headlines. it is a very sad situation for many small business owners. we have friends that are closing boutiques and others that are fighting with children’s toy manufacturers for their businesses.

Comment from Lona
Time: January 25, 2009, 3:42 pm

Thanks you, Jennifer, for calling Rep. Ehlers and for writing this column. You are the patron saint of Michigan indie crafters, and this column needed to be written by you.

Here’s hoping the “powers that be” listen.

Comment from Turtle
Time: January 25, 2009, 3:59 pm

it is a sad and frustrating event. who and what were they thinking to make such a general law!! thankyou for posting the petition links.

Comment from Dee B
Time: January 26, 2009, 2:03 pm

I know this is going to sound very ‘tin-foil hat’-ish, but I can’t help but think that large manufacturers are pushing this in government just to push out the little guys.

Waxman, who pushed this bill, was also the one that was pushing another bill that would deeply affect my industry, soaps and bath and beauty items. The FDA Globalization Act would basically put small time soapmakers/crafters out of business, as it would require huge fees to license your business with the FDA. This would be no big deal for the L’Oreals and the Revlons (both companies which pushed the legislation) but would put out of business most home crafters and business people.

Comment from Xanthe
Time: January 26, 2009, 5:28 pm

Hi Jennifer,
I’m so glad you’re talking about this issue. I do not make children’s products, but I buy them. I want handmade items, like those you have showcased in your podcast.

I am still shocked that Congress (both parties) could be so thick! I’ve written to my reps and local (I live in Wisconsin) radio stations, but this is still mostly ignored. I’ve signed petitions. This is so frustrating!

I know the police aren’t going to swoop down on day one, but no one I know wants to break the law. So when economic news is at its worst, congress puts more people out of work just because they write a bad bill.

How about the other consequences? What does this do to schools, libraries, and day cares? Will I be risking high fines and felony jail time if I sell a toy at a garage sale that is found later to exceed the lead limits? Where will all these perfectly safe but untested products go? Landfills…what a disaster!

Thanx again Jennifer and keep up the good work!

Comment from Mindy
Time: January 28, 2009, 12:13 pm

Thanks for writing about this issue. We just did a post as part of the “Say No to CPSIA blog-in” if you’re interested.

Comment from Simone
Time: January 28, 2009, 3:21 pm

I had no idea that this was what was behind the “Save handmade” thing (new Zealander) All i can say is its frightening and i hope we do not follow suit. Is there any way to create a loop hole? Perhaps calling the toys “souvenirs” or “ornaments” that sort of thing? Or perhaps some sort of disclaimer? I’m no expert tho.

Comment from Candy
Time: January 28, 2009, 11:34 pm

I was curious about if newspapers would be under this law? I’ve read more about the publishing industry being affected, possibly even libraries. But what about the comics sections that have kid specific activities that run at least weekly in newspapers? Wouldn’t those fall under the same type of scrutiny? I ask here since you are a columnist with a paper, and maybe it has been discussed there.

I would think if newspapers and print media in general was to fall under this huge sweeping firing squad of testing requirements, this might be a bigger story that people even realize. Just curious.

Comment from Johanna Lu
Time: January 29, 2009, 12:45 am

Hi! I just want to say that I nominated you for a Kreativ blogger award, not just because you are mean crafter and writer but also because your great podcasts and your inspiring attitude. So I really want to spread the word about Craftsanity to more folks out there!

Comment from Diane
Time: January 29, 2009, 8:10 am

Perhaps as a compromise, makers of handmade toys could offer to put a disclaimer or warning tag on the toys (like so many other products). Since buyers tend to know or trust the makers, that probably wouldn’t hurt sales much.

Comment from sewbettie
Time: January 29, 2009, 1:28 pm

thank you for your article. you have always been an amazing advocate for handmade artists.

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