Arts and Crafts Vendors Thrive on Political Merchandise During Conventions

Jul 25, 2016

Marianna Keithly's display of "blingy" RNC shirts attracted many tourists at the convention last night.
Credit JO INGLES / STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

Look around any political convention and you will likely see vendors selling tee-shirts, buttons and memorabilia.

But both the DNC this week and the RNC last week also attract artists and small businesses selling stuff to the party faithful. 

If you walked through the Home Run Alley at Progressive Field during the RNC, you would have seen a lot of different items for sale. Many are handmade by local artisans like the shirts made by Marianna Keithly of Middletown. The garments were bedazzled on site with rhinestones.

“We have the patriotic of course and we got permission to do the Republican National Convention logo and we will put it on any shirt that they want,” Keithly said.

Keithly said the business at her booth was brisk. She and her daughter estimated they’d sell around 1000 shirts by the end of the RNC. A couple of booths away, Jen Truchon from suburban Cleveland was selling shirts that didn’t have the bling but captured nostalgia.

“You know, our best seller is the Reagan shirt. Reagan and then also, we had this design that we created, the Cleveland elephant one. But yea, it’s been neck and neck between those two which is good. Everyone seems to love Reagan. I mean how could you not?” she said.

Jen Truchon sells etch-a-sketches with the aluminum powder taken out the back, meaning the art will stay on the screen.
Credit JO INGLES / STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

Truchon also offered a more unusual item: etch-a-sketches that featured elaborate art designs, hand crafted by other artists and sold in her booth.

“We take out the aluminum powder in the back and then it is permanently etched in there. From there we can make different art gallery prints from them too cause we can scan them in.”

The marketplace attracted artists from all over the United States.

“My name is Timmy Woods and I am from Beverly Hills, California 90210.”

Her handmade wood purses were laid out on display and were attracting attention from onlookers.

“My bags are hand made of wood and it takes a minimum of six weeks to make a handbag. Everything has a shoulder strap tucked inside so they can double as shoulder accessories or handbags,” she said.

Timmy Woods poses with some of her purses. She has designed purses for celebrities like Meghan Trainor and Sarah Jessica Parker.
Credit JO INGLES / STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

There were bags shaped like the Eiffel Tower or the red lips made famous by the Rolling Stones. But at this event, her political bags were the ones attracting attention. Woods says her purses are in high demand from celebrities.

She says she’s made bags for pop singers Megan Trainor and Miley Cyrus and actress Sarah Jessica Parker. She hoped to give one to Melania Trump. 

“One says Trump 2016 and has the American flag on it. It’s really really a nice bag. And then the other bag is the White House bag. And the White House bag is something I’ve given to other president’s wives which would mean I would have a problem giving it to Bill Clinton so therefore Trump better really win,” she said.

Some of the artists at the RNC last week say they’re selling their items at the DNC this week.