Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Just a Thought....by Karen McGovern

If you are at all keyed in to the online arts and crafts world, either as a creator or a collector, you know the epic, fit for the big screen story of the rise of Etsy.  Etsy, in a very short time, exploded online as the ultimate source for handmade crafts.  Artisans from around the WORLD became Etsy-ites, including myself, opening online shops to sell our handmade goods including fine art, jewelry, gourmet foods, textiles, pottery and SO MUCH MORE. For many of us who opened shops, Etsy gave us a wonderful platform to sell our stuff, and they MARKETED THE CRAP out of themselves.  Since launching in 2005, Etsy has become a household name, the go-to online source for endless shops filled with GUARANTEED HAND MADE ITEMS.  It was great—while it lasted.  Slowly but surely mass produced goods popped up in shops all over Etsy.  The hipster staff we all imagined running the ship could not, and would not police itself.  Founding shops discovered their goods, and ideas copied, sold for half price, and the site became a quagmire of garbage.  HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF SHOPS. Those of us that jumped on the Etsy boat from the beginning were capsized under a wave of Chinese imports and resellers.  THAT WAS A GREAT METAPHOR!



Many, many founding artists jumped ship, myself included. There are chat rooms, blogs, forums and endless articles filled with angry artists voicing how betrayed we all feel and how DEEPLY DISAPPOINTED we are that Etsy sold out.  THEY SOLD OUT.  There are websites dedicated to the subject, like the over-the-top How Etsy Raped America. The millions and millions of dollars they make from all the shops; good, bad or indifferent, far outweigh any losses from artists who left Etsy because WE ACTUALLY HAVE ETHICS AND GIVE A DAMN ABOUT THE HANDMADE COMMUNITY. I suspended my Etsy shop well over a year ago, and have moved on to sell through Facebook and my own online website.



Notice I said I “suspended” my shop.  Did I close it?  No.  I wrote a huge, heartfelt message on my home page explaining why I thought Etsy was betraying its original artists and suspended all my listings.  Why didn’t I close my shop?  BECAUSE, THE SAD TRUTH IS I SHOP ON ETSY ALL THE TIME, and you have to be an active member to use the site. So, does that make me the biggest hypocrite of all time?  Maybe. I’ve been thinking a lot about this.

Not every great, original artist left Etsy when they went to the dark side.  If you are an artist with a big following, are well known, and have an active client base, you had no reason to leave Etsy.  The resellers and crap shops don't affect you.  The ruined small artists just starting out, artists that didn’t and don’t have a recognizable name, artists that aren’t blessed with a huge following.  There are MANY, MANY WONDERFUL artists on Etsy—some of my all-time favorite artists have successful shops there.  Some of my favorite suppliers sell on Etsy, and many sell ONLY ON ETSY.  So I shop there.  And, I’m considering re-opening my shop. WHAT? GASP? HAVE I LOST MY MIND? DO I NOT CARE ABOUT THE ETHICS ANYMORE?  Damn right I do.

Here’s what I am thinking.  Original artists who really want to make a living selling their ORIGINAL work need to take back Etsy. I will suggest a scenario here….Love My Art Jewelry is made up of a group of really talented and amazing artists. All of us struggle with the Etsy dilemma, and some have shops there and some have closed shops there. What if we all re-opened our shops, with a “Handmade Manifesto” of sorts on our homepages? What if we used the LMAJ blog and our personal blogs to support each other and other original artists that need Etsy as a selling platform?  Let’s face it, no other online retail portal has been able to get the same attention Etsy has. Whether you love or hate them, they are well known and HUGELY SUCCESSFUL. Even the recent bad press Etsy has gotten hasn’t done any real damage. Etsy, I believe, is here to stay. So, let’s USE IT and USE IT WISELY. Be vocal, say what you feel in your shop.  Call out the resellers. Name names and make a fuss. SELL YOUR WORK. Blog, post on Facebook, join forums and start your own handmade support groups online to direct traffic to Etsy shops that are run by independent artists creating and selling original handmade goods. What if other arts groups did this, over and over all over the WORLD? WHAT IF WE TAKE BACK THE SITE WE HELPED BUILD AND MAKE FAMOUS?!?



It’s just a thought, and I may change my mind….but I’d love to hear what you think.


Now, GO MAKE SOMETHING AMAZING!

18 comments:

Tammie Everly said...

Interesting perspective. Despite the controversy, I have kept my Etsy shop open, albeit on a very small scale. Mainly because the average craft show customer always asks me if I'm "on Etsy". They don't really get all the drama behind the scenes and I need all the exposure I can get. I wish it wasn't the case, but until I can drive the same amount of traffic to my website I am hanging in there.

Sherri Stokey said...

Excellent post!

Karen Z said...

Power to the people -- artists who are activists are my favorite kind of people! Knowing that we will never SHUT DOWN big money conglomerates like ETSY (and WALMART, and... well, you know), then are we not responsible for taking a stand. I say yes!

Carol- Beads and Birds said...

Great post. I'm a buyer. I was so excited when I found Etsy. I have bought so many items for personal use and gifts. Several friends and family use Pinterest to showcase their Etsy wish list. Very helpful.

I find it hard to navigate Etsy now. I refuse to buy supplies from China. I hate to search and have all their crap show up in my browse list. I almost laugh when I read on FB that someone wants to open an Etsy shop. How would anyone find them.

Interesting read. I just wish there was Etsy II.

nova walker said...

You are completely right about what you said, I joined Etsy in 2014, I was making jewelry and selling locally for over 10 years now. I had to save money and establish myself online. I am taking baby steps to creating my tiny shop "Novaleighs" and I want it to be successful. I have seen some traffic and honestly I want to remain confident that I can make a good online presence. I would love to join a blog or a group to help promote other artists as well as myself as I believe we each have something unique to offer to the art world.

Jenny Gholson-Morris said...

If we want to have Etsy around at all, I think your idea is good and maybe even vital to its survival. The company's stock is not doing too well, and investors have filed a lawsuit. IMHO, the company could be in real trouble. Problem is, they have done the best marketing job and still drive an enormous amount of traffic. Many people who have closed their shops still love to shop on Etsy. When it comes to deciding where to market our goods, we need to stop worrying about the company, and make decisions that benefit ourselves and those we want to support. I'm worried about what will happen to the entire handmade market if we lose Etsy. We need to see them as the means to OUR own end, and not worry about whether we like their decisions.

Kathy Lindemer said...

I really like what you said in your blog. I shop on Etsy whenever I can because I like to support people who make handmade and interesting items. I also like to support United States sellers. I do buy from the UK and Canada also. I will not buy anything from China on Etsy. I don't care how cheap it is.

I kept my Etsy shop open although I thought about leaving. I can't afford to have several shops due to time constraints and finances so I will stick with Etsy. I would welcome an opportunity to join a group of artisans, blogger who work to support one another. If anyone is interested in teaming up with me I would love to know.

Dena Durfey said...

I opened a shop on Indiemade but unfortunately think I'll have to open on Etsy too just to drive traffic to my shop. Has anyone tried Shopify on FB?
I also agree tht Etsy will continue on it's merry path unless the artists it was created for start speaking up.

Catherine Dalton said...

I agree....sort of. While i understand the whole "lets take it back" thing, i am not sure it is possible, desireable or worth it. Etsy is violating the very ideal they stated was their mission statement. I am not sure i would want to allow them to make cash from me. Its an ethical question. I have no answers, only more questions, amd maybe that is mot such a bad thing.

Mary Anne said...

Etsy ll.. has such a nice sound to it. I wonder if Rob Kalin, Etsy 's original founder who was fired(!) from his own company, would like to take the helm again?http://www.podcastchart.com/podcasts/from-scratch/episodes/rob-kalin/pop

Anonymous said...

You don't need a shop to buy on Etsy. But I'd look for a different venue. If I open another shop, I'll consider Handmade Artists (handmadeartists.com) which is strictly handmade and they promote their members intensely and run a wonderful forum with all sorts of member promotion (no matter where or even if you have an online shop). And I'd check ecrater (ecrater.com), where, at least once upon a time, you had no fees - though you really had to drive your own traffic to your shop. - Joan L.

Anonymous said...

http://www.businessinsider.com/longtime-etsy-seller-on-shutting-down-store-2015-5

Etsy may now be starting to suffer from alienating it artisans. Something fresh might be better than trying to salvage this ship.

Susan Swan said...

Terrific post!
I love the idea of some sort of a “Handmade Manifesto” on our homepages.
I'm still on Etsy even though I am constantly dismayed by some of the ways they handle/don't handle things. There are also lots of things I love about them and I plan to stay.

Sandy said...

I wish there was a better alternative. I feel as though my shop just gets lost on there, Etsy is so huge! I do not have a large following at all, despite having had a shop since 2008. NO one knows me and I have only ever had one repeat customer. I don't think my beads are terrible and they aren't overpriced. I just get lost in the shuffle of everyone else on there.

Unless I want to pay all their fees to get my product on the "front pages" (that in itself is a joke). Even when I did that, I didn't see any increase in sales. But people do expect you to have an Etsy shop. If I thought having my own online shop would work, I would do that, but how do you get people to find you there?

I'm only on Etsy because it seems like it has the most traffic, and since I make components to sell to other artists, I'm not sure what else to do. I keep my prices and shipping costs low, so the fees on Etsy and then PayPal pretty much eat up any hope of seeing a profit.

I've tried to join a few Facebook groups or blogs that are dedicated to bead artists, but you can only reach out to a few hundred people that way. Etsy is global, how do you compete with that?

From The Alley To The Gallery said...

I LOVE your post. Thank you! My gripe right now is with an Etsy store. They are stealing pictures off Pinterst, posting them on their Etsy store as their item. After they post that on Pinterest (your goods, their Etsy site) they change your picture (on their Etsy item) to the goods they want to sell. So, you see your item on Pinterest, click on it and it takes you to their Etsy store. They have almost 3200 pins they have done this too. I'm waiting for an answer from Etsy as to what they will do about it. Your goods are selling their items. SO WRONG! I'm a small shop just trying to survive on Etsy. It's tough out there! Thank you for this post. It's excellent.

Skylar Bre'z said...

Thanks for posting this, Karen. I have a shop on Etsy which I've done okay with. But I do the majority of my shopping on Etsy. I decided that I wouldn't buy from the big resellers, and stay away from the China shops.

I'd love to be a part of a group of handmade artists that promote the handmade work that made Etsy what it is. I wonder if it's possible to come up with a button/some identifying symbol that us handmade artists can use. I think it's also important that we artists work together to educate shoppers. It's time to take our territory back.

Shaiha said...

I think it's a great idea! I do shop on Etsy though I am noticing that I am purchasing more and more through Facebook.

freebird7100 said...

I went to your FB page and shared this on my page. Great article

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