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!