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Etsy critiques.
June 12, 2009 7:53 AM   Subscribe

By now, you've probably heard of Etsy (previously), a website that has been called a "crafty cross between Amazon and Ebay." The site is enormously popular, among women in particular, but some are asking is the buy handmade movement a good thing? Does the site peddle a false feminist fantasy?
posted by lunit (108 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Jezebel's critique of the critique.
posted by lunit at 7:55 AM on June 12, 2009


Why does everything I read from Jezebel turn out to be unreadable crap? I mean, they may have a good point, but the dialogue format along with the ridiculous asides just make it so painful to get through.
posted by TypographicalError at 8:00 AM on June 12, 2009 [11 favorites]


I've bought some nice bits off of Etsy. Yes, it's a steal. Yes, it's probably very difficult to make a career out of Etsy: either you're not being paid enough for the work you do, or you price items according to the labor which went into them and nobody buys them. I'm with you so far.

But then I get to the last bit and object. Just because Etsy has a gender imbalance does not mean that work-from-home is some kind of feminist ideal. The idea of staying at home and working is not a feminist fantasy, just an introvert's little dream, one I wish I could pull off.
posted by adipocere at 8:04 AM on June 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


The comments on the original article are actually quite good, too.
posted by lunit at 8:06 AM on June 12, 2009


I don't care either way about Etsy, but I must say that the author of the blog doesn't sound like someone I'd invite to my next party.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:07 AM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I agree with the critique of the critique. Also, "it's just another form of consumerism" misses two major points:

1) Not for the person who is making the stuff.
2) It isn't mass market, which hopefully means it's selected more thoughtfully. (i.e. instead of buying the One Battleship Gray Quilt That WalMart Has you can spend 1167 hours paging through etsy hits to find the One OMG I Must Have THAT One.)
posted by DU at 8:08 AM on June 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


Ugh, what an utterly stupid article. I think the Jezebel commentary is spot-on and completely readable and understandable. I think this part of the Jezebel critique sums it up best:
But what I feel is most problematic is the idea inherent in the work that women should, in some sense, face the reality that their dreams of successful entrepreneurship will never be realized. In truth, most small businesses fail. Many people — men and women — engage in the marketplace with a unique product, idea or service and fail to amass enough profit to stay afloat. The difference between men and women is that men are more often encouraged to do so then women, and encouraged to try again. Mosle's piece attempts to convince women not to take a relatively risk-free wade into the entrepreneurial waters of the American marketplace because they'll "fail," as though economic failure is something with which women cannot or should not be expected to cope.
posted by muddgirl at 8:09 AM on June 12, 2009 [15 favorites]


I think what this article is giving me is an excuse to buy more stuff on Etsy- you know, to support women and all, girl power, more power to women. And more necklaces and scarves and earrings for me, yesssssssssss!!!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:11 AM on June 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


I don't think Etsy is a way to make a living. It's a good way to subsidize your hobby though.

You can even get people to pay for your stuff while you're still learning. I've seen some stuff sold on Etsy that is downright amateurish, and yet they charge prices like it's good work.
posted by smackfu at 8:11 AM on June 12, 2009 [7 favorites]



Why does everything I read from Jezebel turn out to be unreadable crap? I mean, they may have a good point, but the dialogue format along with the ridiculous asides just make it so painful to get through.

This was written as a parody of the "letters back and forth" format used in a lot of XX posts (especially when it was still housed on slate.com).
posted by availablelight at 8:13 AM on June 12, 2009


What the fuck is this shit?

Etsy is one of the best things on the internet. It's a tool, a system, not a product in itself.

"among women in particular" - are you making this up? How do you measure gender on a site like this? Is it a checkbox next to visa, mastercard, & amex? As you can see, all this puts me in a very bad mood.
posted by mattbucher at 8:14 AM on June 12, 2009 [11 favorites]


Soooooo ... satisfaction is worthless if it doesn't translate to cash, buying anything handmade is bad because one person can't achieve the same efficiencies as a factory/sweatshop, women are uniquely delusional and need to be protected from even entertaining improbable hopes or daydreams, and covering your materials and turning a small profit is worse than giving your crafts away? Um.
posted by mayhap at 8:14 AM on June 12, 2009 [15 favorites]


What is a realistic feminist fantasy?
posted by tarvuz at 8:19 AM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


The day Facebook pushes me ads about "How I Earn $5000 a Month by Making Crocheted Sparkly Uteruses at Home www.etsy.com" is the day I will be upset about Etsy selling me a fantasy.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 8:20 AM on June 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


"among women in particular" - are you making this up? How do you measure gender on a site like this? Is it a checkbox next to visa, mastercard, & amex? As you can see, all this puts me in a very bad mood.

I meant that the sellers are primarily female, which is discussed in the article.
posted by lunit at 8:21 AM on June 12, 2009


I've seen some stuff sold on Etsy that is downright amateurish, and yet they charge prices like it's good work.

I'm a great fan of Etsy - but smackfu's comment is spot on.
(Mind you, I've bought some woeful stuff on eBay too - and I put it down to my own poor judgment).
posted by Jody Tresidder at 8:22 AM on June 12, 2009


Etsy actively fosters the delusion that any woman with pluck and ingenuity can earn a viable living without leaving her home. Etsy has a business model that’s akin to the lottery’s. It preys on the hopes and dreams of working moms and other women, while delivering genuine financial success to only the very, very few.

Oh, come on. Anyone who is an experienced crafter knows perfectly well that she or he isn't at all likely to make much money from selling handmade items. No one is willing to pay what the hours of labour are really worth to the crafter when inexpensive mass produced items are available. I very often get approached by people who want to hire me to knit them something, and I always refuse. I'm not willing to put 50 hours of work into a sweater for what I'd be paid. I'll make items for me and for friends and family during my free time, because it means I can dress myself, furnish my house and prepare gifts for a very reasonable cost and that my hobby effectually pays for itself. But though I've toyed with the idea of becoming a professional artisan of some kind, when I run the numbers it's never a viable option.

I'm sure most of the crafters on Etsy are well aware that it's just a way to showcase their work and finance their hobbies.
posted by orange swan at 8:22 AM on June 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


My wife sells stuff on Etsy, and she's a feminist, and she has no problem with Etsy. She realizes she's probably not going to make a living selling jewelry, but Etsy gives good exposure to her stuff (unparalleled, really) and she likes the community element to the website.
posted by elder18 at 8:24 AM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think part of the problem of the limited demographic on Etsy is that the styles and types of handmade items tend to be less diverse than they could be if they reached a larger audience. Personally I would like to see Etsy or some new Etsy-clone expand include all kinds of homemade techy stuff. A lot of the things you can buy on Etsy are basically the same kind of stuff you could learn to make on Instructables if you had the time/skill/materials. But almost none of the tech hacks, robots, and other neat stuff you can build from Instructables or Make are available to buy premade anywhere. For example, building a Yellow Drum Machine robot is way out of my league but I would pay good money for one.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:24 AM on June 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


From the doublex article: "In other words, the Etsy.com seller is often a married woman with (or about to have) young children, with a higher-than-average household income, and a good education. These should, in sum, be highly employable women."

Actually, in my experience, married women with (or about to have) young children are less employable than single women or women with older children. It's not right or just, but companies are wary of investing in an employee who will likely go on maternity leave, costing the company money, and possibly never return, meaning the company will never recoup its investment.

As lots of commenters pointed out, you can't just look at the Etsy shopowner's direct income. In the case of a stay-at-home shopowner with young children, there's also the substantial savings of not having to pay for daycare.

Also, the doublex article suffers from a lack of economic perspective. Yes, Etsy's centralized marketplace increases competition and drives down prices, which means lower margins for the sellers. But on the other hand the sellers, too, can reap the benefit of cheaper handmade goods, so to the extent that sellers are also buyers, there's a certain balancing effect, though it probably isn't sufficient to make up for the loss in income.
posted by jedicus at 8:25 AM on June 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


I really like Etsy and I am a heterosexual male with gross bodily functions.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:26 AM on June 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


There’s little evidence that most sellers on the site make much money. This, I suspect, explains the absence of men. They are immune to the allure of this fantasy.

Oh yeah, right, men are immune to the allure of easy money. Men never fall for get-rich-quick schemes, they never sign up for MLM programs, their start-ups never fail. It's only the women who would be dumb enough to fall for Etsy.

The writer is a dolt and a blowhard.
posted by jbickers at 8:28 AM on June 12, 2009 [17 favorites]


Is there a more general Etsy for art and such? A lot of it is a little too, ahem, young bohemian professional for my tastes (I don't want my room looking like a 26 year old marketing director from Williamsburg). In any case I can never find anything that is wall art size and it is really disappointing. Everything seems very knick knacky in size.
posted by geoff. at 8:30 AM on June 12, 2009


DoubleX.com is trolling yet again, and feminists are chomping on their hook.

Please, just ignore them.
posted by dw at 8:30 AM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


[DoubleX article] Here's exactly where I stopped expecting to learn something:

After all, the site was [...] never conceived as female-only. The home page has a minimal, modern look. The colors are not cutesy pink.
posted by applemeat at 8:32 AM on June 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


three men in Brooklyn, a haven for macho DIY-dom

I don't think she's been to Williamsburg in the last 10 years or so....
posted by lumpenprole at 8:33 AM on June 12, 2009


Most of the sellers at the flea market are women. Most of the sellers at the farmer's market are women. These are broad claims that can't be proven and mean nothing. Growing stuff is just a hobby for them, too amirite?

But unlike our mothers and grandmothers, who were content to knit booties for relatives, younger women want to be recognized and compensated for their talents. [citation needed]
posted by mattbucher at 8:33 AM on June 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


geoff, take a look at artfire and 1000 Markets.
posted by primer_dimer at 8:40 AM on June 12, 2009 [12 favorites]


There are a lot of people (probably not all) that use Etsy as their online storefront -- they're also selling other places in the real world. But what's wrong with people trying to make some money on the side by selling stuff on Etsy? Maybe I'm being naive, but I don't think a ton of people actually believe that their knitted scarves are going to make them rich. If they're lucky, they may make them a few bucks.

Here's an example that will explain how I feel about Etsy -- I wanted a couple of pairs of "everyday" earrings (I had just lost one of two different pairs of earrings so I was looking for a couple more). I could've walked into a department store, spent $40, had some nice earrings. I decided to take that $40 and spend it on Etsy instead. I found two pairs that I liked (once of which I'm wearing right now) and spent about $50 total after shipping. I wanted to do this because I wanted my money to go to a person. I didn't care if this person was male or female, a stay at home mom trying to make a living or someone who was just doing this as a hobby. I'd just rather give this "person" my money than a department store. It wasn't about making a feminist statement. It was about making an economic statement.

I like Etsy. I've only sold one thing through there (and it was to a friend, of course) but I still like it. And it does make for a good place to put up my experiments and motivate me to learning new things.

I think the search function could be vastly improved, though.
posted by darksong at 8:43 AM on June 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


Oh goodness. Wading in, but with an appointment in an hour:

I find the the critique of the buy handmade movement more convincing than the 'feminist fantasy' line. Calling it more consumerism is true, I think. And regarding DU's points above, it doesn't matter that it isn't felt as such by the person who is making the product—not to say there isn't a pleasure in making your own stuff. Further, it isn't as though Walmart is the only option for most people, nor is it the case that the mass market products aren't selected with a ridiculous amount of thinking/planning—it's just a faceless market research thoughtfulness, instead of what Maria Sputnik or whoever wants to make and then does make in her own person. But that's not so much the point that gets me. It's the sourcing—you can't opt out of anything by just moving one step away from the manufacturing process, but the 'buy handmade' slogan suggests that this is exactly what has been done.

Though it doesn't sound so false in Latin.
posted by felix grundy at 8:43 AM on June 12, 2009


Also of interest, the response to the doubleX article on the etsy forums.
posted by primer_dimer at 8:44 AM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


But on the other hand, small-scale manufacturing isn't always a more wasteful operation—I have a friend who makes guitars from sustainable woods and makes all the scraps into earrings that he then sells on etsy, and this crazy shop works entirely with salvaged fabric, as far as I can tell.
posted by felix grundy at 8:47 AM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


i have a like/dislike relationship with etsy. i dislike the hip/urbane craft scene that somehow came out of the whole olympia/dc diy period of the 90s (like the suburban riot grrls grew up, got jobs and decided babies were cool after all.) the vibe of etsy as a brand represents that to me, though the function of etsy as a site i recognize as a great way to find cool things i'd never have a chance to other wise. so yeah, i still use it often, but sometimes feel a bit snarky about it.
posted by fuzzypantalones at 8:51 AM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Dear Women,

Never forget that unless you're working 80 hours per week, making a ton of money, building stuff traditionally thought of as part of a man's domain, and never, ever staying home with your children, you're a bad, bad feminist, a less valuable human being, and not living up to your potential!

Love,
Other Extremely Judgmental Women
posted by Never teh Bride at 9:00 AM on June 12, 2009 [46 favorites]


These should, in sum, be highly employable women.

Huh. You know, I grow vegetables and herbs in my yard even though I can afford to go to the grocery store. I must have been sold a fantasy. My ovaries do make me vulnerable to them.

Seriously, did the double-X writer just find out about etsy yesterday? This is just laughable point-missing. I have literally never heard before today that people sell on that site strictly for money. I'm sure it's nice if some comes, but all I've ever heard and understood is that it's about creativity and having your handiwork appreciated by the people you share it with.
posted by Ladybug Parade at 9:03 AM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Somtimes a cigar site to sell stuff you make is just a cigar site to sell stuff you make.
posted by tommasz at 9:04 AM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Snore. Etsy peddles a fantasy of making big bucks by selling through them? So they're every other middleman service in the universe. Is the only reason this is notable that the majority of sellers are women?

Every venture has people sniffing around wondering if this is a quick and dirty way to make a living. #1's quote about his cousin is priceless and a perfect example.

The real problem with this article is that the writer draws a silly conclusion based on his own inability to understand what motivates the people selling crafts. "But unlike our mothers and grandmothers, who were content to knit booties for relatives, younger women want to be recognized and compensated for their talents."

No, chump, that ain't it. What drives many of us to sell our crafts is that we can put them in the hands of people who want them rather than being the irritating friend who never gives any gifts other than what they make in their basement. My darling wife and I have given a Nice Mirror to friends, but only the ones who would really want them. The others we get to put in the hands of people who really want them, while making some beer money off our hobby and meeting interesting people along the way.
posted by phearlez at 9:08 AM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


"it's just another form of consumerism" misses two major points:

1) Not for the person who is making the stuff.
2) It isn't mass market, which hopefully means it's selected more thoughtfully. (i.e. instead of buying the One Battleship Gray Quilt That WalMart Has you can spend 1167 hours paging through etsy hits to find the One OMG I Must Have THAT One.)


1) "consumerism" per se doesn't give a shit about who's making the stuff
2) the claim was not that "it's just another form of mass-market consumerism." You've actually just reinforced the point.
posted by 7segment at 9:10 AM on June 12, 2009


I love Etsy. I can buy things I can't find in the shops - from Blythe clothing to Rob Ryan;s prints (well, maybe when I'm rich) - and I like buying things someone's made themselves. I make things myself too, but don't sell on there - partly because I like to keep or at least visit my creations, partly because I'm not at a level where people will want to pay money for things I've hand-sewn. I go on there sometimes for inspiration, and there's at least three things I can think of off the top of my head that I would be buying NOW if I had the cash and space. A necklace given to me by someone very dear for a birthday present came from there, and it's absolutely amazing - before Etsy, if someone wanted to buy a necklace for my birthday, they would have had to go to a high-street store, and bought something that I might not quite like, or that's worn by every third woman ont he bus.

I'm not really into things like cross-stitched expletives, but some people are. I'm not really into sparkly uteri, but some people are. And you don;t need to buy them if you don't want them, just like any other store.
posted by mippy at 9:14 AM on June 12, 2009


My problem with Etsy is that they've set themselves up as a middleman that skims profit off the work of thousands while presenting themselves as the crafters' friend.

I fell very hard for their marketing. I feel I should mention I've made a MeFi post about something that is in effect Etsy marketing, a post I regret making (the videos now remind me of old films about Stakhanov). Watching the videos I posted again made me realize that, yes, they are using the dream of meaningful work to get people to sign up so that Etsy can make more money. They're promising dealienation but what they've created is a community of thousands that they exploit for profit.

Yeah, if you're realistic and do your research you'll know that the chances of making any money off Etsy are slim to none but a dream is a hard thing to shake (I took a hiatus from college to write a novel, so it's not like I'm claiming to be particularly free of the urge to follow my dream). People should try to chase down their dreams and I feel that helping others to do that is a great and valiant pursuit. I used to think of Etsy as that kind of organization but now I think they're just there to make money off those who pursue their dreams.

And yeah, that makes them one of an untold number of companies but there's something particularly distasteful to me about them. They've subverted the ideal of a community of crafters to make themselves money.

I'm not entirely comfortable with my feelings about Etsy because I can't really break down what it is exactly that bugs me so much, but the feeling is visceral. Etsy just hits a good number of my buttons.
posted by Kattullus at 9:14 AM on June 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


There are a lot of people (probably not all) that use Etsy as their online storefront -- they're also selling other places in the real world. But what's wrong with people trying to make some money on the side by selling stuff on Etsy?

I fall into this demographic. I'm an artist and my art is for sale on Etsy because hey, it makes it easier when someone asks me "Ooh, I'd love to buy your stuff!" to point them to a website.

And part of this is so that no one tries to haggle with me about price, which they do anyway. "Oh, I really like that, but it's priced so high! Do you think you could sell it to me for $X instead?" No. No, I don't.

My high priced stuff is stuff that's been in gallery shows. I had to price it that way because I knew I would only sell 3-4 pieces, tops, and I had to have some way to recoup framing costs while factoring in the gallery's commission. It would be absurd for me to then *reprice* these things so that someone could get a bargain on Etsy, which just says "Hey! Don't buy stuff at gallery shows and support local artists and galleries! If you like this thing, just wait until I put it on Etsy!"

I also have a lot of cheap pieces that will never see the light of a gallery, but admittedly, some of them... aren't good.

Anyhow. That's my rant about how if you're an artist and you try to sell anything, anywhere, someone is going to want to buy it because they like it, but will be unwilling to pay you what it is actually *worth.*
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:15 AM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Fun with loaded language! "If the site is such a great way for anyone to market handmade goods online, then why is it such a female ghetto?"

definition: Ghetto - portion of a city in which members of a minority group live; especially because of social, legal, or economic pressure.

So women are being pressured into using Etsy because of their minority status? This article would be much more interesting if they found the more "masculine" craft-sales site, then compare and contrast marketing techniques and whatnot. Or even check out craft fairs and other places people sell DIY projects, and relate that male:female ratio back to Etsy.

Etsy's banner ads seem to perpetuate a certain image or style, which would attract like-minded people. Maybe if there were a few metal creations with sharp edges, more dudes would join up and offer their wares.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:15 AM on June 12, 2009


So the solution is for stay at home moms to start repairing motorcycles?
posted by phrontist at 9:15 AM on June 12, 2009


oh, look!

a plate with beans on it
posted by pyramid termite at 9:19 AM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


My problem with Etsy is that they've set themselves up as a middleman that skims profit off the work of thousands while presenting themselves as the crafters' friend.

What is the percentage take on Etsy items, and what are the other options? primer_dimer linked two other craft-sales sites, and the other option I could see would be eBay or other auction sites. All these sites require some money to function, and unless they are funded by donations, that requires a cut of profits. The more money from sales, the more they can spend on advertising, and the more people know of the site for potential future sales.

Compared to using an auction site like eBay, Etsy looks like a much better deal (without knowing the percentage Etsy takes vs. eBay).
posted by filthy light thief at 9:20 AM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I like the concept of Etsy. I considered, briefly selling there, but I would have been competing with people using significantly lower quality ingredients, at ridiculously low prices...some of them lower than Walmart...people who did not do the actual "cost to market" math or who valued their time at zero. That and hobbyists using melt and pour block detergent purchased at craft stores and calling it "soap". (Nothing burns my soapy chaps more than people who call themselves "soapmakers" and then peddle detergent.)

That said; I think it's a fantastic place for folks who subsidize their (non-consumable) hobbies. There are a ton of Mefites who sell really amazing art stuff on Etsy. I know, I've bought and traded with a lot of them.

In this economy, nobody is going to get rich making handmade stuff, but better you should sell what you do make than let it clutter up the house, no?

Also...DoubleX...really?
posted by dejah420 at 9:21 AM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, how many eBay sellers fail to make a living entirely from auctions? I'm sure there are business sellers on etsy too (particularly those supplying fabric from the Far East).
posted by mippy at 9:21 AM on June 12, 2009


I know it's not a popular thing to say, but I really hate contrarians.
posted by The Whelk at 9:22 AM on June 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


I'd like to know where in Boston I can mingle with some of these "craft babes" mentioned . . . mmmm craft babes . . . sounds so damned sexy.
posted by eggman at 9:23 AM on June 12, 2009


The whole Blythe phenomenon is a good strike for etsy for me. Blythe clothing is hard to purchase unless you live in Japan and are prepared to spend a lot on shipping for mass-produced items. So several Blythe fans worked out patterns, sewed their own and sell unique clothing through Etsy - I know at least one person who does make a full-time living out of this. This is just one hobby for which Etsy has provided a solution, and I've found when listing my own prints (something which would get lost on eBay) that fees are pretty low, making it easy for me to set up my own store using Etsy if I wished rather than organising my own webstore.
posted by mippy at 9:25 AM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


My darling wife and I have given a Nice Mirror to friends, but only the ones who would really want them.

Phearlez,
Just clicked via your profile to your website - those are stunning mirrors (and duly bookmarked; this comment partly because I made a snotty comment earlier about some Etsy goods not being fab...).
posted by Jody Tresidder at 9:25 AM on June 12, 2009


I stay with Walmart...help the Chinese workers make a decent living.
posted by Postroad at 9:35 AM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ugh, why do certain people insist on treating everything like it has to be the be-all end-all. Most people aren't going to make a living on Etsy. Big whoop. People like it, let them enjoy it. Most people aren't going to make a living doing a lot of things, and it turns out that most people don't want to! Does anyone here want to make a living riding a bike? It sounds like fun but it is a difficult, dirty job, whether you're doing deliveries or racing or whatever. Most people just want to ride a bike because it's fun. Likewise with crafts.

Now some people do make a career out of crafting, and Etsy is one outlet for those crafters–but people who are doing this for a living don't strictly rely on Etsy; it's part of the puzzle is all.

I've seen the same tendency in art, music, literature (books), and film (movie) criticism. If it's not better than, let's say, The Godfather, some critics want to dwell on that as a supposed shortcoming. Many critics are completely oblivious to the fact that not everyone wants to watch The Godfather; sometimes you just want to see Will Smith kick some aliens' asses (or pseudobuttockia)–and that's OK! I wish people who write about art and entertainment would take a step back and say, hey, it's OK to recommend a movie that's not my cup of tea, because it will be worthwhile for people who enjoy that sort of thing.
posted by Mister_A at 9:40 AM on June 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


PS Give us this day our daily beans.
posted by Mister_A at 9:42 AM on June 12, 2009


What is the percentage take on Etsy items, and what are the other options? primer_dimer linked two other craft-sales sites, and the other option I could see would be eBay or other auction sites.

Selling on consignment, which is how craft-focused galleries often work. So your stuff sits on dusty shelf and you don't get paid until the right person happens to wander into the shop and happens to love your piece the most. I've worked in such craft galleries. The owners usually try really, really hard to have well-spoken staff who actually give a damn about the work they're selling. But it's hard to have the resources to really rep the artists well in this setting.

Craft shows like Sugarloaf and Paradise City and more focused ones, large and small. This requires the crafter to travel, create and set up an exhibit booth display, and work a very long day in an expo center talking to largely curiosity-seekers rather than serious buyers. The show charges the crafter a booth fee, takes a percentage of sales, and the show also makes money from admission fees. Despite this, they provide little in the way of services. The only food is standard expo-center vendors, so if you have any interest in something besides a hot dog for lunch, you have to bring it. You have little control over how many artists are permitted to directly compete with you, and the standards of quality are often enforced very unevenly. (Paradise City does a much nicer job, though.) I have a side-job with a crafter who still does the craft show/festival circuit.

Etsy stacks up pretty well in the "friend" category in comparison. I know a number of professional crafters (i.e. this is their real job) who maintain an Etsy storefront in addition to using other venues.
posted by desuetude at 9:43 AM on June 12, 2009


people who did not do the actual "cost to market" math or who valued their time at zero.

This reminds of the constant struggle between professionals and hobbyists in other fields like design or photography. The hobbyist is happy to sell at cost because it's not a business and they would do the hobby anyway so their time is essentially valued at zero.

I think the only solution for the professional is "produce a much better product than the hobbyist", and give up that market who doesn't care.
posted by smackfu at 9:48 AM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Selling on consignment, which is how craft-focused galleries often work

Do the galleries take a percentage?
posted by smackfu at 9:48 AM on June 12, 2009


Hey, what's this, now? An etsy store run by a Brooklyn-based male who uses 100% recycled materials?

Female-only mass market consumerism indeed.
posted by Juliet Banana at 9:51 AM on June 12, 2009


I worked for years in a jewelry production house, and would regularly have hang-out time with co-workers where we would put forth the pipe dream of starting our own shop. We loved working together, and knew we could be hugely productive if we had a shared workspace where we could bullshit while we soldered and set stones in metal.

But once we sat down and really looked at what we could possibly earn with our wares, the dream pretty quickly died.

If a pair of earrings costs, say, $20 in materials and takes up 5 hours of our time to make, then to even pay one's self a minimum of $10/hour, you're already looking at $70 for the pair. And that is without overhead, consumables, etc. By the time you do double-key the price point (most jewelry is triple-keyed above retail, at least), you're at $140.

Who on earth pays $140 for a pair of earrings which 1) isn't made of gold and diamonds AND 2) doesn't have a "name" attached to it?

The choices quickly became, either order pre-fab parts out of a catalog and just string them together by the zillions, which is "crafty" but not very satisfying for a trained jeweler, or else sell everything at such a cheap price that money is lost or you pay yourself an insult wage for your work.

That Etsy exists at ALL is wonderful, but when I look through its pages, I see wonderful work offered for prices that I cannot bear to pay, knowing what the creator put into it.

Without getting into the whole "why is an American's time worth more than the time of someone in another country" argument, I will say, I find the Overstock Fair Trade World Market to be an excellent source for purchasing items which I DO feel my purchase will benefit the maker beyond pocket money.
posted by hippybear at 9:56 AM on June 12, 2009 [8 favorites]


Ack. that should read "most jewelry is triple-keyed above wholesale"
posted by hippybear at 9:57 AM on June 12, 2009


Selling on consignment, which is how craft-focused galleries often work

Do the galleries take a percentage?


Yep, of course. After all, they have to pay the rent, staff, etc. But they don't buy the work outright and then sell it for profit, the crafter retains ownership until the piece is sold, at which point the crafter gets paid.
posted by desuetude at 9:58 AM on June 12, 2009


I've never sold or bought anything on etsy, but I have been considering opening a storefront there.

It looks like etsy charges $0.20 per quantity in stock, per 4 month period. (That means if you have five identical handcrafted widgets, that's $1 just to list them, and the listing lasts 4 months.) Then you pay a fee of 3.5% of your sale price (not including shipping) when you sell an item.

For your money you get a storefront (inc. credit card transactions) on a well-marketed, highly-trafficked site with a user base that seems to be there to buy.

It doesn't really sound to me like they are milking people for every dime. Eventually, I'm sure, they'll be selling a million different features for your listings like eBay does, but that's not what they're doing now.

If you wanted to set up your own storefront on your own hosting, it might be cheaper in the long run, but you'd have a significant start-up cost in time and money.

Maybe I'm not really exposed to their marketing, but the actual deal for services they provide looks quite reasonable to me.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 9:59 AM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


kattullus, i feel this way: they've set themselves up as a middleman that skims profit off the work of thousands while presenting themselves as the . . . friend.
about practically every website which relies mainly on visitor submitted content to provide value to their business, even mefi. yet, i do not have a problem with the these middlemen and their entrepreneurial spirit filling a market niche that exists for people that are either unwilling to make their own site, or too unpopular in their own area which leads to their needing potential worldwide exposure. i get around my own concern by providing inferior content.
posted by the aloha at 9:59 AM on June 12, 2009


Then you pay a fee of 3.5% of your sale price (not including shipping) when you sell an item.

For comparison, craft shows, even really dinky ones, take 10-20%, in addition to the other fees and expenses.
posted by desuetude at 10:03 AM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Etsy....

I work for a guy who sells clothing. He has a physical store (where I work), a website (which I process online orders from), and an etsy site. We do more business selling items on etsy than we do on online sales plus store sales combined. It CAN actually be a good business model, if you have quality goods and a little publicity.
posted by Night_owl at 10:03 AM on June 12, 2009


I basically agree with you, Mister A, but I'm not sure I'd take advice on which cheesy popcorn action flick to go see from a reviewer who doesn't enjoy and appreciate those kinds of movies.

It's true that people who critique things often lose sight of the fact that their opinion is not objective fact, and what they see as deep flaws in whatever they're reviewing, may well be totally irrelevant or even considered bonuses to some consumers... but for them to take that into account would probably often come off as "This movie/product/website is trite and horrible, but if you like trite, horrible things, then I guess you'll like it."

As long as reviewers are clear about what attributes they value in (whatever it is they review), then it's not difficult for consumers to identify whose opinions they should or should not listen to. Unfortunately, many reviewers aren't.
posted by rifflesby at 10:04 AM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


NEveh teh bride nails it, I think. This is the kind of "feminist" criticism that hides internalized misogyny, that hates it when women claiming to be feminist just act so damn GIRLY and embarrassing and shit. Not all serious and responsible and beating the boys at their own game they way they're supposed to. Where are their business plans and venture capital and golf outings?
posted by msalt at 10:07 AM on June 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


My problem with Etsy is that they've set themselves up as a middleman that skims profit off the work of thousands while presenting themselves as the crafters' friend.

Etsy charges per item that you list and doesn't skim off "profit:" They make the same amount of money whether you sell the item or not. Etsy does not take any kind of percentage commission from sales.

Not defending them or attacking them, just pointing this out for the record.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:25 AM on June 12, 2009


some are asking is the buy handmade movement a good thing?

Others are asking if prescribing what others should think and do is a good thing.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:27 AM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


grapefruitmoon, I'm afraid you are mistake about etsy's fees.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 10:31 AM on June 12, 2009


Hm, I ended up quitting my day job to sell on Etsy. It was by accident, really. I started making widgets that helped me in my former day job and decided to try selling them online. It took me all of ten minutes to set up my store and suddenly I had an online presence that was getting more attention in a couple weeks than I had mustered up in a year. An editor of a magazine contacted me about featuring my product, boutiques were asking me to do wholesale, and I was being invited to display at craft shows and expos. One day a buyer from a national chain asked me if I could supply all their stores nationwide and just like that, I had to quit my day job. If someone was to look at my store as DoubleX did, they would think I was crazy. 700 sales of a $6 item does not equal financial independence, but what they don't realize is my monthly wholesale order from the national chain is double all of the sales i've ever had on Etsy. I also have a dozen or so smaller wholesale accounts, all of which found me on Etsy. I'm by no means rolling in dough, but my little shop pays more than my payroll clerk position did, and it's a hell of a lot more fun.

Now, i've definitely expanded beyond Etsy and focus on mainly wholesale accounts and my own website, but none of this would have been possible without the exposure Etsy gave me. The magazine, the national chain, all of it was initially started from someone seeing my widgets on Etsy. Don't get me wrong, I have my problems with Etsy, but the benefits outweigh them. The problem, I think, is people just opening up shop and expecting the money to roll in without any work. Etsy gave me so many opportunities for the right people to see my shop, but if I would have had crappy photos, incomplete descriptions, and a poor product then it wouldn't have made much difference. That's my two cents.
posted by Ugh at 10:32 AM on June 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


It depends on how you view Etsy: an online art gallery/craft show, or a place to pick up a bargain. I think the fact that it's an online venue, in which buyers can't see and touch the stuff themselves, tends to skew sales toward two-bit items. Many buyers don't mind taking a chance on something small and cheap, but large pricey things are very hard to sell based only on (usually amateur) photos. Small cheap things that are made by popular crafting techniques are often rather girly: costume jewelry, scarves, soap, candles, etc. For whatever reason, these techniques seem to be more popular among female crafters. (Why, and why "guy hobbies" don't result in small cheap doodads, is another topic.) So sellers offer what buyers will buy, and the system seems to select for women.

Also, it seems to me that a large percent of Etsy sales are not the crafted items themselves, but crafting supplies. If you look at "recently sold items", they usually seem to be about 20% $5 jewelry, 20% soap and lip gloss, 10% arts and crafted things, and the rest is beads and jewelry findings and fancy paper, etc. So focusing only on the art/craft aspect misses a large part of the Etsy economy, I think.

It's a good place to pick up a bargain when other crafters clean out their stashes, but my impression (borne out by my own sales) is that the crafts themselves don't sell too well because many Etsy buyers are also Etsy sellers, and what those folks buy is crafting supplies. To make more things that probably won't sell on Etsy.
posted by Quietgal at 10:34 AM on June 12, 2009


He Is the Only Imposter: Either that's new, applied to the buyer, or both. I've been selling on Etsy for... G-d, it really is years... without having any percentage taken out of what's put into my PayPal on that blue moon when something of mine has sold.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:35 AM on June 12, 2009


I'm a guy and Etsy is fantastic. I can take some extra thing I got, glue on some gears, spraypaint some faux metal texture over it, then list it on Etsy. I get 8.00 for my efforts, and they get an authentic 'steampunk' plastic milk jug.
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:39 AM on June 12, 2009 [9 favorites]


Please let Double X go away. At this point, I'm feeling my sympathetic to Jezebel than I have in a very long time.
posted by jokeefe at 10:40 AM on June 12, 2009


Why, and why "guy hobbies" don't result in small cheap doodads, is another topic.

Well, there is the woodworking section, although much of it is certainly on the "country kitsch" side of things.
posted by smackfu at 10:48 AM on June 12, 2009


I would like to know the percentage of successful male etsyites whose partner is the primary breadwinner.
posted by shownomercy at 11:14 AM on June 12, 2009


I enjoy etsy because I can buy cute things made by someone who actually likes what they're doing, not someone who is making cheap plastic crap in a factory for $5 a day. I guess it's my mild way of voting with my dollars. Plus, where else can I buy rainbow facial scrubbies* to wash my face with?


*Not my shop, but we're both named Julie!
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 11:15 AM on June 12, 2009


I was very amused to hear that Etsy is considered a great internet source for handblown art glass water pipes for tobacco use only. Bespoke bongs, man.
posted by Sockpuppet For Naughty Things at 11:39 AM on June 12, 2009


"Oh, come on. Anyone who is an experienced crafter knows perfectly well that she or he isn't at all likely to make much money from selling handmade items. No one is willing to pay what the hours of labour are really worth to the crafter when inexpensive mass produced items are available."

That very much depends. I know someone who makes handmade knives priced up to five figures. He has plenty of buyers. It takes him several months to make each one, but he has no shortage of customers. Lots of people in my area make handmade wood furniture and are paid well for their labor. The pieces they make command a premium, because quality furniture is not cheap, nor is the wood used to make it. Plus there are plenty of potters here as well as tin workers, welders and custom iron work, handmade clothing, and they do pretty well if they're good and know how to work the market. I make handmade soap and can sell it for ~$5/bar. (about $1/oz). It's not a living yet, but there are plenty of soap makers I know who do make their living that way. Good luck finding the quality of soap I make at Wal-Mart, or any of the other hand-crafted items made here.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:43 AM on June 12, 2009


Burnmp3s - funny after your comment I saw this store featured on the front page.

Tech = manly, right?
posted by WeekendJen at 11:54 AM on June 12, 2009


"I would like to know the percentage of successful male etsyites whose partner is the primary breadwinner."

I know someone who sells only soap molds and cutters on Etsy and makes a good living. He also sells soap, but he devotes most of his time to making molds and cutters for other soapers (you don't have to sell the soap you make, so there are plenty non-commercial hobbyists, too).
posted by krinklyfig at 11:54 AM on June 12, 2009


A guy, should add.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:55 AM on June 12, 2009


BTW, when it comes to musical instruments, handmade items are definitely prized over factory made.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:58 AM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


"i dislike the hip/urbane craft scene that somehow came out of the whole olympia/dc diy period of the 90s (like the suburban riot grrls grew up, got jobs and decided babies were cool after all.) the vibe of etsy as a brand represents that to me"

I dunno. Most of the people I've done business with on Etsy are dedicated or hobbyist crafters who know nothing of that lifestyle. But mostly I'm looking for soap/equipment or musical stuff.

"Now, i've definitely expanded beyond Etsy and focus on mainly wholesale accounts and my own website, but none of this would have been possible without the exposure Etsy gave me."

Bingo. That's how to do it. You don't make your living off Etsy, but it's a venue which does give you some sales but more importantly exposure. That's the way to work eBay, too, but it's becoming very unfriendly for sellers, especially if you have small-ticket items.

Sorry to dominate this thread, but coming in late and had some comments ...
posted by krinklyfig at 12:08 PM on June 12, 2009


If the site is such a great way for anyone to market handmade goods online, then why is it such a female ghetto? (from the last article linked)

Clearly, something that more women than men are using has something wrong with it. If it had any value, it'd totally be a boyzone. You know, like anything else worthwhile.
posted by Zed at 12:19 PM on June 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


Oh, come on. Anyone who is an experienced crafter knows perfectly well that she or he isn't at all likely to make much money from selling handmade items. No one is willing to pay what the hours of labour are really worth to the crafter when inexpensive mass produced items are available.

I know A LOT of people who make a living crafting, who have customers willing to pay for handmade work. Blacksmiths, bladesmiths, goldsmiths, potters, leatherworkers, weavers, modern clothing makers, costume clothing makers, glassblowers, furniture makers, woodcarvers/turners, metal sculptors, etc.
posted by desuetude at 12:30 PM on June 12, 2009


Thank god for Etsy for purchasing gifts for girlfriends.
posted by wcfields at 12:37 PM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I know A LOT of people who make a living crafting

I suppose it depends on the circles you run in.
posted by smackfu at 1:04 PM on June 12, 2009


Are you serious? People are balking at a 3.5% percentage on sold items!?

I have to give at least 50% back at brick and mortar galleries, and (increasingly) 60% in more popular areas (New York, LA, Asheville, Santa Fe, etc). Not to mention $100-200 just to have a table at some of the bigger craft fairs and that's regardless of whether or not I sell anything.

I don't make a living as an artists/craftsman either, but I don't grumble in public (unless I'm out drinking with other artists...)

Hey, if you wanna give it a go, good luck, but ain't none of us getting rich, but we're doing what we love.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 1:25 PM on June 12, 2009


For me, problems with Etsy are mostly my classist Marxist mumblings—it feels very much like an outlet for subsidized bourgeoisie boutique luxuries, and I tend to feel hinky about that, and I also feel vaguely hinky about how now the way to wealth seems to be owning the means of distribution, not production, but like I said, these are just sub-Marxist mumblings.

I do think that folks here are understating the interconnectedness of gender and economics in Etsy. It's not that if it were lucrative, that men would dominate, or even that men don't fall for get-rich-quick schemes. It's that if this were lucrative, you'd expet to see more of a gender parity, all things being equal, and I do think that Etsy's sellers are, even as they reinterpret and reclaim, coming from a tradition where these crafts were women's work. That a fair number of the sellers are subsidized by the larger traditionally gendered economic roles does predict a higher number of women on the site, but that's a population-level assessement that I think is being countered by individual rebuttals, which isn't meeting the argument head-on.

I'll also note that any time that gender roles and choice comes up, the conversation perforce moves to fraught territory—this seems a much more positive and light version of the discussions of feminist leanings of porn talent, or even stuff like Bust, which often tries to have it both ways. But it's also totally not my place, nor my intention, to imply that these choices are wrong, even when I do (speaking broadly) sometimes find them suspect.
posted by klangklangston at 1:47 PM on June 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


t's that if this were lucrative, you'd expet to see more of a gender parity, all things being equal, and I do think that Etsy's sellers are, even as they reinterpret and reclaim, coming from a tradition where these crafts were women's work.
Sort of. But I don't think that most etsy sellers think of crafts as women's work. I think they think of crafts as traditionally-female hobbies and of etsy as a way to unload some of the stuff they like to make and maybe earn back some of the cost of tools and supplies. And the idea of a hobby fits sort of awkwardly into theories that assume that one's primary goal is to earn money.
posted by craichead at 2:15 PM on June 12, 2009


Has anyone ever seen any third-world craftspeople on Etsy?
posted by smackfu at 2:27 PM on June 12, 2009


klangklangston: For me, problems with Etsy are mostly my classist Marxist mumblings—it feels very much like an outlet for subsidized bourgeoisie boutique luxuries, and I tend to feel hinky about that, and I also feel vaguely hinky about how now the way to wealth seems to be owning the means of distribution, not production, but like I said, these are just sub-Marxist mumblings.

Yeah, I feel uncomfortable coming right out and saying it but my critique of Etsy is essentially Marxist. It bothers me that the owners of Etsy are making money off the very-low-paid work of others. What especially throws me is that you have all these thousands of people volunteering their time and effort with little chance of any kind of reward.

It's capitalism that's convinced the world it isn't there. I prefer my profit motives overt.
posted by Kattullus at 2:33 PM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I just realized something. The XX author's descriptions of folks who make stuff on Etsy are no different from how she might view bloggers. I and zillions of others spend tons of time writing for, improving and sometimes promoting my blog. I've made just a teeny amount of money off of ads. Only a tiny number of super-huge blogs can actually provide someone with an income.

So are the rest of us just engaging in some kind of fantasy? We're picking up the pamphleteering craft of our ancestors in the false hopes we might generate a career out of it? Shah, right. I knew from day one that blogging was going to be a hobby for me. The ad revenues help pay server costs and that's about it. Sure, I'd love to get paid real money for what I do, but it's not gonna happen. BFD - that was never the point.

I have a feeling that many folks on Etsy feel the same way. Crafting is a hobby or sideline for them, and selling their wares is a way to defray those costs. (Indeed, some commenters in the linked thread on Etsy say as much.) I mean, if you were going to make scarves or earrings anyway, even if you break even... hey, that's great! That's better than being out the money altogether (and you also have the satisfaction of someone wearing your wares).

Some folks have always been uncomfortable with hobbyists. They wonder, "How can you care so much about politics/jewelry/music/crafts etc.?" Caring is deeply uncool. The only way pursuing these activities makes sense to these people is if you get paid a full income for it. They'll never get it.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 2:37 PM on June 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


"I do think that folks here are understating the interconnectedness of gender and economics in Etsy. It's not that if it were lucrative, that men would dominate, or even that men don't fall for get-rich-quick schemes. It's that if this were lucrative, you'd expet to see more of a gender parity, all things being equal, and I do think that Etsy's sellers are, even as they reinterpret and reclaim, coming from a tradition where these crafts were women's work."

You have to understand where the need came in. eBay used to be much cheaper and friendlier to small sellers. Not anymore. Etsy became the perfect place to sell handmade items, the sort of thing which would have its profit eaten up with the modern eBay and not with their model, but it is the sort of thing which used to be popular on eBay. Now eBay mostly caters to big sellers/resellers, and Etsy found its niche among those disaffected people.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:05 PM on June 12, 2009


"It's capitalism that's convinced the world it isn't there. I prefer my profit motives overt."

Well, even flea markets charge the vendors for their space, sometimes quite a bit. Other than going out on the street, how else are you going to sell something at zero cost for the venue (and your time spent selling can be considered a labor cost)? Who expects that anyway?
posted by krinklyfig at 4:07 PM on June 12, 2009


Phearlez,
Just clicked via your profile to your website - those are stunning mirrors (and duly bookmarked; this comment partly because I made a snotty comment earlier about some Etsy goods not being fab...).


Thanks, but we're not a counter-example - despite what my darling wife wishes, we're not actually Etsy sellers at the moment.

The main reason why is the same reason there's no direct sales links on our website: what we make is, in any but our smaller sizes, heavy compared to most crafts and harder to ship than most. And being large flat object we're the poster children for what the shipping companies call dimensional weight. When I ship a 20lb mirror that measures 2ft by 3ft by 4 inches I pay the same shipping rate someone sending 35lb worth of stuff, assuming I manage to only add a few inches in packaging. Catch me in a more careful mood the day I pack it and it is more like 50lb.

We do our best to keep prices down but that can bite us in the ass when someone is faced with paying $40 to ship a mirror we sell for $150. It's entirely possible that I could apply a more hardassed capitalistic outlook to my sales and charge 50% more while only selling 25% less but part of my compensation is the fun of making a sale. My per-hour rate is already so low on this stuff that I'd rather get the gratification of putting my work out in the world than move my per-hour up from $0.50 to $0.75.

As far as the royalties, the posters above have it right on the money. We only have our items in one consignment shop, a fun little place in Del Ray, VA, and they pay us 50% of the sale price. They pursued us to put our items in their shop for two years before we agreed and my reluctance was entirely based on that cut. However I softened on the deal after that amount of time for two primary reasons.

One, the merchandise sitting in my garage or van isn't making me any money. While my profits may be pretty small after I take that 50% slice off, it's more than the stuff makes when it just sits there. Since we, as dilettantes, do less than a dozen shows a year, I wasn't turning things over at the rate I wanted to. Sunk costs ARE an area I apply some capitalistic thinking to here, and sitting on an item for another year before selling it didn't make good sense. I am not at my max capacity for production so it makes better sense to sell more for less.

Two, while we were cutting our profits significantly, we did it without having to pay a fee to be in an art show and without both of us sitting at an art show all day. We happen to enjoy doing them, but they do represent 16+ manhours lost for every day of the show. My stuff sits at the consignment shop (rather than in my garage) without costing me a minute of my time.

There's other reasons at well and if I ever get around to launching CraftStories.com perhaps I'll write them there :)

The economics of the things sold on etsy, by the way (I think the fact that it's an online venue, in which buyers can't see and touch the stuff themselves, tends to skew sales toward two-bit items.) isn't just the see and touch thing. One of the reason we stopped doing the Eastern Market craft show that happens every weekend on Capitol Hill had to do with the kind of buyers who were there.

The small item thing played there as well - our sales improved somewhat when we started offering to drop things at people's homes after we packed up for the day. People just didn't want to lug home 20lb of wood and glass if they hadn't come out expecting to Buy Art. But we also were surrounded by sellers where the average item was $20 or under. In several years of doing the market we sold only two $300 items and both were around the very lucrative holiday season.

Esty may capture sellers' attention for unrealistic reasons but I assure you those attitudes are just as prevalent in the crafters out manning tables and paying nothing but the space fee at sidewalk markets. I once saw a course being offered at a community center targeted at craft sellers and it was titled "Are you making profits or just making sales?"

I suppose you could think of it as unseemly to sell dreams of capitalistic success to people who don't understand how to be successful capitalists, but the price Etsy is charging on that sale is tiny in comparison to what crafters pay in consignment shops or to exhibit at art shows. I wrote a check for several hundred dollars to exhibit at a two-day show in Maryland later this year. I'd much rather have paid them $0.40 for each mirror I'm going to bring to the show and paid 3.5% of my end of show sales.
posted by phearlez at 4:17 PM on June 12, 2009


Hmm. I liked the Laura Torres piece much better than the DoubleX one. I like the idea of being a craft-y person, but (and this may be just because it's not something I'm especially talented at) I feel like I'm just filling up the world with more junk.
posted by naoko at 5:09 PM on June 12, 2009


As a woman whose income comes partially from my art (more sold live and in person than online), I'm generally happy with Etsy. I don't think I've subscribed to Get-Rich-Quick Faux Feminist shang-ri-la; I'm using Etsy (for the excellent knowledge-sharing community I've found among my genre colleagues that is well worth its Etsy fees; for the fact that I don't have to personally take credit cards, as a reference point especially for non-locals I meet at shows and fairs, and as a place to experiment with new ideas and forms and to test them out for 20 cents a shot) as much as they're using me (ha, ha, joke's on them! I've only sold two things because I have a healthy respect for my own labor and price accordingly; I have lots of my bigger fancier bulkier stuff locally.)

My biggest issue with the article was the presumption that women were unable to realize how screwed they were allegedly being and how they weren't able to separate fantasy from reality/expectation. Most artists and artisans have the fantasy of being able to support themselves solely by their work, but we know that - in reality - achieving that takes hard work and a little luck and knowledge of/access to good business practices, among other things. The authors just assumed that Etsy was the only outlet for the sellers and made assumptions accordingly, which doesn't seem to be true in many if not most of the cases.
posted by julen at 6:51 PM on June 12, 2009


Such girly stuff
posted by Iron Rat at 6:57 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've been on Etsy for going on three years now - my life situation ended up making it part of the package of things I do to make a living now. I'm pretty sure that the seller took her demographic info from this Etsy driven survey. I read the article. I didn't care for it - it seemed extremely condescending, and still does. It also sounds...kind of outdated. Buried in there is a vague point about the crafters on Etsy undervaluing their work and not knowing how to market, and I too question whether running the "Quit Your Day Job" series run on the Etsy blog is really responsible.

Etsy does have its own critics from within the community, but it seems like these articles pointing to the "faults" of the entire craft/diy movement are a strictly manufactured backlash, where you find controversy because you're really hunting for it. So yes, like someone said, that article is definitely a form of trolling.
posted by medea42 at 9:54 PM on June 12, 2009


Has anyone ever seen any third-world craftspeople on Etsy?
posted by smackfu


I've bought a kaftan off a Malaysian seller for my boyfriend's mum, and I've seen many other sellers from just about every country on the planet.
posted by divabat at 5:58 AM on June 13, 2009


I do think that folks here are understating the interconnectedness of gender and economics in Etsy. It's not that if it were lucrative, that men would dominate, or even that men don't fall for get-rich-quick schemes. It's that if this were lucrative, you'd expet to see more of a gender parity, all things being equal, and I do think that Etsy's sellers are, even as they reinterpret and reclaim, coming from a tradition where these crafts were women's work. That a fair number of the sellers are subsidized by the larger traditionally gendered economic roles does predict a higher number of women on the site, but that's a population-level assessement that I think is being countered by individual rebuttals, which isn't meeting the argument head-on.

Honestly, I think the reason for the very high women-to-men ratio on Etsy is more a matter of, as you say, the crafts generally being the kind of thing women do. Men are more into things like woodworking and welding than knitting and scrapbooking and they just don't tend to make small items that can be easily shipped. And you seem to be arguing that a fair number of the sellers are women who have time to craft because they are home with their kids while their husbands support the family. I'd be interested in seeing the statistics on Etsy sellers' means of economic support. In my social circle it's self-supporting single women who produce the most crafts, followed by married but employed and childless women, or married and employed women with grown children. If the stay-at-home mothers I know with young children make anything, it's for their own families.
posted by orange swan at 6:24 AM on June 13, 2009


Men are more into things like woodworking and welding than knitting and scrapbooking and they just don't tend to make small items that can be easily shipped.
I'm actually not sure that it's that. Knitted things aren't very common on Etsy, because it takes so long to knit something, and nobody would be willing to pay a price that would compensate the knitter anything like adequately for her labor. There are lots of knitting-related things for sale on etsy: hand-dyed yarn and stitch markers and the like. But my sense is that a lot of etsy sellers wouldn't be making those things were it not for etsy. And actually, there's plenty of small to medium-sized woodworking projects that you could sell on etsy: jewelry boxes or bird houses or stuff like that.
In my social circle it's self-supporting single women who produce the most crafts, followed by married but employed and childless women, or married and employed women with grown children.
Yeah, that's my experience too.
posted by craichead at 7:04 AM on June 13, 2009


HOLY CARP. I didn't even notice the Laura Torres post, I shamefully skipped right to XX essay.

Laura Torres is one of my good friends from college. MY MIND IS EXPLODING.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:53 AM on June 13, 2009


Knitting was just a craft I listed off the top of my head, craichead.

I'd like to see the statistics for the number of people who do traditionally "male" crafts like welding and woodworking vs. the number of those who do "female" crafts like paper crafting and jewelry making and sewing. You need large and expensive equipment for welding and woodworking, and a garage or workshop to do it in, while a lot of the female craft paraphernelia is a lot less expensive and can be done on the kitchen table, and packed into a few boxes and stored in a closet between sessions of work. Seems to me I know many more female crafters than male, simply because the kind of things they want to do require less money and space to do them.
posted by orange swan at 12:46 PM on June 13, 2009


"And you seem to be arguing that a fair number of the sellers are women who have time to craft because they are home with their kids while their husbands support the family."

If I implied that, I didn't meant to. What I meant to imply was that it seems to me, as an outsider to Etsy, that the majority seemed like women whose financial support came from someone else, which I see as being a part of traditional gender roles. I did not mean to imply anything regarding children, and am totally willing to chalk up my perceptions of the demographic to any number of biases, from confirmation to small sample.

I will say that most of the women I know who seriously pursue crafting as a hobby are supported by partners with careers as they work in lower-wage service economy jobs, but that's got all sorts of sampling error associated. On the flipside, most of the musicians I know are guys who have indulgent girlfriends.
posted by klangklangston at 5:28 PM on June 13, 2009


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