Putting the Hands Back in Handmade: What Etsy's Changes Mean for Crafters

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There are headlines floating all over the interwebs right now on how sellers on Etsy are protesting their latest change of policies. I’m betting 50% of my readers are saying, “What’s Etsy?” 45% are probably asking, “What policy change?” And the last group is packing up their profiles from Etsy and moving on.

Let’s start at what I once knew. Etsy was the place for all things handmade, vintage, or supplies to make handmade things. An online community where I could go and buy fantastic supplies to make a knitted sweater, then turn around and sell said sweater, then take those profits and buy that vintage birdcage that I had always wanted. The American dream gone global, sort of speak.

But there were/are problems in the Etsy world. You had people reselling junk that was neither vintage, handmade, nor a supply. You had people selling things they never even touched, known as drop shipping. The problems kept growing, and growing, and growing. Drop in the word, “bubble necklace” in an Etsy search, and you’ll get a great example.

To fast forward to the latest issue over in Etsy World, and you have the CEO stepping up in a town hall meeting to announce that Etsy sellers may now hire out to get their goods made, and they may also use drop shipping. In short I could technically send my knitted scarf design to China, hire a sweatshop to make hundreds of them, and have them ship the scarfs directly to you… never again having to touch them myself, while still calling my shop Handmade. I’d like to go on and on about the other problems this causes, the treatment of sellers, and so forth… but I’d like to keep this post somewhat short, as I actually DO have HANDMADE SCARVES to HAND KNIT, and those take time, lots of precious time.

Now we’re at the downfall of this announcement for Etsy. Mass-produced versus handmade, and the Etsy name getting more tarnished than the Senate. Those sellers who can afford to leave the venue are -- they’re taking off to sites like Zibbet.com, Tictail.com, Indiemade, and more. Those of us who can’t afford to leave are left without the clout those big stores carried, and are running into customer after customer who want Ebay deals. Then there’s the buyers who can’t find homemade/handmade goods were they used to be the forefront. You have buyers unknowingly buying from mass producers. And buyers who are just simply turned off from the whole deal.

And it’s all a catch-22. To get a large company like Etsy to hear you, you have to hit them in the wallet. BUT that means hurting the hundreds of TRUE handmade, vintage, and supply shops who have been working their butts off to build their shops, and have been following every rule since day one. So I’m not asking you to leave Etsy off your shopping list this holiday season. I’m asking you to leave cheap, imported, mass-produced JUNK off your list, and to buy handmade! When shopping on Etsy do a search of the item you’re wanting to buy in a new window/tab. If you see the same image in multiple shops, it’s probably mass produced. If you see a price that’s too good to be true, it’s not handmade. If the shop has 5,000 listings, and 10,000 sales, and 100 of each item in stock… yeah, it’s not handmade. (that one is different for supplies, they can pump out huge numbers) And even when you run into a shop on Etsy offering an iPhone for a super great deal, DON’T BUY IT!!! Go to eBay for your deals, don’t encourage the Etsy CEO to ruin handmade businesses anymore! (Etsy makes a profit on every listing a shop owner lists, AND a profit on every item we sell.)

When in doubt, ask if something is real. Many of us true Handmade “artists” on Etsy have connections to every kind of maker out there, if you can’t tell if it’s real or mass-produced, we’d all be happy to figure it out for you.

Make a real change in our economy and help support the little guys. It makes a huge difference when you do!

~Emily (You can start by checking out my shop athttp://www.whitegoatranch.etsy.com ;)

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