If you’re at all familiar with my blog or my history with Etsy, you’ll know I extend to them no real kindness. In fact, though I’m no longer a seller, my soul withers with every purchase I make using that platform. Pretty soon, I’ll be nothing but a morally ambiguous shell ready to sell my creative spirit for a knitted fox scarf. Sniff.
Last fall, Huffington Post posted a remarkably inspiring tale of a stay-at-home mother who raised a million dollar business from the ashes of domesticity, in part, thanks to Etsy and its handcrafted philosophy. But the viral coverage sparked controversy when it was discovered her items were mass produced in India and altered with “lace and buttons” before sale. What was being branded “handmade” was only “hand altered”, and then only just.
Etsy has tried desperately, over the years, to maintain its presence as a handcrafted marketplace while encouraging, whether with blatant abandon or not, mass production and big business. And then this happened. Etsy announced, with idealistic corporate glee, their IPO, which means great things for suits and shareholders and much less for the handcrafting sole proprietor. Since public companies are under intense scrutiny to remain profitable and increase profits, this could spell disaster for the micro business while impacting large manufacturers in much smaller ways.
Etsy has built its brand on the handcrafted ideology, and then abandoned the artists who popularized it in favor of profit-driven resellers. Suppliers, vintage, mass production are all terms now synonymous with Etsy’s global “handmade” marketplace. Ironically, however, handmade is in short supply. Customers are searching for, and purchasing, what they believe to be handmade goods, often on the backs of real artisans, but not for their benefit. And Etsy clearly understands these self-incriminating moves, having recently changed its “handmade” tagline to “unique goods”. Ahem. Nice move, Etsy.
In light of the never-ending string of epic Etsy failures and disappointments, I’ve made the decision to cut the cord. Refusing to maintain an Etsy shop was a personal trial. It pushed me into a series of monumental self-expressive episodes which have improved my selling experience, as a whole. It wasn’t easy, but it was worthwhile. And, as a result, I discovered a world of possibilities for artistic sellers. As such, I will no longer support their hypocritical business model by purchasing via this platform.
I know, I know… but what about the honest sellers producing legitimate handcrafted goods? I hear what you’re saying. Etsy is easy. It’s known. It provides internal traffic. Promotions. Advertising. I’ve heard it, and I believed it once myself. And then I left and my business didn’t die, so I can assure you there are other (perhaps more) affordable solutions. And I surprised even myself, in the end. But really, I get it. This isn’t a particularly popular opinion to have when so many hopeful artisans are struggling to maintain a presence in the ever over-populated Etsy marketplace. However, by purchasing products via the Etsy platform, I’m condoning their blatant abuse of artists. And it’s just not worth the guilt!
If you get a message from me via Etsy asking for black market sales of your items off site, don’t be surprised. I still want to support you, but not if it means supporting them.
Now give me all the knitted fox scarves. All of them!