This shouldn’t be surprising. In February, Ryan Kim of GigaOM, recounted an interview with Chad Dickerson, CEO of Etsy, in which Mr. Dickerson stated his intent to expand Etsy as a self-sustaining brand on which merchants can build, in an effort to facilitate small business and a handcrafted experience. Which would be great if that ideal didn’t completely contradict a handcrafted small business experience.
“Etsy has been a platform to build business online in our marketplace but many sellers sell on different venues. I see us expanding to sell anywhere people want to be successful and extending our categories while keeping our handcrafted ethos,” Dickerson said. “That means thinking of Etsy as a way of doing business, not just Etsy.com.”
Small business isn’t defined, last time I checked, as a conglomeration of 800,000 smaller businesses all carrying the umbrella of one large brand. And artists don’t appreciate a large brand carrying the umbrella of the “handcrafted experience” when wholesalers are parking their suburban RV’s on our hippy playgrounds.
But what do I know? I’m just a small business owner.
And, because Etsy has committed itself to expanding to a Wal-mart God-dom and Martha Stewart is two shakes of a dog’s tail from opening her own Etsy shop and dipping her toes in our kiddie pools, the small business owner disappears into a growing sea of mediocrity and repetition. Sounds yummy, right?
Chad Dickerson believes, according to his October 24th Hello Etsy audio interview, that Etsy’s expansion means growth for the individual business owner. “I think the really beautiful thing about Etsy is that it’s a collection of communities and small groups of people and, you know, the business of Etsy is fundamentally about the success of other people. And people participate on Etsy because the fees are really minimal and, as we grow, it means that more individuals and more communities are successful. And, when we stop growing, these communities stop being successful.” Which would be a beautiful thought if it were true.
Etsy is still just a platform, despite Chad’s vetted interests in world domination, and when a single platform is saturated by a million individual shop fronts, all selling the same blue chevron pillowcase, sold in sets of two, sizes 18 x 18 or 20 x 20, the sensory overload will send customers into convulsions. And while that might make for stunning YouTube foolery, it lacks a degree of practical application.
So Etsy, riding on the coattails of artisans, encourages a blatant disregard for artistic integrity and promotional honesty by allowing resellers to run amok with their Dollar Store treasures and Balinese boat chairs. And hey, if they want to turn towards a financial interest that reaches beyond the confines of ethical behavior, who am I to stop them? I’d sell my own children if they didn’t do the laundry and walk the dogs.
But, in light of the delightful drama, I’ve recognized a painful truth…. Etsy is axiomatically opposed to the success of small business. It’s not their fault. It really isn’t. Money means more to them than our knitted mittens and steampunk hair fascinators and certain arts demand too small a financial interest to sway Etsy’s undeniable lack of morals.
And I realized I wont carry the Etsy brand. That’s not who I am. That’s not what my work represents, in a market saturated with handcrafted jewelry. I can’t afford to leave, not really. Not when I have two boys finishing high school, a dying car and bills in collections, but I can afford to stay even less. I wont spend another day valuing the dollar more than the essence of my art. There are other ways to make money.
I’ll save my ethics the horror and just sell cigarettes to school kids instead.
Happy weaving, everyone! Enjoy your art. Live it. Breathe it. Most importantly, love yourself enough to know when your art matters more.