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October 6, 2013

Why We Need You More Than Ever

In the world of handmaking, Etsy is a happy place. Or at least it was until this past week.

Etsy calls itself “your place to buy and sell all things handmade, vintage, and supplies." The word “handmade” is a pretty clear adjective: something made with your hands—and when it comes to having a shop of your own “handmade” items, it would obviously refer to things made with your own two hands.

Well, after years of growing popularity thanks to more and more handmade shops (like mine) joining the online marketplace and sharing their Etsy shop with everyone and their mother, the people at Etsy have decided to change what “handmade” means to them, regardless of the dictionary definition (they literally used such terms) and open the site to sellers who use outside manufacturers, ship from other locations than the one they are at, and use as many employees in their business as they like, all in the name of helping small businesses, like mine, be able to grow while “legally” selling on Etsy.

The problem is that this throws the door wide open for warehouses in China, for example, to flood Etsy with thousands of listings—and push us “little people” right out of search results. Big businesses with the means to buy in massive bulk and crank out practically countless items will be able to charge much less per item and make items like mine seem overpriced by a long shot, all while said big businesses are selling “handmade” items that are far from being truly handmade. Essentially, one can now design a dress on paper, for instance, send it to a factory to be made, and let them ship it to the seller, while the “maker” never even touches the “handmade” item.

Many sellers are, understandably, leaving Etsy. Though sadly there isn’t currently a new place to go that is at the caliber that Etsy was up until recently. Yes, Etsy claims this will only make the site better, this will only help our businesses, and we will not get lost in the madness. Somehow. But thousands of sellers like me have little confidence in their assurances. It would be nice to be proved wrong in this case.

In the meantime, those of us who are willing to hang around on Etsy, at least until our listings expire, need your support more than ever. If you’ve thought about shopping handmade for a while or giving Etsy a try for a necklace you’ve been looking for, or the perfect gift, now is the time. 

Please consider going to a small business when choosing Christmas gifts this year, instead of a big-time manufacturer. And if you do choose to shop on Etsy, please take a minute to check where the buyer’s from and what info they give in their About page. Ensure that they are truly a handmade business and not selling the mass-produced offspring of machines “without a soul” as I saw one seller fittingly describe them.

It’s not looking good for sellers like me. But we truly appreciate the support we have gotten from our customers, the support we have now, and any more support you can continue to offer as we face our biggest struggle yet.

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