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All About Etsy

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By Amber Kruth

The story goes like this: You’re an artist. You’ve given away or sold your creations to family and friends, but now your paintings, jewelry and … fill-in-the-blank … are piling up. You dream about having an art gallery or little store, but it’s expensive to rent a space and you have a full-time job.

So what do you do with all that art? Etsy (rhymes with Betsy) is the answer.

Etsy (www.etsy.com) is the organic eBay. It is a website dedicated to handmade utilitarian items, crafts, all kinds of art, jewelry and even vintage items. Born under the concept of community, Etsy embraces the individual artist and builds a micro-economy to support true creativity.

According to the Etsy website, the mission is to enable people to make a living making things, and to reconnect makers with buyers. “Our vision is to build a new economy and present a better choice: Buy, Sell and Live Handmade,” according to the statement.

Some Northwest Arkansas artists and craftsmen have become Etsians and are finding that it is a good way to get their work to buyers around the world with minimal overhead.

At the time this story was written, there were 45 local sellers listed under Fayetteville.

All of the local artists and craftsmen interviewed for this story use Etsy as a sideline business. None of them are able to live off the Etsy income. Not yet, anyway.

One local Etsian is Marie Shipp, who makes cloth baby items. In addition to selling on Etsy, she also sells through her website www.arianasclothesline.com. Shipp says the monthly earnings from her Etsy site are sporadic, but she averages $80-$100 a month.

The cost to sell on Etsy is 20 cents per listing for a three-month period with a 3.5 percent selling fee.

To help sellers be successful, the Etsy site offers how-to information on successful selling techniques and information on how to become more skilled in particular crafts.

There are virtual labs and classrooms that teach skills, newbie chat rooms, forums, blogs, videos and articles. There are videos about how-to screen-print, make handmade soap or create a faux blood-splattered backdrop — for Halloween, of course.

Etsy encourages crafters to share information about their craft, pitch ideas and write blogs.

Rachael Sullivan of Fayetteville’s NightSky Productions says the best way to sell on Etsy is to get involved. Sullivan, who sells jewelry, advises sellers to write blog articles, publish posts in the forums and make treasuries.

Treasuries are a group of favorite items by other sellers. There is a limit to how many treasuries can exist at one time, so there is competition to help demonstrate the best picks. Each treasury lasts about two days to keep lists current with active listings and to shine the curator spotlight on other Etsy users.

By selecting your favorite listings, you begin the chain of positive interaction. And name recognition is a beneficial selling tool.

“Thousands of sellers on Etsy are also buyers,” said Etsy seller Fawn Potter of Fayetteville. Potter says that reaching out to other sellers and responding kindly to anyone interested in your Etsy shop will help you get noticed. It’s this sense of community again, where being involved is part of being successful.

Some artists who are fortunate enough to get their work into local galleries also sell on Etsy. Artist Jan Ironside sells through Poor Richard’s Art Gallery in Rogers and also sells on Etsy at IronsideImpastos. Through her Etsy page she has a web store with “very affordable prices” and exposure that she couldn’t get by selling solely through local galleries.

Ironside, Sullivan, Potter and Shipp are among the hundreds of thousand crafters and artists selling on Etsy.

In its first year, Etsy grew from 1,400 members to 140,000 members. The site was launched in 2006 in San Francisco and its headquarters, called the “Etsy Lab,” quickly expanded to Brooklyn, NY. It has grown to a company with 60 employees with buyers and sellers from around the globe.

According to the Etsy website, the company initially had its share of struggles, including breaking the cardinal rule of allowing sellers to resell items they had not made.

There are some simple, fundamental principles to Etsy. Items listed under the homemade category must be made by the seller. The site does not allow reselling of handmade items.

There are optional categories to list vintage items and craft supplies. To qualify as a vintage item, the piece must be at least 20 years old.

Etsy blogs and forums are called The Storque. The Storque is filled with articles about the creative process and the business aspect of Etsy. There is no shortage of selling tips. The advice provided reflects the vibe and motto of Etsy: make it personal.

When an item is sold, many Etsy sellers send the buyer a free token gift or a coupon to use toward the next purchase. The more personality you emit the better you’ll be on Etsy.

You can find tips on the Etsy website about how to get your shop looking as good as everyone else’s. You can find out how to design your page by creating a banner, uploading an avatar and creating a biography.

You can easily link to Facebook or another website. Potter used her Flickr account, another accessible creative tool, to design her banner and edit pictures of her items for sale.

If you don’t want to create your own banner and logo, you can hire a designer through the Etsy site. Former Fayetteville resident, artist Katie Runnels, not only sells her art on Etsy, but also offers a full slate of graphic design services. Among her services are shop and blog banners and logos. She also sells her work through her website www.theconstantgatherer.com in addition to galleries.

Etsy is more than a website — it’s a community. It is not only popular with sellers, it’s also popular with buyers. You won’t find any mass produced or commercialized junk on Etsy, but instead plenty of selection with wonderfully hip choices.

It’s a venue for the exchange of handmade or vintage items and craft supplies. It is a destination to buy unique and thoughtful gifts. Shopping on Etsy is like browsing a boutique or the many small shops of the world. You can shop by category, color, showcase, or most recently listed. You can even narrow your search to buy from a seller whose birthday is today.

By selecting a search with the geolocator, you can shop from sellers in Israel, Greece, Australia or anywhere in the world. If you want to shop locally, you can search for items in your neighborhood.

If you can’t find the item you want by browsing the site, you can visit the Alchemy, where you can post a request to buy an item and list a desired purchase price. In the Alchemy, Etsians can reply and offer to create the item that you requested.

Etsy fills a creative void on the Web. It gives us craftiness. It gives stay-at-home moms a social and business outlet. It gives small-town artists a global storefront. It gives part-time jewelers, part-time students, part-time workers a little extra income. It gives consumers an option from the commercialized, mass produced, impersonal objects.

The facts and figures used in this article were gathered from Etsy.com.

One Comment

Trixie August 6, 2010 at 12:41 am

Etsy started out great, but recent visits finds hordes of mass-produced t-shirts with sports team logos (probably unlicensed) and clothes from thrift shops. It started out well… as a great place for created products and art pieces, now it’s like EBAY. What a shame… the first page of Etsy shows t-shirts made and printed in China.

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