Saturday, 5 October 2013

The day that Etsy died.

This gorgeous wreath is available here at

I didn't want to start this lovely new blog on such a sad note, but even after mulling over the changes for a few days and trying to put myself in a more positive frame of mind there was nothing I wanted or needed to write about more than this.

On October 1st, the CEO of Etsy held a Town Hall Meeting (a real physical meeting in Brooklyn).  It was there that he broke the news that Etsy had decided to move away from their original indie handmade roots and have now done an about face allowing factory made goods to be sold alongside their homespun counterparts.  To do this under the Etsy umbrella, they have "redefined handmade".  Apparently, "handmade" now can also mean "mass manufactured".  Etsy have decided to allow sellers to outsource the actual making of their items as they see fit - overseas factories included.  Drop shipping, the once forbidden practice of shipping goods direct from a third party (usually an overseas manufacturer) is also now Etsy legal. 

What this means for sellers is that handmade items will be buried in amongst mass produced foreign imports.  Assuming that a buyer was patient enough to sift through page after page of almost identical items looking for a genuine handmade, the prices of those items will seem comparatively high.  It is impossible for a very small scale one person business operating in a developed country to compete against factory made goods.  For many of us the cost of our supplies alone will be more than the finished products of mass manufactured items and most of us require more than $2 an hour to achieve a living wage.

For buyers, this means that there is no easy way to tell if the goods you are buying were made in a third world factory or made by an artisan who designed, created,  marketed and packaged their item themselves.  You could buy a dress from a seller in your own city, but the seller you made your purchase from might not even see the dress you purchased - it can be shipped directly from a Chinese factory to your doorstep without the "maker" ever so much as touching it, just so long as that seller designed the dress themselves - all perfectly Etsy legal under the new guidelines provided that the manufacturers details are provided on a sellers about page and they have gone through an approval process..

It's a really hard thing to see a site that you really believed in completely change their stance on so many things.  Etsy used to be a place that was passionately against all that factory made items stood for.   It was a different marketplace from all the rest because it had integrity and a strong sense of social responsibility.  Somehow shopping there was a more authentic and human experience - where else could you purchase a one of a kind directly from the artists from around the globe.  The site had a friendly community feel to it - an experience largely created by the sellers, but the overall culture was promoted heavily by Etsy as being their point of difference.

Over the past few years there has been a steady nibbling away at the edges of those core values, but it was not until the Town Hall Meeting that it became apparent that handmade - real handmade as the average person would define it - is no longer valued on Etsy.

RIP Etsy.  The site may be still up and running and making more money for investors than ever before, but to many of us the soul of the place has died.

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