There was a time not so very long ago when we were all very excited about a new website called Etsy that had just been started. It was going to showcase the entrepreneurial spirit of the creative soul. The early days featured handmade soaps, quilts,clothing,artwork and jewelry in very small quantities.For the brave who were willing to add their work online it felt like you were sharing your creations with your friends. People ate it up. Suddenly owning something handmade or original took on a special quality. Heck even Oprah thought it was cool. Small independent artisans found a home to share their work on a national level and sales took off. For some of us though we were pretty skeptical of the whole thing and we waited a bit to see what it was all going to be but for many an entire new industry was born.
Then 2008 happened and suddenly people discovered that you could put anything on Etsy and sell it. For the artisans who actually really made their work an alarm went up. Surely Etsy was going to police this right? As the years went on the foreign distributors flooded the site and it began to look less and less like the handmade channel it started out to be. Sites like Regretsy popped up to draw attention to the mess it had become.
Still so many of us hung in there sharing our work, mostly because it was an affordable way to share out work. About a year ago we began to slowly move away from the site leaving only greeting cards and a few older pieces on there. I guess we just didn't want to believe that the site was worth letting go of since we had always managed to find new customers along the way. Then the notice arrived today.
It was really a simple message but it said so much. Basically Etsy let us know that starting now they don't care how goods arrive on their site. Nope, you can have someone else make your stuff. You can get it in any country you want, doesn't matter. Essentially handmade is all over. So for us Etsy is all over. We struggle every day to explain to people that everything we make is made by hand. Every stencil is cut by hand. Every color is printed by hand. Handmade means a lot to us.
It should mean something to the people who visit Etsy and we hope they will come to our website to find us. Or maybe Etsy will change their minds.
Bonnie Harmston works side by side with her husband Steve and travels the art show circuit with him.