Monday, February 16, 2015

A Community Divided Strengthens None

I did say that I was going to be real with you, right? Okay. Here's a good one:
I just finished reading some seriously saddening rants about an Etsy seller who is reportedly making over 1 million dollars in sales per year and I just have to wonder out loud: What is up with the handmade community constantly turning on itself when someone from the ranks finds success with their business?

Why can't the response to reading an article about such a seller be, "Oh wow! That's awesome! Good for her - and good for US! Her shop is bringing in thousands of buyers to the site and many of them buy more stuff from other sellers too!"

Instead, the news of someone finding a level of success beyond many of our wildest dreams is met with utter scrutiny, judgement, and people accusing her of not being a "true handmade" business.

Wait, what?

Okay, sure...that seller may not be a totally handmade business, but isn't that true of all of us??
Who among us can truly claim to be a PURELY handmade business??

"weaving destiny, maheshwar" by nevilzaveri under cc by

Seriously - when was the last time you've heard of anyone on Etsy milling their own fabric and thread? Mining their own silver? Someone who makes things with only components they themselves made from scratch with their own two hands?

My guess is maybe 1% of all sellers on Etsy can say that they are purely handmade with any certainty. I would also venture to say that if that maker lives in the US, that's about how much of the population could ever afford their work.

Okay okay, I can hear some of you screaming at me, "But what if that seller isn't making ANY of their stuff? What if they are just buying it on some import website and just totally reselling it with no creative addition or embellishment whatsoever? Shouldn't that matter? Etsy is a HANDMADE marketplace and should stay that way!!"

This may surprising - especially coming from me - but in my opinion, even if the seller in question isn't making a darned thing and is just reselling straight-out, I still don't think that's a reason to get all bent out of shape. The idea that Etsy is a handmade marketplace that just supports handmade work is a fantasy.

The harsh truth is that Etsy jumped the "handmade" shark a LONG time ago so I just don't get why anyone feels the need to get all up-in-arms and territorial for something that just isn't reality anymore and will likely never be again.

Here's my point:
We need to concentrate on using Etsy as the sales tool that it is - a place to have a web presence, an easy way to accept payments and showcase our work to people outside of our own circles. Most importantly, a place for our brands to benefit from the amazing SEO power of a larger company who has the resources to make individual items land on the first and second page of any search for a product sold through their site.

Instead of spending so much energy trying to expose "impostors" and tattling on each other (which BTW,  Etsy has conditioned us to do with their divisive flagging system) I think it's time for us as a creative community to come together and support one another as we take our businesses toward higher levels of success. Let's focus on learning how we can help each other improve and find the lessons when we learn that someone has surpassed what we ourselves are currently capable of.

If we can't do that, then we need to take a good, long look in the mirror and ask ourselves why someone else's success is so threatening to our own self worth.

Because really - it's not about them, is it?

PS...I fully recognize that what I have written here is my own opinion and you are more than welcome to disagree wholeheartedly with me. The one thing I would rather you not do is to try to convince me that your opposing opinion is *better* than mine. We can disagree and still be friendly, can't we? :)


  1. Hi Marlo!

    I was watching Kari on yesterday, again, and I so enjoyed your photography bit, again. :) Still learned more from both of you, thanks!

    So then I got ready to listen/watch something else today and there you were, going to do a course yourself! Yay! I'm so excited for you!

    I was thinking while I was watching you yesterday, that yeah, you seemed a little nervous . . . but who wouldn't be? But you got into it and I could tell you loved what you were doing and you made it so fun and interesting for me to watch. I use your tips all the time, even though I solely use my Samsung Galaxy5 for all my photos. So I just wanted to say thanks and great job!

    And the whole Etsy thing, it is what it is. It seems such a waste of time and such a creative energy zapper to get all up in arms about it. One of my fave quotes is "We shouldn't be comparing ourselves to anyone but ourselves."

    So, once again thanks for your help and congrats on your new gig! And rant on!



What do you think? I really want to know! :)

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