Many artisans sell their unique handmade items at fairs, markets and trade shows.
But registration or booth fees can be costly and traveling to and setting up can be time consuming.
“Artists want to make a living off their work,” said Samantha Rodin, executive director of the York Region Arts Council. “Being creative is a passion, but it doesn’t pay the bills.”
Etsy – established in 2008 as a marketplace for handcrafted goods, vintage items and craft supplies – is bringing the world of craft markets and artisan fairs to a global market.
The grassroots platform allows artists to sell their one-of-a-kind creations in a one-of-a-kind shop online.
Last year, the company reported more than $2.49 billion in worldwide online sales.
But that’s not to say Etsy doesn’t host markets, where shoppers can touch, feel, see and smell handmade items.
Each year, Etsy hosts national Made In markets, featuring items made by artists from a particular country.
The Made in Canada Etsy market is Sept. 24 with locations in more that 40 cities across the country, including Toronto, Mississauga and for the first time York Region.
Etsy is all about the creative arts industry, going beyond pictures, paintings and sculptures.
Etsy sellers include graphic artists, jewelry makers and sewists who make a range of handcrafted items from macramé plant hangers, jewelry, typography art, greeting cards, blankets, dice bags, game character pegs, baby toys, pocket watches and home décor – all at affordable prices, too.
“Etsy makes art accessible for the everyday person,” Rodin said. “Handmade pieces are not for the upper echelon of society anymore.”
“Etsy allows me to reach a market I would not normally reach,” said Ariane Griffiths, York Region Etsy captain and owner of Etsy shop La Petite Stitcherie.
Griffiths makes and sells handmade, custom stuffies, blankets and taggies for babies and children.
“I’ve sold items to people in the United Kingdom, Australia and California from my little house in Keswick.”
Not only is it a marketplace to purchase rare treasures custom made for each purchaser, Etsy is also a place where shoppers can meet the makers, each with their own story.
“Many big box stores by the rights to a piece of work and sell prints or copies,” Rodin said. “Most times the product was not created by an artist at all.”
Etsy is the reverse of mass marketing, where each product and shop is unique to it’s creator. And each product is unique to the buyer as a majority of items are customizable in terms of colours, names, initials or sayings.
Not only do patrons connect with creators, but also with the creative process.
Many artisans post product pictures as well as artsy process pictures of the item being made by hand.
Similar to the farm to table craze, Etsy is about craft table to table, said Mississauga resident Iva Ouzounova, owner of Dream Willow Studio, a hand-stamped jewelry and accessory Etsy shop.
“Artists are excited to make their products, knowing someone will enjoy the piece,” said Ouzounova, who is part of the Craftadian Made in Canada market. “There is a positive energy that comes with each piece, from the maker to you.”
“You’re contributing to a local artist and most likely it’s a stay-at-home mom who is trying to make money or save for a family vacation,” said Griffiths, a mom of two, who falls into that category, selling her latest creation of ceramic and wood coasters to fund a family trip.
While Etsy makes it easy for sellers to sell, what makes a particular shop successful is treating it like a business, said Ouzounova, who comes from an accountant background.
“You can’t just set up shop and wait,” she said. “You’re a crafty person, that’s why you’re on Etsy. But you also have to learn how to be a businessperson. Etsy organically teaches that.”
There’s a word for artist turned entrepreneur – artrepreneur.
Etsy operates on a shared success business model, meaning company revenue is contingent upon having successful artists.
As such Etsy shares in the responsibility of turning artisans into artrepreneurs by offering how-to courses and workshops such as how to: post a listing, take product photos, benefit from search engine optimization, use social media, ship products, understand copyright and intellectual property, process payments, and grow your business.
There are fees associated with selling on Etsy – a listing fee of about 20 cents and a small percentage fee on each item sold through the online shop.
With a supportive entrepreneur model, Etsy allows crafters to make a living without the risk, Griffiths said.
“There’s no monthly payment or rent,” she said. “The sky’s the limit with your shop.”
Pic 1 – Sign by Rustic Hustle, Stuffed Animals by Sew Shenanigans, Crocheted Iron Man by Via Hand, Purses by Luuee, Greeting Card Kit By PaperPlusCloth, Flowers by The Flower Girl, Blanket & Cloud Pillow by La Petite Stitcherie
Pic 2 – Blanket by La Petite Stitcherie, Flowers by The Flower Girl
Pic 3 – MCH Creations