What is it about Etsy?

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Blog entry by miles125 posted 12-04-2011 05:48 PM 1858 reads 0 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I probably visit the Etsy website twice a year and for good reason. As a craftsman, there’s something that repels me about it. Almost like i’m witnessing the devaluation and slow painful death of people who create things with their hands in real time.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a beautiful site and there’s some amazing work displayed there. The problem is how ridiculously inexpensive the things are. And it gets worse every time i visit the site. I’m wondering if the whole concept has served to over saturate the marketplace in an uber competitive setting that simply adds to the demise of handcraftiness.

My instincts have told me for quite a while to withold and resist participation in such a downward spiraling marketplace. Surely i’m not alone. And it’s not like i’ve put my craftsmanship skills in mothballs. I don’t think i could if i wanted to. I love doing it. I just don’t use them much for the benefit of selling to others any more. I make gifts for friends and occassionally wonderful gifts for myself. But i can’t in good conscience accept and participate in furthering an upside down economic world where a high school janitor is likely better compensated than a master craftsman, who maybe with a little practice can probably mop floors pretty well too.

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

15 comments so far

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3336 days

#1 posted 12-04-2011 06:09 PM

Supply and Demand..The apparently is a demand for lower priced merchandice and enough people who create lower priced products that are completely content on making a few dollars this way. It is all where you set your personal standards and goals for your creations.
As far as high quality craftsmanship and creative skills are concerned, most people would not sell their work on a site like this primarily because it is not a website for higher priced artwork and skilled craftsmen.
Sure, a few better pieces might sell…but i do not believe it is the norm.
If you are a craftsman creating quality and unique work you must seek out markets that cater to the higher end clientelle…and this is a challenge and time consuming task in itself….but it can be done.

View miles125's profile


2180 posts in 4033 days

#2 posted 12-04-2011 06:17 PM

Greg, but you have to admit, a site like etsy lowers the benchmark and perceptions of even the most discriminating customer base looking for quality handmade work.

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

View Porchfish's profile


824 posts in 2560 days

#3 posted 12-04-2011 06:48 PM

I’m with you miles , supply and demand fits a manufactured goods paradigm , not the world of the arts !

-- The pig caught under the fence is always the one doing all the squealing !

View Mike's profile


406 posts in 2715 days

#4 posted 12-04-2011 10:23 PM

I sell on etsy. There has been a huge drop in sales over the last two years and anything that is under $20 plus S & H sells, but little else. This time of year used to be my busy part of the year, but in total this year I am down almost 20 sales over the prediction.

-- look Ma! I still got all eleven of my fingers! - -

View bvdon's profile


482 posts in 3043 days

#5 posted 12-04-2011 10:30 PM

I thought about selling on Etsy, but when I see the prices of items being sold it is pretty clear that I would most likely lose money. I suspect that many that do sell successfully have access to very cheap or even free materials. The cost of Maple, Walnut, Cherry and Oak in the state of Florida is quite expensive.

View Bertha's profile


13529 posts in 2721 days

#6 posted 12-04-2011 10:35 PM

When I started reading this post, I thought you were going the other direction with this. I’ve never bought anything made of wood from Etsy but I’ve bought a lot or original art. I’ve found some really great paintings for what I consider really cheap. Maybe I should search for some woodworking projects there to better understand what you’re saying. I want to understand the critique.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1537 posts in 2503 days

#7 posted 12-04-2011 10:55 PM

Supply and demand is one reason, the other one is the people for whom this is a hobby and have no real “investment” or do not know how to price to include machinery, power, time, etc. Think about these are the people who got a few scrap left from when they made something for a friend/family and then decide to use them to make a box. For them $20 covers the fun factor, maybe a little for a new gizmo for their shop and it was good practice. Remember, Etsy and E bay are for bargain hunters, unless you have something very special and even so, it would probably go for less than if you tried to sell it on your own.

I saw your projects and it seems you are using your shop for business, don’t waste your time on Etsy, it is better spent developing a practical advertising campaign to drum up business, if you can make contacts with decorators and designers, architects and developers/constructors whine too much about the prices and are a PITA to work with.

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

View Arminius's profile


304 posts in 3831 days

#8 posted 12-04-2011 11:06 PM

Absolutely loathe Etsy, not least for the number of ‘crafts’ that involve taking fine old tools like moulding planes and turning them into useless crap like an ugly lamp.

View Cliff De Witt 's profile

Cliff De Witt

130 posts in 2720 days

#9 posted 12-05-2011 03:21 AM

Price is king it started with Wallyword under pricing everyone and closing down town centers. Then it moved to manufacturing where companies spec out crap to be manufactured in China and the manufacturer takes the blame rather than the company that placed and apoved the order.

It no longer maters what the quality is just that it “looks good” and costs less.

-- Trying to find an answer to my son’s question: “…and forming organic cellulose by spinning it on its axis is interesting, why?”

View SST's profile


790 posts in 4223 days

#10 posted 12-05-2011 05:30 AM

Whenever I’ve made a piece of furniture or other wood project for a family member or for myself, I look at the materials cost & time spent and realize there is no way I would want to enter the marketplace with my work. I’ve been asked by people who’ve seen my work if I would build this or that for them, & I tell them what I might have to charge for what they are suggesting, and most are blown away by my number. After I explain the materials cost & hours involved, and that I don’t work for 15 cents per hour like people in some parts of the world, they understand why the cost is what it is.

I explain that when the piece is finished, it will be one of a kind…not something you can find at any furniture store. While that does make them think, they’re really not prepared to spend what I’d need. Most people aren’t. That’s just how it is. Every time I entertain thoughts of doing this for a living, I remember this.

That’s not to say that there’s no one out there buying quality stuff, be it furniture or art work, but the numbers are small. The masses will go to Sam’s Club or Costco & buy the Asian made furniture that looks good & probably holds up well enough for what you pay for it. That’s just how it is.

The economy has an impact as well. Those who might take the plunge into something unique, something hand made in boom times, are not doing it now. I’ve never thought about going the Etsy or booth at the mall route to sell what I make. I think, like with any business, if you want to get market penetration, you need to develop a broad based marketing plan. It has to allow for market changes, both up & down.

Wow, I’m really rambling, here. Sorry. I think what I was trying to say was many people do work too cheap in the arts & crafts/woodworking arena. I won’t. (I guess I just needed to say it the long way)

Hoo ha, The Packers are 12-0. Not pretty…but a win is a win… (sorry about that, too) -SST

-- Accuracy is not in your power tool, it's in you

View miles125's profile


2180 posts in 4033 days

#11 posted 12-05-2011 12:21 PM

””That’s not to say that there’s no one out there buying quality stuff, be it furniture or art work, but the numbers are small.””

Exactly Tom. And the ones that are buying don’t want to pay boom time prices either. And i wasn’t making a killing at those. It’s all really shaping up to be a horrible perfect storm for the custom craftsman to try and ride out.

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

View SST's profile


790 posts in 4223 days

#12 posted 12-05-2011 09:33 PM

You may be right on that. Usually, these times require as much or more creativity in marketing as you put into woodworking. One of the problems with that scenario is that many craftsmen and artisans are far better at creating their work than they are at marketing it.

That’s often true with many who start a business following their passion, thinking that their zeal, drive & creativity are the keys to success. They (sometimes) forget about the business part of their business. Mind you, I’m not saying that’s true for you, I’m just stating a business fact. I learned a long time ago (in photography) that making a business out of a hobby can take all the fun out of it. That’s probably what keeps me out of the woodworking business….although I’m still tempted.

Anyway, best of luck on the drive to survive & flourish. -SST

-- Accuracy is not in your power tool, it's in you

View Roz's profile


1699 posts in 3814 days

#13 posted 12-07-2011 08:31 PM

Supply and demand is a universal reality, even in the arts. Not everyone wants high quality products, beautifully made. Most people want something they consider important to be high quality. Other items just need to function. There will always be a market for the fine quality that you LJ’s put into you projects. The masses may not appreciate your talents, but there are many people that will. The trick is reaching the target audience and producing the product at a profit.
I have stopped taking on jobs that don’t pay enough to make me want to do them and still I have work. I live in a rural area. My work will not sell for as much here as it will in an urban setting. I and others reduce prices by a third or more locally.

-- Terry Roswell, L.A. (Lower Alabama) "Life is what happens to you when you are making other plans."

View Bertha's profile


13529 posts in 2721 days

#14 posted 12-07-2011 08:40 PM

I did a little searching for wooden projects. With the exception of Spoontaneous’s spoons (which I think are quite generously priced for what they are), you’re right, there’s a bunch of junk there. I think I’ll stick to my glass beads and original paintings;)

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View DocSavage45's profile


8604 posts in 2870 days

#15 posted 04-29-2012 04:52 PM

I like the projects you have posted. You do what you say you are doing. :-) I decided to make art furniture in hopefully a uniqe character. People will love it I thought. LOL! Iwas inspired by the books I had read, and thought “me too!” Later, when still struggling to make that furniture in my head, I found excellent books on marketing, one man shops, etc. Time and materials, overhead and marketing!

Went to a design class by a local master and I was blown away. Remember one of the things he said. “Go to an Ikea store, and steal ideas. They pay designers thousands od dollars to get the idea.’

Looking around I see visually exciting pieces, but terrible construction.

Stopped at Wal Mart. They have come a long way from the old partical board w/imitation walnut laminate. LOL!

Still something that will not last. Found a piece for my office to assemble? Martha Stewrt brand. 2/3rds off!
The laminate wood is a beautiful veneer, on top of a dense partical board. Lots of assembly time? My thinking is “How can I compete?’

I made my decision to build furniture, just when disposable income for the middleclass dissapeared!

Will be building those “dream pieces” for myself, when I get the time, as I had to go back to my real job.

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

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