Monday, June 15, 2009

Etsy: Support Local by Using Global

Sunday the 31st was my sister's birthday, and despite knowing for two weeks what I was going to get her, I didn't place the actual order until Thursday morning. Of course, standard shipping methods mean that her gift didn't get here until Tuesday, and I was forced once again to give a family member a computer print-out of their present, promising that it would be here soon.

On the off-chance that her gift might have arrived early, I signed into my account early Monday morning and pulled up the tracking info on the package - nope, still in transit from Delaware. Knowing this, however, sent me on a momentary, "How crazy is technology these days?" train of thought. I mean, I can barely imagine life before Amazon, but just a few short years ago, if I had wanted to get anyone a gift without driving to a store, I would have had to pick up a catalog and actually call in an order. On the phone. Which was attached to the wall. *Shudder*

But now we have the Internet! Global phenomenon! I can order a poster from Germany with just a few clicks of a button! (I accidentally did that once. I did not realize that the poster I was getting for my friend's birthday was coming from Europe, but once it arrived in German packaging, the $7.00 shipping charge did make a lot more sense.)

Should I though? I'd like to use this post to introduce the unfamiliar to a
website simply called Etsy. It's an "online marketplace" specifically for handmade items. Once upon a time those in the crafts business had to rely on booths at annual craft fairs and word of mouth to sell their wares. It was not the easiest way to make a profit. With the birth of Etsy in 2005, however, crafty folk could now join a global community of other crafters and get the word out about their oftentimes extremely unique products. Suddenly a localized hobby can have the potential to be a professional endeavor for crafters across the world.

I learned about Etsy in July when a family friend started selling her baked goods in her own online storefront. Marianne has always loved baking and dreams one day of opening a bakery. As
thehomebaker on Etsy, she has already started marketing her delicious cookies, breads, and other treats nationally, even though it will be another year or two until she is able to afford an actual site for her store.

When a family friend couldn't find infant-sized ruby slippers for a Wicked-themed outfit she was giving her niece for Christmas, she turned to Etsy, and had the most adorable shoes made to order. Unfortunately, those shoes got lost in the mail, so she talked to the creator, who rushed to make and send a replacement order just days before the holidays.

The Internet has made it very easy to make shopping a completely impersonal and commercial act. Find, click, buy. The most human contact you get from the exchange is signing for the package when the deliveryman comes. Etsy maintains the ease of buying and selling from home, but allows consumers to still interact with small business owners. You can support a local business that's down the street, or 2000 miles away, and find some really nifty stuff in the process.

Know of other online communities where local shops/artists/inventors/crafters can peddle their wares? These Gentlemen would love to hear about them! Please post them in the comments section so we can all support small businesses!

Interested in more information about the crafting community? Here's a great (albeit old) piece from the Baltimore CityPaper about the growing world of craftiness, focusing on a really awesome Etsy collective called the Charm City Craft Mafia: Craft Work: Local Crafters Prepare for the Holiday Buying Season


Anonymous said...

Woo for Etsy!

Etsy is amazing, and I am so grateful every day for going with my friend to her hair and make-up trial run for her wedding. It was in fact her stylist - an owner of two Etsy shops - who heard us talking about the ridiculous amount of baking I was doing (and most subsequent products of that baking being practically forced on people) and was all, "hey, you should sell your stuff on Etsy."

And so I do.

I am in fact, the mentioned home baker (love Ali!). You should check me out:

I am delicious.

Erm. My baked goods are delicious. I typed that first part on accident, but I am leaving it, because both statements are true. You heard it here folks, delicious treats from a delicious lady! Try some today!

Also, because I never seem to be able to comment briefly, just a few weeks ago I bought an assortment of awesome and cute earrings from 3 different Etsy shops, and they're all wonderful!

Capt. said...

Indeed, Woo for Etsy. Where else can you find awesome baked goods (seriously folks, everything is incredible), earrings and an elaborately beaded guitar. It is amazing what you can find.