So, for those not in the know, Etsy has put a new policy in place which allows designers to outsource the actual production of their products to manufacturers. This allows them to produce their items at a lower price in bulk quantities.
|The hearts were made by a good friend of mine,
and the blanket by one of my hubby’s departed
grandmothers. Yes, I consider these handmade.
(Pic from my article here.)
This raises a number of ethical questions.
Is It Really Still ‘Handmade’?
Part of what drew me into Etsy is that it was originally a marketplace for products made 100% by hand. It can take hours to knit or crochet something, and it takes years to actually master the craft to even a passable level.
In the end, you’re left with something that is completely unique. Even if the person was working off of a pattern, the item is unique because of the various quality of materials, small errors and that sort of thing.
That’s where the charm of buying handmade comes in. You have something that no one else has. You have something that you know a person put a great deal of thought and labor into. It’s kind of a neat thing.
I personally love that thought. Some of my most treasured gifts from friends and family are things they made with their own two hands.
As a crafter, I also get a thrill whenever someone thinks my work is good enough to spend their hard earned money on, or even just feel the need to compliment it. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that something you created from raw materials is good enough for people to like.
To me, actually creating something with your hands means it’s handmade. Recently, I’ve opened a Zazzle shop to sell neurodiversity positive products, here. (I’m looking for alternatives for this idea, too. Not fond of those big market places.)
Now, I’m still learning how to design things, but selling one of those key chains just isn’t the same to me as selling something I created myself.
It’s not that designers and visual artists spend less time honing their crafts and creating art, but when those designs are sent off to a manufacturer, it stops being ‘handmade’, in my book.
If you’re going to advertise a sales forum as a place to sell things people make by hand, that’s what it should stay as.
Materials Versus Final Product
However, I can see why some honest sellers may benefit from this. There was one I saw a while ago who made some sort of audio boxes which he had to send part of his design away to a manufacturer to complete.
He then assembled the parts by hand and sold the final product as ‘handmade’.
Etsy then asked him to prove that he’d made the products himself, and about what his creative process was. At that point in time, they told him that because he’d sent the specifications away for part of the product, it was no longer considered handmade.
So, in this case, should it count, or shouldn’t it?
Even those of us who use yarn, fabric, clay and jewelry elements don’t make our raw materials. Does that mean that what we make is no longer handmade?
In these instances, it can be a tricky question.
I think the main problem lies in how the guidelines are lain out. Etsy makes it clear that sellers must go through an approval process, but what worries me, and others like me, is how stringent that process is.
I have absolutely no problem with sending specs away for materials used in your products, but from what I’ve seen, they’re opening the door to having a separate entity manufacture the items. If your shop gets big enough to warrant manufacturer help, it’s time to move to a new marketplace.
If Etsy wants to remain known as a forum for ‘handmade items’, that’s what their guidelines should continue to encourage. If they want to change it, they need to change what they’re advertising themselves as.