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Etsy Does It
Silvia Chenault is an old-school crafter.
Not like 1960s-home econ, or your grandma making clothes for her kids, but still ... old school.
Like, before Facebook owned the Internets, back when on-line social networking involved hours of searching. And links — lots and lots of links.
When Chenault found Etsy (it was still in BETA then) she knew she'd found something good.
The site — part social network, part hand-made marketplace — allows crafters, artists and designers to create virtual storefronts and sell their wares, everything from art and ‘zines to jewelry, clothes and toys.
“Etsy is for the clueless,” Chenault says, and she means it in a good way.
The site is easy to set up and use. You press some buttons, say “yes” and/or “no” and you are on your way. There's a minimal charge to list items and only a small percentage of sales goes back to the site. And it's full of services, including forums, blogs and local teams — like Fresno Etsy Especial, the group Chenault started this year. The teams register through the site and get special resources and are elligible for Etsy grants to help fund projects.
The 10 or so members of the Fresno group meet monthly to talk shop, swap ideas and plan events — their first will be the Cirque du Noel, Handmade Holiday Bizaar, Dec. 10, the Big Red Church.
Starting the team was an act of bravery, Chenault says. She had no idea if anyone would join. But she'd just returned from Organge County where she was part of the Felt Club and helped put on monthly craft shows.
She missed that feeling.
“I need my community.”
And she wanted to help educate people about the hand-made movement.
There are benefits.
One: You're supporting small businesses, which everyone keeps saying in the backbone of America.
Etsy was founded as means for artists and designers to have control of your own business and take pride in the fact. The site even features the stories of people who have used the site to quit their days jobs and do what they love.
“They're trying to change what incorporated means,” Chenault says.
So, Etsy has no middle men. These are one-on-one transactions — buying local in its purest form, a direct exchange between the buyer and the creator. And it's nice to know you are directly helping someone pay their rent, or put food on the table, she says.
More than that, buying hand-made goods helps to create a new sense of beauty, Chenault says, in a world where everything is mass produced and everything looks the same.
We have a responsibility as consumers, to look at the things we buy in terms of their impact on the community and the world, she says, following each item's process to its conclusion — when it becomes trash. It's why she uses as much recycled or reused material as possible and urges crafters to be creative with the materials they use.
“It's just really easy to go into Michaels and buy some supplies and then go home.”
Other resources sites for crafters: