Thursday, August 06, 2009

Etsy's Luster Tarnishing

If you haven't seen it yet, CNN Money published an interesting piece about Etsy a couple weeks ago written by Jessica Bruder. Discussing it as a business phenomenon, it goes in depth about its growth, as well as the more recent backlash.

There are many reasons to love Etsy, not the least of which is the fact that it's like a 24/7 global craft fair; an amazing online source of advice, how-tos, and celebration of the handmade; and has singularly transformed the marketplace for craft and handmade work. But we know that already.

More interestingly, the article highlights red flags, including the fact that earlier this year Etsy's visionary young founder, Rob Kalin, "quietly took himself off the payroll" citing that the site "was very incomplete and not up to my standards." He is still chair of Etsy's board.

(Kalin is now starting a new venture, called Parachutes, a craft collective based in Red Hook, Brooklyn. I've heard through the grapevine that this is a non-profit, but I don't know much else, and the website isn't filled out yet. As I learn more about this I'll report about it here.)

Another red flag is the fact that a major investor in Etsy is also on the board of Wal-Mart. Jim Breyer has felt the heat from Etsians, but stated last year, "It is possible to be the lead independent director of Wal-Mart and be absolutely passionate about art and crafted goods," he says. "Over time Etsy sellers, as well as Etsy shareholders, can do very well if we stay true to our mission." Seems like a double standard to me, but I don't know the guy myself.

Outrage over these issues and many others are voiced on blogs like Etsy Bitch which also lists online alternatives to Etsy such as Art Fire and Zibbet.

The article adds to the ire spouted in the piece that recently appeared in Double XX, which I blogged about in June.

What once seemed like a gleaming beacon of promise for craft continues to fade from glory. I don't think this has anything to do with the value or power of the handmade. Perhaps it's just a case that things that seem too good to be true usually are.

Posted by Amy Shaw for Greenjeans.

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