Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What is Etsy? - Baltimore by Hand Blog : Christy Zuccarini -

What is Etsy?

A good number of you who read this blog might already be sellers on Etsy and many more of you may shop there. But for readers who are not yet familiar with this virtual craft fair/art show, I wanted to write just a bit about the ins and outs of the site.

The short and sweet

Etsy is an online marketplace for all things handmade. Their mission is to enable people to make a living making things, and to reconnect makers with buyers. With approximately 170,000 shops worldwide, Etsy is dizzying and addictive. Items range from traditional to bizarre, with everything in between.

Buying on Etsy

Buyers beware! Etsy contains endless amounts of handmade jewelry, clothing, books, ceramics, toys, furniture, art, housewares, zines, music, bath and beauty products ... the list goes on. Items are typically categorized according to technique and materials used. The best thing to do is visit the main page and go from there. See what catches your eye.

Each seller has his or her own selling preferences but most accept PayPal and/or major credit cards. Shipping is also determined by each individual seller, and it is charged in addition to every item. Most rates are very fair as there are a lot of sellers who cut back on costs by using recycled packaging.

Setting up shop

Setting up shop is relatively easy. Simply visit their main page and click Sell. From there, it’s an intuitive process (just be sure that you choose your shop name wisely, as it cannot be changed). Listing fees are 20 cents per item and Etsy takes a 3.5 percent profit from each sale. You get your own virtual storefront and web address (, a profile page where you can talk about your background and process, selling preferences (I recommend opening a PayPal account if you don’t have one already), and a range of resources at your fingertips.

A couple of tips for new Etsy sellers

Fill out the profile page – tell people who you are.

Take good photos of your work – even if all you have is a point-and-shoot camera, use a simple background, get close and use plenty of light.

Be descriptive – share a bit about how you made the item, what techniques and materials you used, and how long, wide or tall it is (remember that all they’re seeing is a photograph).

List often – newly listed items pop up at the bottom of Etsy’s main page every 15 seconds, so the more often you list, the better the chance that you will be seen.

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And if you take the leap and open a shop, or even if you’re there just to buy, rest assured that you will be part of an encouraging and inspiring community. I’ve met some incredible folks on Etsy from all corners of the world. Some are very experienced crafters who make a living at selling their art. Others are there simply there to nurture their part-time passion for making things.

I should warn you that there is a 99 percent chance that you will become addicted to Etsy, so it’s best to start with a little at a time. Just don’t forget to check out the Storque (the Etsy blog), Alchemy (a place to post requests for custom made items), the Treasury (featured items picked by Etsy sellers and buyers), Shop Local (a listing of local Etsy sellers), Pounce (recently updated shops or shops that just had a sale), the Geolocator (a map-based showing of shops) or the Forums (discussions about setting up shop, promoting, site help, critiques and ideas).

A few of my favorites

Coaster sets made from original record albums at Liquid Vinyl.

Hand tooled leather handbags, wallets and belts from Moxie and Oliver.

Precious metal clay jewelry at Honeybee.

Realistic needle felted versions of pets from KaysK9s – send her a photo of your dog or cat, and she will sculpt a small replica out of raw wool!

I also forgot to mention earlier that there are oodles of supply shops on Etsy - selling everything from knitting needles to beads to handspun yarn. Some of these sellers simply specialize in supplies, whereas others are crafters and artists who just need to get rid of their extras.

That's it for now. If you have additional questions or even a tip to share, feel free to post a comment. In the meantime, head on over to Etsy and see what you can find.

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