When I first discovered the wonderful world of Etsy years ago, I thought it was the best thing ever. To me, it was basically a search engine for all things handmade or handcrafted, with some vintage things thrown into the mix. This wonderful bubble burst when I realized that not everything is truly, independently and lovingly handmade by some caring individual in their home. Sure, you get that on Etsy, but there are also the greedy, lying individuals (I didn’t even bother to disguise my distaste here, did I?) who masquerade as independent crafters of handmade goodness, “working” in collaboration with factories overseas to create a multitude of products to sell for the masses, labeled as “handmade.”
So, nowadays, when I browse Etsy in search of something for my home, for a gift, or for myself, I try to investigate and determine whether or not what I am considering purchasing is truly, independently handmade or not. Although Etsy’s new policy cites that sellers will have to disclose whether or not they’ve partnered up with a manufacturer in 2014, which will hopefully make this process a lot more transparent, you may be wondering how to do that now – seeing as how there’s still a month and a half to go until that happens.
Here are a few ways you can determine the independent credibility of a seller:
Check the opening date of the shop, and compare this to the number of sales that have occurred since that date. Let’s say, for example, a clothing shop on Etsy opened up about a year ago from the date you’re now browsing their items for sale; if they’ve got about 400 sales or some ridiculous number like that since then, they’re most likely using a manufacturer and not using their own hands and personal time to handcraft these items.
Look at how many duplicate listings they have. Generally, the more duplicate listings of the exact same items, the more likely it is that they weren’t lovingly handmade. A truly independent seller, particularly if they care about the quality of their piece, would not necessarily have time to create several copies of one particular style of item, even if it is their full-time job. In some cases, they’re getting help from partners, friends, or family, but sometimes, you have to compare and scrutinize the amount of listings to the amount of transactions to determine this for yourself.
Determine where the items are coming from. Listings of items for sale will typically disclose where the item ships from. This is not to say that if something is from China, you automatically must rule them out, as this is unfair to sellers who may actually be honest, independent workers, but if you consider the item’s location of creation along with the shop’s opening and the amount of listings, it should be pretty easy to determine if the item is truly handcrafted by an independent seller.
These aren’t hard or fast rules, but merely tips on what one ought to look out for if they’re interested in purchasing an item they can feel good about. If you have any doubts or concerns, contact the seller and ask.
If you’re interested in reading more about Etsy and their changes in policy, try these articles:
- Etsy’s Sweeping New Policy Allows Manufacturing Partners (racked.com)
- Why Etsy’s Brave New Economy Is Crumbling (dailydot.com)
- Etsy Decides “Handmade” Has Flexible Meaning, Eases Restriction On Factory-Produced Items (consumerist.com)