The web has become a popular venue for home crafters to offer their wares
By Laura Reeve
Flea markets and craft fairs, the marketplace of crafters and hipsters held in parks and high school parking lots, are now open 24/7. The homemade community has gone viral, and young entrepreneurs are making names for themselves in online marketplaces.
The Internet is now bustling with crafters, zinesters, and artists selling their handmade work online. They are also meeting other like-minded individuals and creating communities of artists and art lovers all through the internet.
Kelly-Anne (www.etsy.com/shop/tinytangerines), 27, a mother of two, started crocheting hats for her own newborn daughter in 2008. Kelly started posting pictures of the hats and headbands she made for her daughter online on “mommy communities,” online communities for women who want to connect with other mothers with similar due dates. Soon she was getting multiple requests to make hats for other women and their babies.
“I started getting requests from my mommy friends to make hats for their little ones, and it was suggested that I open an Etsy shop,” Kelly said. “I had no idea my hats would be so popular. I am so lucky to have found a way to help with the bills, while staying home with my kids and doing something I really love.”
Crafters like Kelly are not limited to one site. Though many of them have set up shop at Etsy.com, an online marketplace and
community, these artists also share their work through social media platforms like Facebook and Tumblr. These websites allow artists to market themselves and build their fan base.
“Tumblr has become a huge thing,” Ramsey Beyer (www.etsy.com/shop/everydaypants), 26, an artist from Philadelphia said. “I started using it for my comics 6 months ago and it has really increased my readership. Things fly around the internet. It’s like word of
mouth through the internet.”
Tumblr, a blogging platform that has been described as “micro-blogging,” allows users to “re-blog” other peoples posts so that content is constantly being shared and circulated through the web. Photos, links, and videos are posted and then reposted, spread to a wider and wider group of people.
“Every time someone re-blogs your work, all of their followers see it, and if one of their follower re-blogs it all of their followers see it,” said Kelly. “Suddenly your work is spreading like wild fire and all you had to do was take a nice picture of it.”
Casey Lee (www.etsy.com/shop/oldmotherfox), 21, a college student sells patches for extra income. Patches are screen printed and designed pieces of cloth sewn on to other articles of clothing such as sweatshirts, t-shirts, bags, and jeans. Lee also utilizes Tumblr to sell more of her work. Though, because of how Tumblr works, she felt like people who follow her blog do most of the promotional work for her. “In all honestly, I haven’t done too much promoting,” she said. “Friends and followers on Tumblr have done most of the promoting for me.”
Though these artists sell their work locally as well, most of them profit more by selling their work online. Beyer is a “zinester,” she makes small independently created and published books on a small scale — usually under 1,000 copies. She sells her work online at her own Etsy store, but she also sells her zines to small Distros, zine distributors that both sell zines in their own online store as well as sending copies to various stores. Beyer will usually sell 5 to 10 copies of her zine to a Distro and it will take them up to a year to sell all the copies. However, on Beyer’s Etsy, she receives 1 to 2 orders on a daily basis.
Despite the possible economic advantages, most of the artists do not support themselves fully on their art. Instead, they focus on the connections that they make with other people and their love of creating.
“’I’ve made so many new friends being an online crafter,” Kelly said. “There is an instant bond that happens when you meet someone in the same line of work as you, but I’ve also made close friends with customers! I would have never met these people if it weren’t for Etsy.”
“I’m fairly new to selling my patches online, but I do feel like there is a community of online sellers,” Lee said. “The community is very supportive and promoting of one another, and I’ve done a lot of trades with other patch makers, zinesters, and crafters.”
Though Beyer said that she does not use Etsy to meet other crafters, she does enjoy using the site to connect with her customers.
“There is something about getting the name of every person that orders your zine in your e-mail inbox,” said Beyer. “A lot of times I’m at a Zine Fest and people are like, ‘I ordered this zine and this zine.’ And I usually always remember them. I like to feel like I have a hand in that transaction very directly, which seems like it doesn’t make sense because it’s through the Internet.”