Get Crafty

Link: Los Angeles Times: ( the handmade life ).

Interesting article in the LA Times [reg req’d – find here] around the craft movement which kinda supplements what I wrote earlier about Etsy.  The article is useful because it brings out some of the social and psychological drivers underpinning the new craft movement:

Around midnight, Vickey decided to stop for the day. She had sewn a
purse that would be going out in the morning. "I didn’t do craft for
political reasons," she said, stretching, "it just makes me feel good.
And I can make a little bit of money off it. Not much, but some. I feel
like I can actually finish something." So much in life has no endpoint.
So much is uncertain. At least when you make a pillow, you know when
you are done. ….  "I like making one thing for one
person," Vickey said. "After they get it in the mail, they write to me
and tell me that they are happy. That’s the best."

I’ve got some stick lately for using crafts as an example of a new social movement and as a metaphor for the activities of post-modern rebellion from overt consumerism, but I’m sticking to my guns [or barricades or whatever].  The craft movement has always had a rebellious and punk-art element [no surprise that it’s quite feminist] and that aesthetic sensibility and attitude now seems more prevalent amongst crafty folk.  And this aesthetic is finding an audience amongst those looking for one-offs provided with honesty and transparency combined with some of the values of the folk-craft movement such as community. 

There’s a revolution going on it’s one which your mother wouldn’t recognise – a friend was recently asked to knit on stage with chicks on speed! – another example of the ‘cool’ currency of craft and why I think it’s gonna tip.  And Etsy has a model to push it over:, a virtual
marketplace specifically for handmade goods, was launched this summer.
Robert Kalin, its creator, is still in his early 20s and missed out on
the dot-com bomb. He brought together the heads of the two most popular
free crafting forums, Jean Railla of Getcrafty and Leah Kramer of
Craftster (motto: "No Tea Cozies Without Irony"), and brainstormed a
crafters-only alternative to EBay. "It can be fairly difficult to set
up an e-commerce site on your own. Plus, a lot of people had criticisms
about EBay—your stuff gets buried under everyone else’s, or the items
didn’t have the irreverent feel they were looking for," said Kalin. "We
made Etsy because EBay has stopped innovating and keeps raising their
fees. In a market where competition spurs innovation and price
reductions, EBay has had little of one and none of the other." Plus,
searching for items in a text-based format, he said, is so 1999. On
Etsy you can search by color with a color-picker, or by geographic area
with a map.

Kalin, an MIT dropout, thinks in metaphors: EBay
is to Etsy as corporate agribusiness is to organic farming. EBay is
Goliath; Etsy is David. EBay has 8,900 employees and Etsy has four,
therefore EBay has mass, but Etsy has speed. [LA Times]

Etsy’s UI is getting a bit ‘messy’ with some beautiful but largely indulgent navigational tools that allow you to search by for example colour or material.  Good for PR but probably given more weight that it deserves for diving into the products on sale.  Despite losing its simplicity and logical navigation with some feature creep [though still soooo much better than ebay’s] it does not affect the USP which is being bolstered with some kick-arse functionality coming through:

  • A special section where members can make requests to have things made and sellers can put in offers to make them
  • in-site messaging
  • something involving real-time interaction

These developments will really help with creating more touch points for social engagement and ‘negotiation’.  And this matters because the platform is far from being just about economics:  a search for meaning and
satisfaction in work is being complimented by the self-actualising
consumer looking to define themselves through  others, through the
provenance of the product and the values of the wider craft community and the platform needs to facilitate this if it is to succeed.  And I’m convinced it will.