The Business of Handmade

Real Handmade vs. Fake Handmade on Etsy.com, part 1

Is Etsy’s reign as the home of handmade at an end?

Last weekend, Etsy featured a seller who buys her wares wholesale from a company overseas and resells them on Etsy. Etsy is known as the home of unique handmade items, but the items Etsy featured are also sold on Overstock.com. What does this mean for the future of Etsy… and “handmade”?

Me, Right After I Read the Etsy Blog

Me, Right After I Read the Etsy Blog

Etsy.com is known as the premier international online marketplace dedicated to selling genuine handmade art, jewelry, apparel, furniture, note cards, and other goods, as well as vintage objects and craft supplies.

But now that reputation is threatened.  And Etsy’s sellers and shoppers are expressing serious doubts about the direction of the company.

Etsy has grown exponentially from humble beginnings, and so has a serious problem.  How can Etsy shoppers distinguish real handmade from fake handmade, and real vintage from fake vintage?  Can shoppers really trust the Etsy “handmade” and “vintage” labels?

Etsy continues to be the selling platform of choice for thousands of gifted, dedicated artisans.  I have seen so many incredibly creative pieces of jewelry, furniture, art… things I never even imagined and would never have found in a nearby store or elsewhere online.  Etsy still has vintage sellers with wonderful vision for rescuing neglected items with beautiful style or cultural significance.

But increasingly, it also has “resellers.”  Resellers are unscrupulous merchants who purposely violate Etsy’s terms of use by selling mass-produced or new goods in the “handmade” and “vintage” sections of the Etsy website.  They buy their goods wholesale and represent them as their own work, or lie about the age and provenance of their items.

The “fake handmade” problem erupted publicly last weekend.  In a stupifying display of… stupidity, Etsy gave a coveted “Featured Seller” spot on its blog to a person who sells furniture she claims to make by hand with the help of a few assistants.

The problem:  the featured seller didn’t make the furniture.  It is made by a company in Indonesia, and is sold through retail outlets around the world. The featured seller is just one of several retailers in North America.  You can also buy the furniture on the popular website Overstock.com.

The company that really makes the furniture is All From Boats.  There’s nothing wrong with what they do per se – in fact, their founder sounds like a fascinating guy.  I’d love to learn more about this company.

The problem is that someone who falsely claimed she makes this furniture by hand was featured on Etsy, when a cursory Google search demonstrates that she does not.  Etsy presented her as a handmade artisan, and people bought the furniture thinking that what they were buying was made by her.  The furniture is real, but the story behind it – the sales pitch – was false.

The ruse was uncovered by the blog Regretsy.com. All the details showing the true nature of the Featured Seller’s business are there.

Etsy still has the Featured Seller on its blog.  You can read the post here, as well as the comments, which start off sparkly unicorns and end with someone getting gored.

To date, Etsy hasn’t issued any kind of apology or meaningful statement.

Many Etsy sellers – and shoppers – fear this silence is a tacit endorsement of reselling – so long as the reseller has goods that have the handmade “look.”  We fear Etsy’s leadership is not committed to real handmade artisans, but rather a marketing concept – a sales pitch.

[this is part 1 of a series; more on this later].

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6 thoughts on “Real Handmade vs. Fake Handmade on Etsy.com, part 1

  1. Pingback: Real Handmade vs. Fake Handmade on Etsy, part 2 « Natural Gorgeous

  2. Pingback: etsy frustrations « ebebee crafts

  3. Pingback: Going Dark: the Etsy Protest | Natural Gorgeous

  4. Pingback: Online Marketplace

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