Has it really been 6 WHOLE MONTHS SINCE I LAST POSTED???
I knew it had been a while, and it has been plaguing me but I really was in denial as to the exact amount of time I’ve been ignoring my blog. Blech. Can I do a New Year’s Resolution a bit early?
Well beloved readers, let me catch you up. I turned 40, we spent two months caring for a very dear elderly friend of ours through the end of his life which was totally bittersweet, I celebrated my 25th anniversary of togetherness with my sweetie, taught a lot of classes at Whatcom Community College, decided to seek a bit of outside employment during the school year, found a job that I think will be a great fit, did quite a lot of things with farming and food preservation, had a wonderful Barter Faire, hosted a variety of outstanding events at our farm including Cascadia Rainingman and Friends N Stuff Festival, took our truck in for a tuneup and wound up spending/going into debt to replace the engine at over $5K and counting….my husband replaced our roof in August only to encounter a ridiculously unseweek in history during which we had WATERFALLS in our house, during cleanup of said waterfall damage we remodeled our kitchen and removed a wall to install a pantry at the same time that we began a bedroom addition for our daughter. So yeah. It’s been like that.
Did you notice that there was a decided lack of yarn in that list?
I am working on yarn of course, but just not as much as I’d like. The thing is, last September my Etsy sales dropped for the first time ever. I know that there are bound to be low sales here or there, but my sales had been steadily increasing over the previous 5 years and had become fairly predictable. September 2013 “should” have had well over $2K in gross sales but I was shocked to find a drop to $400. Seriously. $400. My fall sales did pick up but ultimately were still lower than expected. I spent a lot of time trying to ascertain why this might have occurred-after years of building this business I really felt comfortable with the system I’d created and although I wasn’t getting rich, I’ve been able to do what I love and make a living at it. So I sorta panicked when sales ground to a halt. After quite a lot of time spent researching sales and other data, I came to the conclusion that it was primarily an internal Etsy issue.
Etsy is a website for people to sell handmade, supplies, or vintage goods. This is the basic premise of the site, and it is the very thing which drives buyers to the website. When I joined Etsy in 2008, it was still fairly small. There were maybe a half dozen other “serious” yarn makers (i.e. those with a whole shop full rather than a few skeins) and when I mentioned Etsy most people hadn’t heard of the site yet. Of course this changed over time-more people flocked to Etsy and I helped many friends set up their own shop. I became so good at Etsy I began teaching “Etsy 101” courses at a local community college.
I taught my last Etsy course in September 2013 and three things happened to prompt this. First, I had begun to notice a real “get rich quick” demographic in my classes. There were people who didn’t even craft but were taking the course with the idea of making easy money! Aside from being rather insulting to artists and crafters, this was an indication that Etsy was becoming somewhat of a gold rush. During my last course, I asked participants to name the last 6 items they’d purchased as gifts for themselves or others, and where they had purchased them. They read the lists aloud, and not one gift was purchased through Etsy or even a craft fair or market. I asked the participants if any of them had ever made a purchase on Etsy and only 1 person out of a full class of 20+ raised a hand! Upon further inquiry, this person had made 1 or 2 purchases but rarely shopped on Etsy as it was “too expensive.” I think many latecomers to Etsy imagined this demographic of urban, upper middle class people with lots of disposable income who were totally into handmade goods, the would-be patrons of the cottage industry crafter or artist. That demographic was small enough to begin with (how many of those people do you personally know?), and was probably exhausted before most people even heard of Etsy. I kept hearing these figures on the amazing number of folks who were flocking to Etsy, but on closer inspection the majority of them were opening shops and not acting as buyers. It would work fine if we all did both, but sadly that isn’t the case.
The second issue was my drop in sales. I felt that if I couldn’t understand why my sales had dropped, I was no longer in a position to teach others about running their own Etsy shop.
The remaining factor was related to my sales decrease but it was also an issue of ethics. In August 2013, Etsy made a significant change to their policies. Instead of exclusively handmade, makers are now allowed to design and outsource the production of their goods. What does this mean? I can design a silkscreened t-shirt and have the making of it outsourced. To China if I want. Actually, I can open an Etsy shop featuring handmade shirts and I can even hire someone to do the designing for me. I can have the entire production occur on another continent, and I can hire someone to do all of the shipping for me. I can operate a handmade t-shirt business on Etsy and not ever touch a single shirt.
Although this isn’t exactly in line with the spirit of the policy changes, it isn’t exactly prohibited either. And this changes things in a big way at Etsy. A search for “t-shirt” brings up nearly a half million listings! Suddenly I’m hearing feedback like “I used to shop on Etsy, but it is so big I just can’t find what I want.” My yarn shop gets buried in with hobbyist spinners who’ve only been spinning for 6 months but are ready to make a profit–instead of sixteen hundred listings, searching “handspun yarn” brings nearly 16,000 listings. And now, brick and mortar yarn shops often have an Etsy shop as well offering supplies and handspun yarn imported from around the globe.
So….I stopped teaching Etsy courses. I still maintain a full shop on Etsy but am branching out, which means that I have a few more wholesale accounts and I am doing more events. Because I missed teaching after we closed the Finney School and because I need to depend less on Etsy, I took a part time teaching job. I like these changes, but I am a bit disappointed. I wish that Etsy had found a way to remain truer to roots because their changes affected a lot of people in a really big way.
I love yarn, and I love fiber, and I love so many of the people I’ve met because of Yarnarchy. I am excited to keep growing my business and doing what I enjoy for a living.
I have many upcoming events, please visit me!
October 18th and 19th Fiber Fusion in Monroe, WA
Oct 25th and 26th, Fiber Camp at the Yarnarchy Studio
November 8th and 9th Knit Fit in Seattle, WA
November 28th-30th Celebration of Craftswomen in San Francisco CA
December 6th and 7th Urban Craft Uprising in Seattle, WA
December 13th and 14th Crafty Wonderland in Portland, OR
PS-here are some photos of my kitchen improvements (cabinets and a kitchen queen to match my 1930s theme), food preservation, and of some yummy new yarn!
Food preservation including gluten free zucchini bread (30 loaves!), 5+ gallons of applesauce, 4 cases of pepper jelly, pickled Chioggia beets with triple sec and rosemary or pickled red beets with gin and lavender, 3 cases of heirloom tomatoes, and much much more! Did I mention that I made 5 gallons of sauerkraut with the intention of canning some…but Robert, Violet, and I ate the ENTIRE batch in under 4 weeks?
And yarn!!! See dozens of new listings at www.yarnarchy.etsy.com