etsy love?

[adam mcewen, i was very disappointed, 2004, sold for $9,375, at phillips, de pury &co., march 31, 2008]

on the whole i like to keep this blog cheery and picture filled and light on commentary. not to dumb down the audience in any way, but we're all busy and sometimes a blog is just a lovely break in the day to view beautiful design objects and pretty pictures. but i just can't keep my mouth shut about last night.

i have to tell you that i was very disappointed in yesterday's panel discussion at vcu titled, making meaning and the marketplace. i had high hopes. so high that i showed up 30 minutes early so that i wouldn't get locked out as i have on many an occasion to see lectures at the grace street theater. first of all, the auditorium wasn't even full. i know 5pm is a tough time to get downtown. and i know that people have jobs and families. but i really felt like the crafting community would have come out in full force with etsy in town.

the good news is, if you didn't make it, you didn't miss much. first of all, i thought the panel selection was poor. one panel member had never really been on etsy. another was an artist who uses etsy but didn't have much to say in general. yet another was an actual etsy employee who seemed quite intelligent, but was so busy trying to hook up the virtual web cam lab thingy that he hardly even looked our way. and last, but certainly not least, rob kalin, etsy's founder.

not even sure i know where to start with this cat. don't get my wrong, i LOVE etsy. i love it's layout, the artists who sell there, it's philosophy and the fact that it has created a whole new marketplace for the handmade. but i don't have as many good things to say about it's creator. i found him to be a bit pompous and condescending and on many occasions insulting. he's quite the politician acutally, never really answering a question straight, but always dancing around it with some little antecdote. his ideas are lofty and his product is great, i'll give him that, but he disregards the economy and system that has made him so successful. i won't go on, but maybe one of the other 2 founders should accept these lecture invites in the future.

i guess my biggest complaint is toward vcu. we had a great opportunity here to discuss the handmade market and the place it is carving out in richmond and around the globe. and i thought the panel choices were odd and that a truly groundbreaking discussion opportunity wasted. maybe i'm just bitter they didn't ask a handmade shop owner to be on the panel ;o) i don't know. i just hope we keep talking about it and everyone in this community as well as others supports the local economy. and for all of the vcu art students, keep working and we'll keep selling. happy shopping! k&m


arthur hash said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
arthur hash said...

Warning: the following is an attempt to condense all of my opinions into one comment entry.

Disclaimer: I am sure I missed a few things.

I was the "artist" on the panel and I am sorry you didn't get that much out of the talk.

Let me explain. We were graciously invited to lunch, prior to the lecture by the moderator. During lunch there were MANY topics that came up that we just couldn't get to during the lecture. Yes, I agree, there could have been different choices made with who was to be on the panel (I am always nervous doing those things, When ever someone asked me something I felt like I had a handful of marbles shoved into my mouth) and yes Rob my have been a bit convoluted/overly ambitious on a few of his ideas and yes some of the topic points seemed a little off subject (petroleum, Wall mart etc. etc.).

If some one hasn’t done this yet:

Let me be the first to welcome you to a University lecture.

When I went to the, much anticipated, lecture regarding the newly appointed editor-in-chief of American Craft magazine, I was psyched! Then not so psyched. The lecture seemed to be geared toward Typography/Layout/Identity. Don’t get me wrong, it was kind of interesting but… I was ready for a deep discussion along the lines of “out with the old in with the new” (regarding Crafts in general). I looked around and realized that it was co-sponsored by the Graphic design department. It seemed that half of the people that attended were there because their typography professor made it mandatory. My point is attending a lecture at a university probably means that lecture is going to be geared towards the needs of that university’s students. The sponsors are going to moderate the lectures to fit their student’s needs or what they feel is important. If the lecture was sponsored by VCU and ACC(American Craft Council) it makes sense that the lecture would be about how Etsy affects the VCU Craft/Material Studies Student or a reader/member of American Craft Magazine. It’s not a bad thing it just happened to be how it went. The direction of the lecture could have easily been changed by a few comments from the crowd.

Moving on. I would have loved to talk more about how Etsy has affected me as a maker. It has. Dramatically. But I don’t think that was what the lecture was about. Besides I get tired of myself rattling on about how innovative the combination of technology and crafts has become.

I have to point out there were a whole bunch of makers in the crowd. I saw a huge range of folks from Bob Ebendorf (arguably the grandfather of fine art jewelry in the United States) to Susie Ganch (the head of the Jewelry department at VCU and also a HUGE supporter of the hand made in general), Sonya Clark (the head of the freaking “Crafts” department for pete’s sake), Andrew Glasgow (the acting director of the American Craft Council) even members of the local Richmond Craft Mafia (big ups to you guys, can’t wait for the Spring Bada Bing!!). There were a lot of people there. I kind of wished that more people came and more people ASKED MORE QUESTIONS. We probably could have been there all night.

On another subject – Galleries. It is tuff. I have some iron clad allegiances with galleries. But, as a maker when you get a taste of being able to "do-it-yourself" the question always arises: why should I give 50% to anyone?" I mean, the notion of getting all of the money is kind of nice. I love putting my own packaging together and presenting my art the way I want to present it. Kathy from Quirk brought a good point that Richmond may not be a buyers market right now. I agree. During the 10 years of trying to sell my work I have sold maybe 5 -10 pieces in Richmond through a gallery or shop. Its getting better here but truthfully, I sell a lot better online. Etsy allows me to do that. I personally think that shops and galleries need to do more in the local market and help support local artists. This might mean getting involved with the community and exploring alternative avenues for their artists. Starting a blog….this seems to be about the easiest thing to do. I think Quirk tries to do all of this. They still need a little more, but at least they are trying.

As far as Rob (A.K.A. “the Etsy guy”) is concerned…. A person should be judged by his actions. Rob, in my opinion, could be credited for help sparking a DIY underground craft movement using a pretty simple idea and a website. I mean that is pretty wild. There has got to be a lot of things going through that guy’s head. Maybe those things don’t always come out right. Hey maybe a bit to anti- academia. Whatever. Overall I thought it was great having all of them and I hope they come again. Maybe next time we can get them to stay longer for more questions. Also, remember there are a lot more people working at Etsy that have a voice as well. Not just Rob.

I think that we should thank the American Craft Council (especially Monica Hampton), VCU’s Crafts/Material studies department and Etsy for even doing this. To get all of these artists/crafters, shop owners, and executives talking about these things in one room is AMAZING!!

On that note, If you have questions for me I would love to answer them here on this blog or via email. –

Arthur Hash

openhouse said...

Thanks for your comments, Arthur. So nice to know that not only do people read the blog, but also take the time to write such thoughtful and valid points.

arthur hash said...

no problem. I am excited to come in and check out the store.

Catherine Chandler said...

I swear to god, the east coast is privy to some of the best lectures and most influential people in our community. I'm so jealous. I would give my left arm to sit in the same room as Robert Ebendorf, etc. Well, maybe not because I need that arm to hold things while I hammer, file, solder, etc. but you get my point.

I'm sorry you had a bad experience but Arthur is right about the whole University lecture thing. Especially at this time of year when people are gearing up for Thesis and finals.

I'm also sorry to hear about the founder of Etsy being kind of a putz (sp?). That could explain a few things around how etsy handles themselves, though. Having said that, I know plenty of people personally who could come off as being pompous and snobby just because they are overwhelmed and shy.

Anyway. I agree about Etsy having an influence on makers...if you want to sell on Etsy you have to basically come up with a production line (or a few) that is sale-able. Don't you love that word? Sale-able. I have been lucky in having been able to sell a few of my pieces that were not production, and be commissioned for a few more, but I am now feeling the crunch that is the backlash of the economy, both on Etsy and off. Not only have sales dropped (for more than a few of us), but work in the "real world" is being cut back because of lack of sales.

I would have loved to be at this lecture...even if it was not exactly up to expectations, I am sure there are plenty of things within it to walk away with and learn from.