Three Bird Nest was all over the news last week. At least, it was all over the news I pay attention to. If you are not familiar, you must not be a handmaker. Basically, an entrepreneur in California was profiled in Fast Company because of her out of this world Etsy sales. A bunch of handmakers called BS and mayhem ensued. Tara Swiger wrote a great piece on it, as did Abby Glassenberg and IndieUntangled. Here is my take.
Handmade by me in my studio
If you are not in the business of making and selling your wares, it might not strike you as shocking to hear about an Etsy seller who grossed close one million dollars in sales last year. But if you have ever made anything and tried to sell it then you probably said “what the hell?” when you heard about Three Bird Nest. Unless she is charging like three grand a scarf, there are some shenanigans happening here.
My heart went out to all of the knitters and crocheters when this terrible news came out. But, my darlings, I have been feeling your pain for a while. You see, I am a jewelry artist. People have been making money selling their non-handmade jewelry on Etsy for a long time. In fact I used to see these sellers sometimes in the craft store, buying Tori Spelling’s jewelry kits to put together and resell at a generous mark up. One woman was bragging to me about how she couldn’t keep them in her shop. Silly me, spending years honing my craft and hours crafting my pieces. But you go on, lady. I will concentrate on customers who are a little more discerning.
Those gals aren’t even the worst. There are some shops selling jewelry that you can literally buy in gumball machines. Some only cost a dollar. Unfortunately shipping from China will probably quadruple the price but still, handmade jewelry for under $5? How can I compete?
If you buy this gumball jewelry thinking it’s handmade, I feel sorry for you. That was obviously a rhetorical statement since I know none of my super rad readers thinks handmade jewelry can be sustainably made, even in sweatshops, for $1. You guys know what’s up. And I guess technically the Tori Spelling kits are sort of handmade, and if someone is willing to pay $30 for plastic beads, then bless their heart. But Average Jane may not be able to tell hand knit or crochet from machine-made (Unless perhaps, you leave the “Made in China” label attached. According to customers, the million dollar Etsy seller did that). And it’s a lie to pass off machine-made hats as handmade just because you sewed on a button.
I certainly do not condemn Three Bird Nest for being successful in her business. Because what she is doing takes a lot of hustle. But, let’s get on a level playing field. Don’t sell items as handmade that clearly are not. Many customers do not even realize that machine-made items are allowed to be sold on Etsy. To a lot of people, Etsy means handmade. Sorry guys, but that is not necessarily true.
Got an opinion? You know you do, so please share.