• BEST IN STATE—Senior Courtney Schoen Lewis was named Best PR Student in Utah. Story

Dear Santa: Something handmade, please

December 14th, 2009 Posted in Business

By Candice Mattson

This year for Christmas, you may want to consider asking Santa for something handmade. If you do, you might find your present among many other similar items in his bag.

Many people are buying and asking for handmade items for the holidays. The movement towards buying handmade items, also known as “craftivism,” was helped along with the founding of buyhandmade.org, a collaboration of sites like Etsy, Craftster and Interweave. Calling themselves “The Handmade Consortium,” the Web site encourages people to buy handmade for the holiday season. The site even has this pledge to sign: “I pledge to buy handmade for myself and my loved ones, and request that others do the same for me.” It has collected close to 50,000 signatures.

One site specializing in such items is Etsy. An online marketplace that touts itself as the place to “buy and sell all things handmade,” Etsy has been steadily growing ever since it was founded in 2005. According to the site, it now “spans the globe” with sellers and buyers representing 150 countries. On Etsy, sellers create online stores to sell their crafted items.

The reason for the handmade movement is explained on the Buy Handmade Web site: “The ascendancy of chain store culture and global manufacturing has left people all dressing, furnishing, and decorating alike. The connection between producer and consumer has been lost. Buying handmade helps them reconnect. We created the pledge as a call to action for consumers to be conscious of how they spend their money this holiday season. We want people, whenever possible, to support independent creators and shop outside the big boxes.”

Some local Cache Valley artisans are getting into the act. Melany Larsen, a 25-year-old mother of one, said her daughter was the inspiration to sell on Etsy. Larsen operates two online stores: one for children’s hair clips and burp cloths, called Jellabee Jr., and another selling such items as headbands and hairclips for adults, called Jellabee.

“I was really excited to open a shop,” Larsen said. “It’s perfect because I can be creative, too.”

Although Larsen said her store started out slow, she has become recognized and successful. To help build her business, she gave away products on some well-known blogs and sold at the local farmer’s market during the summer. Larsen said her store is just for fun, but she likes having an outlet so she has something to do while she stays at home with her daughter.

Rebecca Hansen, a student at Utah State University, said she opened her store about a year-and-a-half ago. As a full-time student without a job, she opened it in hopes of making more money while she was going to school. She started out selling crocheted items and included handmade jewelry, and also has hopes of moving to screen-printing. “Really, anything I can make, I will sell,” she said.

Amy Dunn of Hyde Park started her shop, Art by Amy, about eight months ago as a place to sell her hand-painted shirts and paintings. Although she admits she hasn’t posted very many items on her store, Dunn said a key to having a successful Etsy store is to be able to market your product well. “You can get lost in the shuffle,” she said. With so many art sellers, it’s important to get your store name recognized in many ways, including passing out business cards and word-of-mouth advertising, she said.

Hansen agrees that marketing is an important part of having a successful Etsy store, which is something that requires time and effort.
Posting good photos is key to being successful, added Larsen. She also said its essential to have “cute” packaging that’s attractive for when the buyer receives the product. Buyers always appreciate nice packaging, she said.

But most of all, these sellers agree that buying handmade is important in many ways. “In my opinion, buying handmade and local, if possible, is the best way to combat things like global warming and sweat shops because it doesn’t rely on large manufacturing facilities to create the items. It’s also a great way to truly keep money within our own economy,” Hansen said.

Larsen said that buying handmade is not like buying something mass-produced because it takes more time and effort for the seller to produce it. She said she appreciates what others make because she “puts her heart” into the things she sells.

“I think it’s good, especially for the gift-buying season because of its uniqueness,” she said.

A statement on the Buy Handmade site sounds similar. When you buy something handmade, it says, you’re buying something that took skill and craftsmanship to make that is absent in the world of mass production. “I would prefer something handmade because it is super unique and people spend time, energy and efforts into it. It’s important to support their talent,” she said. Buying from sellers on Etsy is unlike other chain stores, she added, because the makers of the product get paid what it is worth and the sellers can name their price.

Hansen said that while buying handmade can be more expensive, it is also more rewarding. “Too many people have forgotten the value of handmade items,” she said. “There’s nothing like knowing you’re supporting an artisan.”

Let’s just hope Santa won’t forget the value of giving something handmade either. When he comes down the chimney this year, don’t be surprised if he’s carrying a variety of different items. Although, they will probably have one thing in common: being handmade.


Tags: , ,

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.