I’ve been mulling this over for a few days now. Etsy recently changed their definition of “handmade”, and while I understand how hard it is to nail down just what handmade means, I don’t find myself agreeing with their definition.
I watched their entire town hall meeting (painfully, on a dial-up speed connection), and while I LOVE their standards for a SMALL business, I don’t find the use of mass production appropriate for a HANDMADE business.
I understand that at some point, in order to grow, you can only crochet so many hats with your own two hands, and you HAVE to hire out to continue. But when someone else is making your hats for you, it becomes a small business, not a handmade one.
At least to me.
Because when I buy “handmade” I want to know that the actual artist created the product. Not someone just following a pattern and churning out hat after hat designed by someone else.
Now, it gets tricky… because to be truly handmade does the crochet hat artist also need to spin the yarn, and dye and process the wool? How much actually has to be done by hand?
And what about graphic artists who send their work out to be printed? Is that handmade? What about photography?
It all gets very confusing and complicated, and I can easily see why Etsy went the route that they did… defining handmade is impossible, and if they say that the artist has to create the product with their own hands, then where does that leave those who realistically can’t make prints of their artwork at home, or a jeweler who uses pre-made components to make their jewelry?
It is really damn tough, and despite my dislike of Etsy’s new “handmade” definition, I can’t fault them for going the route that they have.
And I can’t fault a handmade business for expanding and hiring help. I applaud them for doing so well, especially if they can create jobs and improve the lives of others in the process.
But at some point, at least in my mind, it stops being handmade and becomes a small business. Which I also LOVE and support, don’t get me wrong (I’ve had a few myself), but using the label “handmade” on it at that point just feels wrong to me.
I still feel like their are some grey areas in my head about what I consider handmade–and maybe everyone needs to determine for themselves what “handmade” means to them. I think Etsy’s new policies will help–transparency required on the About pages should let you know pretty quickly whether something was made by an individual, team, or in a factory of some sort. It’s up to the shopper to decide if a seller’s production practices are up to snuff.
So will I stop shopping on Etsy? No. I love and support handmade AND small businesses. I may not agree with Etsy’s definition of “handmade” but I think that with the production transparency that is going to be required, I’ll actually be able to determine more easily than I currently can, which shops I want to spend my money in.
Though I do feel like Etsy should change their tagline to “small business marketplace”, instead of “handmade marketplace”.