Happy New Year! welcome to 2010. I am going to be making some changes this year and i am really looking forward to getting started. First place i am going to clean house? My internet shop presence.
Yesterday i spent the afternoon taking photographs of my valentine art; mostly garlands and love-bugs. Having studied over the years what makes a good presentation i can tell you that objects make a better photo than flat 2-D art. I've thought about this quite a bit since my store on Etsy has died a slow pitiful death, from a few sales a week to next to nothing. This began in august when something changed in how the search functions. In addition to that, it is harder than ever to be seen on Etsy unless you happen to dumb luck onto the front page which has happened to me only once. When there were less sellers, you might be seen on the front page for a second or two in the "recently added" flash but now there are 202008 shops on Etsy making the "luck" factor have odds similar to the lottery.
And then there is the issue of favoritism. I would guess this is the number one complaint in the forums and there are various websites that address this situation. My favorite Etsy discussion website is Etsy Bitch. There is definitely an Etsy "look" and it is a slightly designery de-saturated decorator look; (think domino magazine) with a healthy dash of 20 something hipsterism which favors ironic art like felt mustaches on sticks, knitted cozys for your ipod and cowls. lots and lots of cowls. There is also a very strong cute factor. I studied the shops i liked that were killing in sales and there was a simplicity and cuteness to the shop with a somewhat limited color palette. When i look back at my shop i see that it is very colorful. maybe too colorful to look good in a set like what is on the front page.
There is also another giant problem on etsy, possibly the worst; and that is re-sellers. Resellers are people who have shops selling cheap manufactured goods. Since Etsy is supposed to be about handmade this devalues the site overall and in some ways makes it more difficult to charge a fair price for handmade since the inclusion of manufactured goods tacitly implies parity. This Hello Kitty barrette is a good example: it was tagged under "handmade" in the category of "accessories". The seller might have been within Etsy rules to post it under "supplies", but even that would be a stretch.
Then you have the situation where somebody does make something handmade using Hello Kitty imagery. The problem here is that Hello Kitty is a licensed character and is the property of Sanrio. This is violation of Etsy rules and it is yet another area where the administration of Etsy does not have the will to enforce. It's easy to understand why. Last year the merchants on Etsy made a collective 25.6 million dollars with an average price point of 14.00-16.00 dollars. Etsy made 181 million dollars for 2009. In a desperate attempt to be found on Etsy, sellers tend to renew their listings often (many do this daily) so that their items can be found within the first pages of a search. The search finds the most recent listings for your search terms; so the need to renew frequently is a built in source of revenue. Brilliant! and every renewal is .20 cents. it adds up; and then there are the commissions and the fees for the "showcases".
There is a lot of copying on Etsy. I just searched "keep calm and carry on" and there are 2062 listings of art featuring that slogan, with at least 18 people making virtually the exact same poster. Once somebody gets successful, then you will see lots and lots of clones of that style; and the Etsy look seems to inspire more of the same each day. Big headed infantilized girls with wide eyes holding stuffed animals or big headed wide-eyed girls in gothic settings, plagued by existential sufferings are a big area of copy work. And if you recycle or claim your product is green? your chances of being seen on the front page are exponentially increased.
Whenever anybody says anything negative about Etsy, or asks questions in the forums they tend to be shouted down as haters and are told they are simply jealous. According to Etsy the reason a shop isnt successful is because the seller has failed to: take good pictures; or to tweet or facebook constantly their uploads and to promote, promote, promote.
I dont tweet or facebook my work on etsy because i have already become annoyed at the artists who DO do this; because of that, have chosen to hide their feeds on facebook. I think promotion is good, but some people are doing this multiple times a day. I dont want to turn into an Amway salesman constantly pestering my friends to buy something. And i also dont want to spend my time and energy promoting Etsy; does it make sense to direct my contacts to a site where they can leave my shop and enter a competitive mall of artistic offerings? I know from the gallery system that the mailing list is the most precious asset an art seller can have and im not sending anyone to a place that really doesnt have my interests in mind.
So my shop is slowly dying. I am building a new website for myself with a stand alone store. I have one now with a paypal cart but its not clear how to buy and that is a problem. So i am planning to change my website with a goal of up by March. I was also thinking about moving to Big Cartel; a very elegant site that is like Etsy in format, but is a stand alone store. You do pay a monthly fee there, but it is a fixed price based on the plan you choose. There is even a free store if you only have 5 items. Re-building my website has meant i've blogged less, but i hope to be back posting on a regular basis very soon.
Other big news: I am building an art studio at here at Chickory! It will be a 12x16 room off the deck of the cabin and hopefully (if i can afford it) a loft. I got all my windows and doors for cheap at junkyards and got my flooring at the big lumber lot. That means i will have boards of varying widths which i think will look great. I will post the progress which has been slowed down by freezing cold weather and rain. But next week? I think the basic framing will happen.
Thank you, everyone, for your kind comments on my Christmas at Chickory video. I hope you all have a stellar 2010.