Etsy : Is it on the slippery slope from handmade to manufacture? - textile ring – textile ring


There has been been a debate raging ever since Etsy decided to change its policies on what constituted ‘handmade’ late last year. Those policies now allow designers and makers to outsource a substantial amount of what they do to manufacturers.

On the surface, that means that Etsy sellers who are struggling to keep up with demand can use outside help in order to grow their businesses beyond the kitchen table and the spare room. It means they can pass on the time-consuming and fiddly bits of what they do, leaving them with more time to put their efforts into the areas they’re good at and doing what they love doing, giving them the space to breathe and move forward. On the surface, it means designers and makers now have unlimited potential for success.

Those who agree with the change suggest that it’s unfair for Etsy to remain fixed in their outlook and therefore curtail the growth of these businesses. As Julie suggests in this Facebook discussion; “As a small business owner, I try to figure out the best ways to adapt to growth and I think Etsy is just doing the same. Are they really expected to start turning away sellers once they reach a certain level of “success”? “ - embroidered owl – embroidered owl


On the flipside is the argument by some that Etsy, who has championed the handmade movement around the world since its inception in 2005 and has grown its own business by focusing on that key fact, is no longer that champion, but instead has become just another part of the capitalist machine – a dollar-hungry wolf dressed up in hand-spun sheep’s clothing. Many sellers are bitter about the changes, and say that it opens the floodgates for cheap, factory-made goods; they say that Etsy is turning itself into a second eBay.

The problems raised are several; not only is there the potential for Etsy to mislead or misrepresent who and what they are, there is also the problem of visibility for smaller sellers – their product gets swamped in a sea of factory-made. Buyers confronted with too much choice might either not consider the method of production, or if they do, simply get frustrated and click away.

Some sellers consider that Etsy’s change of policy ends up pitting successful sellers against factories. Helen, commenting on this article on says “I don’t buy it. Instead of solving a problem Etsy has had since the beginning – keeping factory made items off their site – they seem to be embracing it under the guise of solving another problem – helping people who have “outgrown” them.” - 3 crochet bottles – 3 crochet bottles


Which brings up yet another issue that Etsy has had from pretty much the get-go – sneaky factories and resellers posing as handmade businesses. This has ALWAYS been an issue, and one that always will be, as long as there are unscrupulous people in the world out for a quick buck. Is the change of policy going to alter that in any way?

I think we need to get a bit up close and personal with the new Etsy Guidelines to find the answers.


Everything on Etsy must be Handmade, Vintage, or a Craft Supply.

Handmade items are designed and created by the shops that sell them. Because transparency matters on Etsy, we ask sellers to list shop members and share information about manufacturers involved in creating their items. Reselling an item you were not involved in creating is not allowed in our handmade category. “

They also expect that you will –

Maintain a Transparent Shop.

People come to Etsy to buy unique goods directly from artists, artisans, and curators. Make sure that your items are allowed to be sold on Etsy and that you are representing yourself, your business, and your items accurately.”

Among the conditions of selling, they expect that sellers will -

  • “Only list items in your shop that are for sale and fall into one of our three categories (handmade, vintage, or craft supplies). 
  • Items must be accurately represented in listings and listing photos. 
  • Respect the intellectual property of others. If you feel someone has violated your copyright, you can report it to Etsy.
  • For sellers of Handmade items:
    • Do not resell items in our Handmade category.
    • Describe every person involved in the making of an item in your shop. 
    • If you work with an outside manufacturer to make items that you have designed, we ask that you share additional information with Etsy and share information about the manufacturers you work with on your shop and listings. We also expect that you choose ethical manufacturing partners.”

That last condition will most obviously exclude goods that might be handmade, but is produced by cheap, foreign and possibly even child-labour.


All of that seems pretty clear to me.


If all the sellers in the Etsy marketplace were ethical and honest, Etsy wouldn’t have a problem. Would they?


Now while we’re about it, I also take issue on the quality of what many of those same, complaining, small-time sellers pass off as “handmade”. Like all the folk with a pair of pliers and a box of beads who call themselves “jewellers”. Did they make those beads? Nuh-uh. Did they make the clasp? No sir-eee. Could they identify the working properties of different metals, and shape, solder and polish them? Hmmmmm….
(more of my thoughts on quality and skill here).

There have also been issues surrounding those who manufacture items with the new technologies – 3D printing is the obvious example. High quality prints are not available to the home-based designer; they have to outsource to companies like Shapeways. The new guidelines recognise and incorporate those technologies. - mira handmade shoes with violin keys – mira handmade shoes with violin keys


There have been some enlightening comments in these discussions. Are all the complaints coming from the small-fry of the Etsy world?

From Dennisse in the Facebook discussion: “I also feel that most people that sell their stuff on Etsy don’t have a business mindset and that means that they limit themselves. They’re creators and designers but for the most part, clueless about the entrepreneur world.”

And this from Dana in the same discussion : “I look at Etsy as a starting place- as you grow and build your brand, it’s time to put on your big girl pants and get your own website. Don’t just hang around forever and overstay your welcome. It’s not that hard to establish your own website, store, and customer base. Why would anyone want to hang around where they have to share the customers that they work so hard to get anyhow?”

But I think Allison hit the nail on the head with this comment : “It’s not a question of should. Etsy is a business, not a service. Though many of us may have once thought we were in some kind of visionary partnership, we were much mistaken. Etsy has consistently changed its terms and its product after it has been purchased by the users. A seller opens a shop, lists items, and expects the payment for listings to provide a consistent shopfront from day to day but this isn’t the reality. Etsy does what it wants, when it wants, for as long as it wants, for whom it wants. Any conversation about what Etsy should do, as if Etsy were a democracy, an online platform of, by, and for the community, is wasted breath.”


No, Etsy is not a democracy, it is a business.
They evolve and change as they grow, just like any business.


Etsy sellers need to take that on board. If they’re not open to change, then maybe they should get out. And perhaps Etsy simply has a marketing problem here. Or an administration problem.

If, as Chad Dickerson (Etsy CEO) says, ” The one-person shop is still the heart of Etsy” (1), then maybe they need to put more resources into monitoring what’s happening under their banner, to ensure that their promise of “handmade” rings true. - marguerite ear studs – marguerite ear studs


Whatever its current problems, it’s still a strong and thriving place. It’s a fabulous intro and business training ground to so many creative people with big ideas and few resources. I for one have learnt massive amounts from the experiences I’ve had and friendships I’ve made (and still have!) over the past five years.


There’s no straight forward answer, but I will stand up and say, I still believe in Etsy. Do you?


Julie X


Surface design : Hey Tangerine {Caitlin Meara}

I love these large scale repeats by Perth-based designer, Caitlin Meara. There’s something about the possibilities of engineering a cut so that it adds meaning to the clothing that makes me just a bit giddy. Yes, I’d like to look like something out of Star Wars. Or possibly a secret midnight garden…


hey tangerine - bougainvillea

hey tangerine – bougainvillea


Currently working in a fabric shop, but with plans to set up a portfolio and do freelance graphic design work in the near future, she says she always loved drawing and designing from a young age. “I was always crafting as a child! My close family and friends are all creative, clever people who always encouraged me. Some of my earliest memories are of my grandma teaching me how to knit and how to use watercolours.”


hey tangerine - bubbles 2

hey tangerine – bubbles 2


It was towards the end of high school that she started experimenting with illustrating tiling patterns by hand – rolling the paper into a cylinder so that she could make the pattern meet up. “I discovered Spoonflower in 2009 and the thrill of my first sale got me hooked. Since then I’ve been producing designs on and off when I get the chance.”


hey tangerine - markers 2

hey tangerine – markers 2


hey tangerine - building blocks 9

hey tangerine – building blocks 9


She uses a variety of techniques to achieve her designs, although most of the designs on Spoonflower are photo manipulations. “I like taking photos of everyday objects and manipulating them in Photoshop into something unrecognisable. I have done quite a few moving an object (a branch, flower…) across the scanner bed as it is scanning, which gives an interesting and unexpected warped effect. I would love to do more illustrative designs but I find it hard to make time for it.”


hey tangerine - cave 2

hey tangerine – cave 2


A self-confessed daydreamer, Caitlin loves going for long walks. “Often something little will inspire me on my way – I just noticed how gorgeous snail trails are, glittering in the sun!” She also confesses to being an “internet-aholic” and finds trying pinpointing only a few artists that she admires incredibly difficult.


hey tangerine - fireworks 4

hey tangerine – fireworks 4


Having someone choose her fabric for their wedding décor was the absolute bees knees. “To think that someone thinks my work is good enough to feature in one of the biggest days of their life, it really spins me out! Just seeing photos of what people have made, no matter what it is, always makes my day.”


hey tangerine - glass 4

hey tangerine – glass 4


Her best piece of advice? It’s this, and comes from ZenHabits – “The Little But Really Useful Guide To Creativity“. Caitlin says she printed it out and stuck it on her wall.

Whenever you’re feeling stuck, I urge you to read it too – it’s fab.


You can find more of Caitlin’s work in her Spoonflower shop, HeyTangerine.


Repeating Patterns in Illustrator Made Easy: The Pattern Making Tool (CS6 & Newer)
Repeating Patterns : tutorial by Sew Heidi

Repeating patterns in Illustrator used to be a very manual process and more than a little bit frustrating. With the introduction of the Pattern Making Tool in CS6 (if you’re in CS5 or earlier, you won’t have access to this feature), patterns became simple to make and included amazing features such as live preview and half drops.

To make a pattern, start with an assortment of motifs that you want to use. Select those motifs with the Selection Tool and choose Object > Pattern > Make.


01_illustratorstuff com_pattern_making_tool


Upon choosing Object > Pattern > Make, 3 things will happen:

A dialog box will appear (unless you have done this before and previously checked “Don’t Show Again”). This dialog essentially says that you have created a new pattern swatch, and that any changes you make to the artwork will be applied to the swatch until you exit Pattern Editing Mode (see #2). Click OK.
You will enter into Pattern Editing Mode (if you are familiar with Isolation Mode, this is similar to that). This means that you are working inside a pattern, making edits to it. You will know you are in this mode because of the info along the top of the document (and all other artwork besides the objects in your pattern will not be visible or editable).
The Pattern Options panel will open (#3). There are some basic features in here we’ll cover shortly.


02_illustratorstuff com_pattern_making_tool


Your pattern will now be shown in repeat, giving you a preview of what it will look like. Depending on settings, you may have fewer or more tiles and they may look dimmed or not. We’ll go over those settings shortly, but for now you should see some sort of repeat.


03_illustratorstuff com_pattern_making_tool


Now let’s review some of the tools and settings in the Pattern Options panel.

Pattern Tile Tool: Click this to manually change the pattern tile size (the single tile of artwork that repeats to create the pattern). You will notice the box around the pattern tile (blue) will change to look like a bounding box which you can manually drag to resize (occasionally the Pattern Tile Tool is buggy and gets stuck, not allowing for resizing – if this happens, you can input measurements in the Width/Height fields in the Pattern Options panel). Once you are done editing the tile size, click the Pattern Tile Tool again or switch to any other tool on the main Illustrator Tool Bar.

04_illustratorstuff com_pattern_making_tool


Tile Type: By default this will be set to Grid (also known as a straight repeat) where the tiles repeat in a grid. Click through these to see how different tile types change your pattern. The most common besides Grid is Brick by Column (also known as a half drop). NOTE: If you choose a Brick by Column or Row, you can choose what the offset is. Default is 1/2, meaning each repeating tile is offset by half.


05_illustratorstuff com_pattern_making_tool


Copies: This controls how many copies of the pattern you will preview. If your repeat is really large, you may want to set this to a smaller number, and if your repeat is really small, a larger number may work best.

Dim Copies to: This is a setting I frequently turn on and off. Dimming copies can be very helpful when manipulating artwork so you can see which motifs are copies and which are the actual editable motifs, but previewing the repeat may be best done with this turned off so you can see the artwork in full opacity.


06_illustratorstuff com_pattern_making_tool


Now that we’ve gone through all the basic settings, play around with your pattern. I’ve added some more motifs (you can use tools and edit artwork inside Pattern Editing Mode just like you would work normally in AI) and adjusted the tile size to create a nice repeat.
NOTE: You cannot use a pattern within a pattern. If you try to create a pattern with an object that has a pattern, you will get a dialog box advising this cannot be done. To get around this, you can add an object with a pattern while inside Pattern Editing Mode, but understand that the pattern will be expanded within the artwork. Complex visual attributes such as pattern brushes and effects will also be expanded if used inside of a pattern. A dialog box warning you about this will appear upon exiting Pattern Editing Mode.


07_illustratorstuff com_pattern_making_tool


Once your pattern looks good (don’t worry you can always go back and edit it), you can exit Pattern Editing Mode one of 4 ways.
Click “Done” in the top left corner of the document
Click the arrow in the top left corner of the document
Double click anywhere except directly on an object (careful not to do this accidentally while you’re editing, or else you’ll have to re-enter Pattern Editing Mode)
Hit Esc on your keyboard

07-1_illustratorstuff com_pattern_making_tool


Upon exiting, you’ll be taken back to your Artboard where your original motifs will look the same as they did before making your pattern, and you’ll notice your swatch has been added to the Swatches panel.

08_illustratorstuff  com_pattern_making_tool


You can now use the swatch like any other swatch within your artwork.


09_illustratorstuff com_pattern_making_tool


If you want to edit the pattern, double click on the swatch thumbnail from the Swatches panel. This will put you back into Pattern Editing Mode where you can make any changes. NOTE: Changes made to this pattern swatch will affect all instances of the swatch in your artwork. If you want to make a new swatch, duplicate it and edit the copy.

Much easier than doing it manually, the Pattern Making Tool released in Adobe Illustrator CS6 will allow you to focus more on making awesome designs and less on fussing over repeats. Enjoy!

Repeating pattern artwork & romper illustration compliments of Illustrator Stuff.



Sew Heidi is a fashion tech evangelista focused on using Illustrator for fashion.  She also is co-founder of Illustrator Stuff, an online marketplace for vector fashion flats, repeating patterns and more.

The crafted object : Nora Leschinski ~ wood carver and illustrator

Nora Leschinski grew up in a remote mountain village in the green forested heart of Germany. It was the perfect starting point for a wood carver, and nature provided its designs for inspiration.


leschiwelt - dandelions

leschiwelt – dandelions


Studying sculpture at art school opened up a whole new vista for her, and there she discovered her love for images and stories told through illustration, using the time to experiment with lots of ideas and many materials. An artist residency in France propelled her further into experimenting with paper sculptures and more graphical work.


leschiwelt - willow

leschiwelt – willow


Often working in small formats, Nora’s sculptures are richly tactile and colourful, her forms are simple and show a lovely play between primitiveness and sophistication. She feels good about working in this size – “It’s the small footprint needed for a closer look. And who it admits, is rewarded: worlds open up … and in the best case, there is the discovery of new ways of looking at things …”

Time and space to think are fundamental to her working process. Collecting all her ideas together, she puts them together in a large paper box which is divided into different areas according to themes. Over time, this has resulted in a “sizeable collection of brainstorms”, which she can constantly access. It’s kind of like a box of chocolates which can be taken out and savoured one at a time, or in combination to create new flavours.


leschiwelt - pomegranate

leschiwelt – pomegranate (and other things)


Also telling is her choice of favourite artist – Rachel Whiteread is best known for making concrete or plaster casts of the interiors of everyday objects – like bookshelves, bottles or even entire houses. Nora is also drawn to the colours and shapes of Expressionist painter Feininger and the simplicity of primitive art.


leschiwelt - blue flower

leschiwelt – blue flower


Now making her home near Bernsdorf, Nora works out of the huge barn next to her house; it’s her place to build and dream and create… “eventually things arise that you have just discovered”. The surrounding spaciousness rests her mind and allows her to”meet the plant and animal world with curiosity”.

Woodcarving has its advantages, and her skills for constructing household objects are useful when the need arises. Like many artists before her, she often fills her own spaces with prototypes – for contemplation, and to spark fresh developments and new directions. Wooden reliefs, lamps, furniture, and more, in many different approaches and materials. Many found objects “become something finished after sufficient cooking time.”


leschiwelt - owl

leschiwelt – owl


leschiwelt - flounder

leschiwelt – flounder


You can find more of Nora’s very fab art in her Etsy shop, leschiwelt, and on her own website, (sorry it’s all in German! – but you can always use Google Translate).


Small Biz : 7 tips for using Pinterest effectively

Visit tractorgirl’s profile on Pinterest.

{my latest pins}


Pinterest is a great business tool! It’s useful for driving traffic (about 1/3 of my blog’s total traffic), for spreading the word about special offers, competitions or important articles, and for raising awareness of anything you consider important. I also use it for finding tips and tricks for my own business, for finding new artists to feature, and for just plain old wonderful inspiration.

Collecting lots of pretty images is fun, but if you do wish to use it effectively for business, there are some strategies you need to think about in order to get the most out of your time there. Because when you’re in business, you don’t have endless amounts of time to waste, do you? To get the most out of it of course you need to have a reasonable number of followers, and you need to pin the most interesting and/or beautiful images so that they get shared and clicked on.

My good friend Dannielle wrote an article recently on how she managed to grow her Pinterest following dramatically (you can find it here). She’s got some fabulous tips! I do suggest if you want to get serious about Pinterest, you must read it.

Now, I’m not strategic about Pinterest all the time, and I am not completely obsessed with it either, although I do pop in fairly consistently – around 4 or 5 times a week, somewhere between 15-30 minutes per session. As I write this, I’m heading up to 6,500 followers, and about 5,000 of those I’ve gained over the past year or so.

So, given that you’re reading this because you want to use Pinterest to grow your business, the first thing to remember is to include your site address in your profile, and write something about your biz in the “About You” section. Done that? OK good; now onto the important stuff.


1. Pin stuff that is relevant – cultivate your “tribe”

The idea is to attract people who are interested in the same things as you… so pin a wide variety of images that are relevant to your particular “thing” – if you’re all about crochet, pin lots of yarn-type crafts, and if your work is geometric with clean lines, then pin lots of slick, clean, geometric shaped stuff.

Feel free to pin pics of your own work, but don’t JUST pin your own work – it’s pretty boring for your followers, and you’ll probably run out of things to pin pretty quick too.

When you do pin stuff from your own site, you firstly need to make sure that your images are BEAUTIFUL and shareable, otherwise they’re not a good use of your time. Depending on what your image is, sometimes it can be useful to have a small watermark with your site address in the corner, so that if the description or link to your image gets changed, then it’s still clear where the image originated from.


2. Give your boards titles that make sense

Please, keep your board titles simple – if you have something ‘inventive’, potential followers are less likely to bother investigating your boards.  If people are interested in surface design, they’re more likely to follow a board called “surface design” than one called something silly like “printsy prince”.


3. Arrange your boards so that the top row/s are your most popular

The core areas of your business should be reflected in the boards you keep at the top of your page, so that when people check out your profile, they can see exactly what you’re about. You can rearrange your boards easily by simply clicking and dragging.

On my Pinterest, it’s obvious that my two favourite loves are pattern and craft – the labels say exactly what’s in them, and these boards are also right at the top. I’ve also got a bunch of other things I’m interested in there too – Workshop Space & Tools, Architecture & Space, and a series of ones for Small Biz – Tips & Tricks, Visual Design & Branding, and Words of Wisdom to Inspire.

I’ve also some got more general interest boards in there, but they’re towards the bottom of the page, and some other ones that I keep secret – stuff for our new house that we’re building, sewing techniques I want to investigate, and my own business vision board. Definitely add your own secret boards – they’re great for pinning things that are not important/core to your business, or even for things that you’re planning to do in the future.


4. Share the good stuff. Often.

Why people follow you is because of what you pin, of course! So it makes sense to only pin the good stuff – don’t just pin everything you see in your feed.  ALWAYS and only choose the best of what you see to repin. Which brings me to my next point.


5. Don’t clog up your feed with rubbish.

If you are using this for business, you want more effect with less effort. So, don’t clog up your own feed with crap!  If you are consistently seeing stuff in your feed that you don’t want, it’s easy enough to go to that board and unfollow it.

Be very choosy about boards and people that you follow – if you follow a person, DO take the time to check their boards. Even if they have great taste in photography or surface design, they might also be fascinated by Justin Bieber, or makeup tips, or a whole bunch of other stuff you’re not interested in. And if you’re not interested, Unfollow that board! Leave more room for the good stuff – less trawling, more pinning.

You can also decide whether to follow a person or not by checking how many pins they have on each board – so if they only have 3 pins on “pattern” and 500 on “cute kitties”, I’d reckon it’s a safe bet they’re not really that into pattern.

You can always find TONS more boards to follow (thereby improving your feed) by clicking on a pin that you like, and then look to see what other boards it’s been pinned to. Check out a few of those boards, and you’re bound to find some interesting ones.


6. Share helpful pins

Helpful pins are always good – you want to help your followers of course!! Tips and tricks are always welcome, and they get shared too.


7. Spend time on Pinterest 

Like anything, the more time you spend on learning about it and doing it, the better you become at it – the key is consistency. And don’t forget that with Social Media, the keyword is social - you need to be actively participating to get useful results.

Commit a certain amount of time to it (e.g. 20 -30 minutes a day), or make it a goal to make a certain number of pins. It’s pretty obvious that the more you do, the more followers you get, the more that can raise awareness of your business and bring customers to you.




There is SO much more to getting Pinterest to work for you!! At the very least though, the tips here will get you up and speeding ahead in no time.

I’d love to hear what your experiences with Pinterest have been!! Have you had any bad experiences? Do you have any issues or don’t know how to do something? Leave me a comment and tell me about it.
{p.s. And hey, leave me your Pinterest links as well!!}
{p.p.s. You can find my Pinterest here.}

Julie :D