I had a moment the other day, thinking about how amazing it is that artists and craftspeople have the internet. Etsy is a prime example of how far we've come. I look back and think about how hard it was for us to sell our wares before.
When I was a little girl I baked 3 batches of German sugar cookies, hand painted sheets of wrapping paper, drew holiday cards with menorahs on them and sold them at the Holiday Craft Fair with my friend Lily.
My friend Siko's father sent her boxes and boxes of beautiful beads from South America. We made dozens of earrings and sold them outside the grocery store.
During college I started selling my porcelain dinnerware. I put signs out on major streets leading back to my driveway. I set my dishes out on folding tables in my driveway each weekend and sold a few here and there. A friend gave me a big bag of luxury yarn and I knit up some scarves and hats and sold them around the holidays.
After college, I got serious. I applied to craft shows that had $100 and $150 booth fees. I made a proper professional display, hand sewing lovely dark grey covers for all my tables. I bought lights. I bought a caravan canopy. I was the youngest seller at these shows. Most other folks my age were working in dot com boom. It was 2001.
These craft shows were particularly painful for me. My style was totally different than the other potters at these shows, who had started out in the 70's and 80's. My ceramics were edgy, arty and very technical. The shoppers at the shows were lifers who were looking for drippy, trippy, hippy crafts, and they wanted them cheap.
Someone suggested I buy a digital camera, but all the big craft shows wanted you to submit slides. Digital cameras cost a fortune and the image quality was total crap.
Someone suggested I build a website. I taught myself how to use Dreamweaver. I took my slides to the photo store to be scanned into digital files on a disc. It cost a fortune. I eventually bought a cheap slide scanner.
The website was useful when my friend Danielle registered with me for her wedding dishes. That was about it. Out of the blue, someone in Oregon emailed me with a custom order. Another person contacted me just to say that my work was nice.
I eventually folded because I was terribly lonely. I didn't know any other crafters who wanted to be my friend or could relate to me. I was very isolated working alone in my studio day after day. My big social contact would be ladies in orange kimono jackets that cost more than my rent coming up to my booth and picking up one of my pieces and saying "you want $20 for THIS?"
PRAISE BE to bloggers, to Etsy, to digital cameras and all the new, hip craft shows, the new wave of crafters who are in my generation, and all the support from people who have encouraged me.