Saturday, December 5, 2015

I Can Buy It For Half That, The Big Box Mentality - A Buyers Guide To Handmade

Just in time for Christmas some words on handmade.  Etsy sellers are now up against Chinese factories, other businesses constantly stealing our ideas and sometimes even our photos and descriptions and then undercutting us.  Etsy used to only be for artisans but those days have long since past.  For many of us our Etsy business is our ONLY business and these tactics can really hurt.  

Look at the "about me" profiles and see who you are actually buying from.  You could be supporting a one woman run business like myself or an entire corporate entity overseas.  Think of the little guy toiling away all by themselves paying huge fees to survive and consider paying a few dollars more.  

A subject on the lips of many artisans is the big box mentality that has gripped many buyers.  Often a prospective buyer will pick up a handmade item and say “but it’s so expensive”.  These words are like fingernails on a chalkboard to handmade sellers.  In many cases they aren’t charging enough.  Is the item REALLY expensive or are you comparing it to something you would buy at a big box store? 

Why do prices vary so much and what am I paying for?  There is SO much more to handmade selling then what many realize.  First and foremost you are paying for the supply of the item, then the artists rate for the time they spent making the item, as well as the quality of the item.  More successful sellers can afford to buy in bulk wholesale but this takes hundreds of dollars.  On occasion a seller will come across items for a good price at an estate sale, flea market or other sellers destashing items they no longer want.  This is more the exception than the rule.  For the most part supplies are NOT at deeply discounted prices even at wholesale, unless you are buying super quantities for mass merchandising.  I've seen sterling silver range from $14 to $40 per ounce over the years.

Some sellers are hobbyists or new to selling and if they were to sit down and actually figure out how much they are making they would find that they are actually paying customers to buy their items.  Sellers have fees they must pay both to the site they sell on but also to Paypal, Google etc.  There are shipping costs for postage but also the gift wrap and shipping supplies.  There are advertising fees, photography, models, licensing, business cards, brochures, websites, blogs, gas, tutorials, classes, show fees and so on.  

More successful shops may have many sales in a single day, but many shops may have only a handful or sometimes no sales at all in an entire month!  When you sell handmade you get paid for your item and then have to deduct the cost of your supply, the cost of shipping, your sellers fees, your packaging, sales tax and income tax.  What is left over is your income.  Many shops put much more then 40 hours into making their craft successful but there is no check at the end of the week for all the hours worked.

Big box shops have warped the mentality of many buyers.  All they see is the dollar amount.  Big box shops are run by corporations that use the cheapest supply possible and hire the cheapest workers.  Many items are made by machine or assembly line.  While these workers need these jobs to survive the conditions are deplorable at best.  Your money is essentially going into the pockets of the already filthy rich.  Most of this work is sent to third world countries where restrictions are lax and labor is cheap.  Child labor is very common.  Then the product doesn’t last.  It simply falls apart sometimes in a matter of weeks.  Mass production is polluting our planet.  Huge corporate entities like this continue to ignore our environment causing the continuous deterioration of our air, land and water.  Is it really worth what you saved?

Resellers have also broken into the handmade market claiming their items are handmade.  Look closely at shops.  Is there a bio telling you about the artist?  Do they have a website?  A face book page?  If a shop opens and immediately has a large amount of hard to make items it’s unlikely they are truly handmade.  These items take time!  Don't be afraid to email or message your seller.  Ask them questions if you'd like.

Shops have been known to buy cheaply made items and resell them for higher amounts.  Or handmade items are again made not by an individual artist but by the same type of conditions I listed above. Some sites frequently steal the exact photos (sometimes watermarked even) from artisan listings, the listing description and all and have the products made overseas.  Due to the lax laws artists can only request they cease and desist but they have no real legal obligation to do so in other countries.  
When you buy true handmade you are supporting a person.  Read about them in their bios.  Find out who they are.  What went into making that item?  It was made with their own two hands and if you are buying a quality item it should last.  You might even consider handing it down to a friend or family member.  Really look at the intricacies in the work.  You may not realize the amount of time that goes into making your item.  Buy handmade, it’s good for the soul!


  1. It upsets me that parts of the handmade community is being swamped with sellers like that. For me, it excites me to get one of a kind and unique pieces! If I want mass produced, I'll go to the mall.

    Thank you for including me!

  2. Hurray for handmade! Great points.

  3. Well said and so true! It deserves to be repeated.

  4. Thank you for this. I can not say that enough - as that is the worst thing I hear, and the most common thing I hear, and it makes me, as an artist - as a PERSON - feel worthless, because clearly the hours of hard work I put in are not worth anything compared to machine/mass produced items that no love has been put into.

    There are not enough thank yous in the world for saying what so many of us feel.

  5. Thank you both. Kalla you are more then welcome to share this with perspective buyers. I think unless people are told they have no way of knowing what is involved. I think once people know they will value their item that much more. If they decide they would rather the mass made item well those aren't your customers and that's ok.

  6. Cheers for posting this! I tweeted this entry and hopefully more people will open their eyes and see the value - quality of handmade creations :D

  7. A great post Bellina, and your work is so beautiful!

  8. Aww thanks Megan! That is very kind of you. :)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...