Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Etsy Austin: No regretsies

A story I wrote for Austinist last week on Etsy Austin got bumped, so I decided to post it here!

EAST 2009 is now finito, but you can visit these crafty women next weekend after your Thanksgiving coma has worn off. R. is baking corn bread and desserts as we speak for Thanksgiving, and preparation for the latter items was described as such:


In girl language, this can be roughly translated as:

"I am going to bake a pumpkin pie and a pecan pie while you're at the office. I hope you like them!"

Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving all, and enjoy CraftRiot upon your return. Without further ado....Etsy Austin! (Pardon all dated references to EAST):

There are many skills your average crafter possesses. Decoupage. Knitting. Some light carpentry. But if there's one thing every crafter knows how to do, it's hustle, y'all. Case in point?, a ginormous online catalog of handmade creations. Open since 2005, Etsy allows entrepreneurial crafters from all over to set up shop on the interwebs. And in October of 2008, our fair city got its very own street team: Etsy Austin.

This week, a chorus of crafters from Etsy Austin dished with Austinist on their year-old organization: They are Samantha Hlavaty (of Nepenthe's Bathtime), Beth Hempton (of The Snuggle Herd), April Wright (of April Wright Design), Lori Hooks (of Adorn Modern), Renee Rice (of Robo Ruku), and Julia Chambers (of Aberrant Crochet). You can check out these ladies, and their stationary-making/metal-fabricating/hat-stitching compatriots this weekend during the East Austin Studio Tour, at Smith Studios on 1406 Smith Road (stop 60 on the tour map).

Tell us about Etsy Austin. How many artists are involved, and how did this group get started?

When Beth Hempton of The Snuggle Herd moved back to Austin in 2008 after living in Seattle for 11 years, she had only been operating her Etsy shop for a couple of months. But she was looking for ways to learn more about Etsy, and share the experience with others. Because Austin is so artsy and there are so many creative entrepreneurs here, Beth was surprised that it didn't have an Etsy street team already, so she started one with the intent of connecting it to the local craft scene and getting members involved in their Austin community. The response was great! The team "started" last October, so Etsy Austin is just over a year old, already having reached its cap of 150 members.

It appears that Etsy Austin has grown incredibly fast in just a year.

Well, not only have we begun to make a name for ourselves here in Austin (which is really cool and exciting) -- we are more organized, too. These days, we have an executive board and committees to handle various tasks, which has led to us participating in many things as a group like SXSW, KGSR's Blues on the Green, the (now-defunct) Austin Handmade Market, and of course E.A.S.T. We also have an upcoming holiday bazaar, Craft Riot!, on Dec. 5th and 6th at headquarters. It's all been wonderful because, we have so much fun doing events together, inspiring each other and sharing small business advice.

What types of artists do you have in your midst?

Any and every type imaginable! We come from just about every corner of the artistic world: we've got jewelry makers, fashion designers, soap makers, embroiderers, potters, polymer clay creations, drawings, paintings, screen printing, and so on.

In the past few years, Etsy has opened up this whole new world for crafters looking to market their wares. How else is your group using social media to gain exposure for your members?

We have our Etsy Austin website (which is currently being reconstructed), the Etsy Austin blog, Facebook page, Twitter, MySpace, internet forums, etc. Anytime a buyer wants to shop for an Etsy Austin member's creations, they can type in "teametsyaustin" into's search and voila! In addition, most of us Etsy Austinites have independent business sites and blogs.

Besides being cool-looking, handmade clothes / toys / paper / etc. impart their own version of social justice. (I'm thinking of the Handmade Toy Alliance for example, who gets a shout-out on your blog). Why is handmade better for people?

Besides supporting Austin small businesses, artists, and artisans, and that handmade is a much more environmentally-friendly production process, there is just something very organic about the handmade process that is much less sterile and ties us closer to the human community.

Also, the person who is behind that handmade item actually possesses the focus and wish for their items to be enjoyed. That's what handmade is all about! A real person, a real story, a real process from beginning to end, and a real intent of positive impact behind each handmade piece.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This post couldn't end without some visuals, so here are some handmade creations from one of my favorite Etsy Austin sellers, Lucy Blue Studio. Discovered her belt buckles about this time last year, kind of want to buy all these for Christmas presents.


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Krysten Hartenstein said...

Oh my gosh love the belt buckles!