Saturday, February 18, 2012


The never ending quest to find new and interesting outlets and venues for selling my handmade products and art led me to a relatively new player in the e-commerce game, Branded as Etsy’s “poor cousin” in the Etsy forums, I had to check out the Handmade Artists’ Shop and form my own opinion. Of course like most people, I think I was actually motivated more by the negative reviews and seeing what was meant by a “poor cousin” than reading about the friendly and inviting entrepreneurs who created the website.
I followed the link expecting an Etsy clone, but landed on something completely different. How anyone could even think Etsy and Handmade Artists’ Shop are even related is beyond imagination and it befuddles me even more that Etsy closed and locked the thread. We can call it forking off, evolutionary capitalism, motivation through discontent, or one of the other thousands of terms to pigeon hole logical progression, but nonetheless I knew within minutes of visiting this site that there was a good reason for another newcomer in the game.
I generally like Etsy and have had great success with my Etsy shop, but I am always open to explore new or other venues. Simply put, Etsy gets the traffic and the press, so the stakes are set high. This past summer, I discovered Artfire and thought it would be worthwhile to duplicate many of my Etsy listings via the Etsy .cvs file and slowly edit the listings to make certain that there was less than 30% similarity between the two sites. Unlike my Etsy shop, my Artfire shop has been extremely slow with minimal traffic and an average of 2 to 3 sales per month. Artfire also invited resellers and wandered away from their dedication to handmade local artistry. Initially driven by a discontent with Etsy as too big and impersonal, Artfire took a step in a direction that really rocked the boat and sent some small shops packing. The real situation was far more complex. The Artfire experiment and philosophy of providing a forum or outlet for artists to self promote and list was in trouble with the introduction of Google’s new Panda algorithm. With each update successive update in 2011, some Artfire shops received less and less views. There was a view that the Artfire Team was a sleep at the wheel and need to do more to promote the business and attract traffic. I even saw “how can something that looks so fluffy be so mean” posted in the Artfire forums. Of course some Artfire shops benefited greatly from Panda and found themselves surpassing their Etsy sales. I think the Tucson based Artfire team that approached the business with a typical laid back southwestern attitude just woke up from their siesta to realize they would need to play east coast hard ball if they wanted to be a serious Etsy competitor. Don’t misunderstand me or think I’m putting down Artfire. The community is amazing, my sales are increasing, and I have high hopes for the site. Currently the niche for a small company that promotes true handmade artists by encouraging self promotion and independent thinking while actively receiving outside traffic is still open.
After navigating the Handmade Artists’ website and visiting the forums, I saw many of the positive aspects of Artfire with a more dedicated crew. I tried registering with the site and ran into a small issue with the host not accepting my shop name. After writing an email to the tech support, I had an answer within 15 minutes and was registered both on the forum and the shop. If you’re coming from Etsy and expect the whistles and bells that you get from a huge team of coders, you might be disappointed with your Handmade Artists’ shop, but just visiting the forums and reading about the Facebook Ring every Wednesday should tell you that these folks take promoting seriously and aren’t afraid to come up with creative ideas. After listing three items, I received my first sale from their site and several referrals to my Etsy shop. If I had to describe the Handmade Artists site in a forum, I would most likely call it Artfire’s “richer cousin.” I absolutely look forward to blogging about HA in the future and seeing where developers Kimberly and Andrew can take this shop.
Definitely checkout the beginnings of my shop and compare it with and I am really curious about outside input, feedback, and opinions regarding these sites, so don’t hesitate to comment.