An online marketplace purveying gorgeous handcrafted and vintage wares from all around the world, Etsy is a great place to shop for gifts, fashion accessories and homewares that are truly one-of-a-kind. Launched in 2005, over the last decade the website has gone from strength to strength, and now serves as a unique and vibrant forum for artisans worldwide, eager to share their creations with an ever-expanding global market.
For artists and crafters around the world, Etsy serves a valuable function. The stereotype of the struggling artist is not far from the truth, and even today many talented creative folk find it difficult to make ends meet. Although many derive income from sales at local markets, shop commissions and by giving the odd class here and there, it can still be tough to transform one's passion and talent into a viable form of income. Compounding this, many artisans live in remote rural locations where commercial opportunities are even further reduced. As an online marketplace, Etsy provides a valuable service by connecting such crafters to hundreds of thousands of potential customers, all around the world.
Image courtesy of jean-louis zimmermann/ Wikimedia Commons
For discerning shoppers seeking an alternative to the mass-produced products which we see everywhere, Etsy provides a one-of-a-kind opportunity to access beautiful handcrafted wares from the comfort of their own home. Over the last decade online shopping has become a formidable competitor against traditional shop-based vendors, and while most products available online are still mass-produced, Etsy enables people world-wide to purchase unique wares directly from the person who made them, thus enabling them to make a living doing what they love. It's a win-win situation for all involved.
The vendors who are represented on Etsy are many and varied, ranging from illustrators, painters, potters, ceramic artists and sculptors to designers specialising in quirky vintage fashion, handcrafted jewellery, stationary items, handmade cosmetics, retro-inspired homewares and much, much more. It's also possible to purchase craft supplies from the site, with the large number of vendors making prices extremely competitive.
Image courtesy of Clemco87/ Wikimedia Commons
One of the things I love about Etsy is the mind-boggling range of items available. While many of these are exquisitely elegant there are others that cute, quirky and offbeat. For example, where else can you buy Unicorn Fart lip balms, handcrafted musical instruments or cool custom-made pet furnishings, all in the one place?
As with all kinds of shopping experiences, prices vary dramatically on Etsy, depending on the artist and the specific item for sale. While you can easily pick up a simple bookmark or jewellery item for less than ten dollars, other works can be priced at much more. However, due to the huge number of artisans selling on Etsy, if you do a search for exactly what you're after you're sure to find something that's suitable for your budget. I always find the range of jewellery designs and accessories to be particularly good so if you're looking for a special one-of-a-kind item to dress up a basic outfit, this is the place to shop. I also love the beautiful handcrafted cards you can purchase here, and many of them are miniature works of art that the recipient will be sure to treasure forever: great for a wedding, anniversary, baby shower or special birthday celebration.
Shopping with Etsy is generally very straightforward, with almost all sellers accepting payment with Paypal or by credit card. If you're concerned about a seller's honesty, always check the feedback left by previous purchasers on the shop's page. Also, feel free to contact the seller to discuss payment or any other issues you may have, before you let go of your money. Although the vast majority of sellers on Etsy are completely reputable, as with any kind of online shopping, it pays to be careful.
In conclusion, if you enjoy shopping at places that offer something just a little bit different, then you'll be sure to love Etsy. As an online marketplace that represents gifted crafters from all around the world, if you can't find what you're looking for here, you may have to make it yourself.