The Impact of the Economic Downturn on Crafters
Limited Edition Art Print – Puddle Jumper by Robert David Bretz (Girard, PA)
When Tara reported that Nikki Leigh, a fellow Etsy bath & body seller, was closing her shop’s doors, I wondered what had happened. Her shop was full of bright, colorful, professionally photographed and well-packaged products, which clearly must have required a large investment of time and money. Were the struggles with the current economic downturn taking its toll on yet another small business? Nikki’s story prompted me to further explore the impact of the economy on the world of handmade craft.
For Nikki, a choice between the cost of housing and business insurance, coupled with the time commitment of a new full time job, finally pressed Nikki to choose quality family life over her business. This seems a reasonable solution, but in better economic times, would Nikki have continued without the full-time job in order to bring her dreams of a successful beauty business to fruition? There’s no question that many of us in the crafting world are carefully weighing our options. There are some, like myself, who struggle with a full-time job and a small business on the side so that we might have the economic security of a regular paycheck while we grow our business. Others may take on additional sacrifices while nurturing their crafting business through economic hard-times.
As reported by Hello Craft, Avalon Sewing Co. is another Etsian with a story to tell as a result of economic hard times. Her story is available for download, and many other stories like hers echo across the blogosphere. Each situation is unique, but there are ample voices in the media and the crafting blogosphere offering tips, guidance, and narratives about the experiences of crafters everywhere.
Donna Marie of, Beauty Business Network, is a veritable bastion of support to bath and body businesses, offering advice on streamlining one’s business to maximize profits, and ceaselessly providing positive affirmation and tips for success. She’s reported many times on the news that, broadly speaking, bath and beauty businesses continue to shine, often called “the Lipstick Effect”, despite the conditions of the economy. For other crafters, Etsy’s blog, The Storque, has featured facets of the economic impact on crafters in a number of different ways, including a thoughtful piece for making the most of your money and time. Of course, I’d be remiss not to mention Handmade Marketing, a blog chock full of tips to revitalize your on-line presence via better photography, marketing strategies, and free technology to help you get there. In fact, a recent post questions sellers about whether the economy is really to blame at all if sales are down.
By encouraging sellers to take the time to examine their customer base and to “determine your market’s barrier to buy,” Handmade Marketing provides real food for the crafter’s thoughts (and ultimately, maybe a little extra in the wallet).
That said, far be it from this crowd to get down and discouraged by some economic blips. As we artisans-of-all-trades look around and see our fellow crafters struggle, we appear to rally even more, taking part in local activities, such as Art Beat, a community art-making event currently in planning by the Philly Handmade team, and organizing new indie craft fairs on the cheap. Indie Fixx has started a great project called “Feed Your Soul” in which artists donate a print that is totally free and available for download so that everyone can have the ability to obtain artworks without having to pay for it. Artists get to promote their work and still contribute the greater good and art-lovers everywhere. A sense of community in the art world has only grown since things got tougher, and emphasis on cheap art, such as Philly’s Art for the Cash Poor event, abound.
So, seek out your local etsy team, artist collective, or on-line support networks, such as Handmade in America and Handmade in PA! Continue to share your experiences and strategies with other crafters, such as Crafting Green World’s post on the impact of the economy on local craft fairs, and be open to exploring new ways to market your products, even if it means creating your own labels and engaging in more free social marketing strategies. As for me….well, I’m still countin’ on that Lipstick Effect. *wink*
*This blog post was written by Sarah Powell, medical anthropologist, herbalist, and proprietor of Lilith’s Apothecary, a natural bath, body, and herbal tea business. She is a wife and mother of two and a half year old daughter, Maeve, and lives in Philadelphia, where she is a proud member of Handmade in PA and Handmade Philly. She also blogs at lilithsapothecary.wordpress.com.