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Shop Talk: What Can Etsy Do For Me?

I’m been thinking about a new topic to continue our earlier discussions relating to small business, from shop owners to the independent artists trying to promote their work in stores and on the web. (If you’d like to read some of our past discussions on small business topics, click here.) I decided that today, I’d like to talk about Etsy.

Daniel Sroka recently caught my eye by a comment he’d left here on decor8, and I’ve been following his blog ever since. He wrote in with some excellent questions in regards to Etsy, and with so many of you being experienced shop owners there, I hope you’ll chime in to not only help Daniel, but also to assist all the others out there that may have similar questions. Here’s his letter below:

“I am an artist, a photographer, and have been evaluating the different markets for selling art, and how to approach them. On one end of the spectrum you have the traditional gallery-oriented market: art selling for high prices, in small editions, to small groups of people. Because of the price, this is art that needs to be *sold*,
usually in person. On the other end you have sites like Etsy, selling art at prices that are low enough to encourage people to take a chance at buying art online, but high enough that it still has the feel of quality. I don’t think it is a good idea to rely on only one market for your income, so it seems that the best place to be is somewhere in the middle: selling some exclusive work for higher prices, but complementing that with smaller, more inexpensive pieces on Etsy. But I’m curious if anyone has had success selling their work in both of these markets. Do you find that there is a relationship, either good or bad, between them? For example, do your sales on Etsy help market your more expensive work? Or conversely, have you found that being on Etsy makes potential galleries/collectors discount your more expensive work? If you are selling work on both, what percentage of your sales comes from each market?” – Daniel Sroka.

Since this isn’t an area that I have experience in (selling on Etsy), I’m handing this topic over to readers to assist you. Thanks Daniel for writing in!

(screenshot of etsy homepage from 6/29)

Posted by decor8 in etsy, small business on June 29, 2007

Your comments...

  1. Andy Mathis commented
    June 29th, 2007 at 7:20pm

    I believe that is correct.

    Small paintings sell online, and larger, more time consuming and expensive paintings sell better in person, or in a gallery. I’ve sold more paintings on ebay than etsy, however. (But that is due to the way etsy categories are set up, I think)

    I love to paint watercolors. Galleries don’t like watercolors as well as they do oils or acrylics. Even if I varnish and frame them similar to an oil painting. So I can’t compare gallery sales.

    If you look at Karin Jurick’s work, she sells her larger paintings in galleries (Atlanta, Asheville, NC, and San Francisco) while her small paintings fetch a pretty penny on ebay.

    I don’t think ebay has hindered her gallery sales. If anything it has helped her gallery sales. People online are buying her gallery pieces before the gallery even gets them.

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  2. Anonymous commented
    June 29th, 2007 at 7:43pm

    I love this blog!!

    I sell my higher-priced art at the Trunkt Gallery in New York City. I sell my lower-priced prints online on my own website.

    Andy, I saw your Trunkt profile. Very nice!

    Etsy is a bit too overwhelming for me and tends to have a lot of mediocre stuff making it hard to find the real gems.

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  3. Mom Kristi commented
    June 29th, 2007 at 8:48pm

    What do people think about Etsy vs. ebay? I have sold some custom boudoir pillows on ebay very well (decent, but not great price and sold almost everything I listed). I was thinking of trying out Etsy for the rest of my pillows that have been in storage for months, but have been to lazy to list. In all fairness, I did have them in an actual shop in my town on consignment for many of these months and then the shop went under and I got my pillows back. My pillows are also a little more “traditional” or “whimsical”, so I’m not sure this is what does well on Etsy. The modern and casual styles seem to do better from what I see. Also, it seems that maybe you need to build a reputation before many people start buying from you on Etsy. Is this true? It seems so overwhelming when I go there to shop. I usually find things I like not from a search, but from someone’s blog recommendation. At this point I just want to break even, if that on my materials.

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  4. pollyhyper commented
    June 29th, 2007 at 8:56pm

    What about selling prints online and originals in a gallery?

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  5. Nancy aka CircaCeramics commented
    June 29th, 2007 at 10:10pm

    Very briefly, speaking from a 3D medium (ceramics) that incorporates 2D techniques -

    It’s all in having something unique & how you present your work – That helps in how to stand out on Etsy.

    Etsy does appeal to a younger demographic, with the majority of the audience being educated and relatively well rounded – Which is why some of the newer approaches to mediums (either by materials usage or subject matter) tend to do better.

    Also, pairing an Etsy shop with blogging can be a potent means of communicating with your audience more than you can say in your descriptions for your work or your online profile.

    It (Etsy) is just a portal to you after all – How you present yourself matters.

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  6. Angelia commented
    June 29th, 2007 at 10:55pm

    I have been blogging about this lately. A have more experience as an artist and gallery (brick and mortar) owner representing 2D and 3D. A huge issue is physical location. I do shows as well as show my work in a variety of other locations. I am in Southern VA, not a great market for art sales. I offer a lot of functional type art and fine craft to help with sales. It is also important to have several price points in your work. The shows I do regionally help cover the low sales in my gallery. I am now getting ready to try selling online to help offset this location problem. Marketing to different demographics is important.

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  7. Daniel Sroka commented
    June 30th, 2007 at 1:04am

    I wanted to thank Holly for being kind enough to post my question on her blog. And thank you everyone for commenting — I appreciate everyone’s time and feedback.

    Polly said “What about selling prints online and originals in a gallery?”
    I am a fine art photographer, so I do not have originals vs prints. But my plan though is to sell small (5x7ish) prints on Etsy (or Boundless, etc.) to build exposure and an audience. Then, try to leverage off that to sell larger prints through my own site or a gallery.

    Andy and Anon – has Trunkt been working well for you?

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  8. decor8 commented
    June 30th, 2007 at 1:33am

    Of course, Daniel. And one thing I want to add that you MAY want to try with your photos. Make them available on that fine art archival paper as prints vs. as actual photographs. Then, people can either get them on matte paper (etsy) or the real thing (in galleries). Does this make sense??

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  9. Ricki Mountain commented
    June 30th, 2007 at 1:50am

    I believe Etsy is a great tool for any one creative who needs an outlet to sell their work.

    Etsy is really the tree of life for allot of artist who just like to create and share their wares.

    I do know of several artist who make good $$ and are extremely successful on etsy.

    Etsy is easy, efficient, and effect for selling items under $30.00.

    I have currently operate two shops on etsy,

    One is dedicated for artsy schmartzie craft items like small collage, art cards etc?

    The second is an extension of my original paintings and artist website. This shop it is strictly dedicated to selling my limited editions and small format paintings slightly below suggested retail.

    The key thing with any business is you must know your market and how to promote yourself.

    Etsy does just that!
    It allows artist of all levels to promote themselves, and their work. Giving them exposure they otherwise would not have.

    I can tell you…The art business is changing as we speak.

    E-tailers, and the digital age, along with photo shop and large format printers have impacted not only brick and mortar frames stores etc, but the high end gallery market and their established artist pool.

    A large community of on line art galleries, are selling limited editions, embellished gicless, as well as a large majority of established artist are now offering the same on their own websites that they print themselves.

    If that was not enough to impact the high end galleys. Some major OEMS also have hand painted reproduction oils that have been painted in China by studio painters ,they are sent back here, and sell as originals oils .(This is BIG BIZ!!!).
    They look just like the originals and retail for about $399.00 for 50×50 oil on canvas. . Crazy how can high galleries compete?

    High end galleries in all metropolitan areas turn their nose to any artist who represents them selves in any manor stated above,

    Now I do have extensive back up for my comments.

    I have been in the art publishing arena as sales direct and creative director. Working with major publishing companies for the past 15 years. Currently I run an Art Publishing Company based in Florida which sells to the trade only. This is a commercial art business that resells posters and print giclees limited editions to large retailers, galleries, furniture?s store designers etc?

    I also license my own work for alternative for wall d?cor. , table top, textiles etc?

    I also promote my work on sites like e Bay, Art.com Sistinno, Ebsq, Image kind etc, just because I have so many ideas and just like to create.

    For an artist wanting to carve their career path in to either the commercial or high end gallery market.

    These are two totally different paths
    Commercial, High end. Each artist must decide early on if possible which way they want to go.

    There exist today hundreds of established artists that paint for the commercial market under suto names.
    While still maintaining their gallery status and their true identify brand /signature style.
    I personally do not recommend this.

    I believe artist should be allowed to generate, create as many styles has their creativity allows,
    .
    However they do it because it helps generate extra $$$ while waiting to sell that painting for $15000.00.

    So long story short. I have opted for the commercial market, and ETSY

    Appeal to the masess, dine with the classes.
    Appeal to the classes, dine with the masses.?

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  10. Anonymous commented
    June 30th, 2007 at 5:01am

    Daniel –

    Trunkt works well for me. Check out these photographers who are featured:

    http://www.trunkt.org/client.catalog.cfm/subcat/114

    Good luck!

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  11. catbishop commented
    June 30th, 2007 at 4:28pm

    Thanks for all this info, I sell on Etsy and am struggling to market my rather strange artwork. I wish there were online artists reps to handle marketing. Better yet volunteer artists reps…

    Cat

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  12. Ricki Mountain commented
    June 30th, 2007 at 6:59pm

    Ooh i just check out Trunkt Gallery .
    This is a great alernative for those looking to promote ther artwork in a differnet venue.

    I just added my portfolio
    Good lead :}

    I love this Blog !

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  13. Anonymous commented
    June 30th, 2007 at 9:10pm

    I have been try to sell my paintings on etsy for a year…It didn’t work. I think maybe you can sell stuff like small prints, for 5 to 25 dollars, not more expensive artworks.

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  14. mtjoyschool commented
    July 1st, 2007 at 6:05pm

    As an artist who sells both locally in galleries (Philadelphia) and online on Etsy, I see many trends that differentiate the two. Families and professionals with established incomes, often older consumers tend to trust gallery sales. They pay for the status of attending exhibition openings, hob-knobbing and such. Younger consumers have learned that you can buy superb art online for a fraction of the price! I believe that eventually this will lead to a break-down or re-invention of the artist-gallery relationship. More and more artists are venturing into online consignment, where fees can be lower and exposure greater. Since I began selling on Etsy, I have been approached with consignment opportunities, by younger, hipper galleries AND I’ve signed a three-year publishing deal. All of these contacts came through Etsy. I’ve not been offered similar or comparable opportunities as a result of any of my gallery exhibitions.

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  15. Alicia commented
    July 2nd, 2007 at 4:10am

    I have a little experience in both, and feel like they are very different avenues for selling work that have little relationship to eachother. But, if someone did purchase something in a gallery and took the time to research me as an artist and found my photography online, it is very important to me that they feel like they were charged fairly. This means going above and beyond for my gallery items with large photographs or canvas pieces, expertly framed. These are very different than the unmatted photographs you will find in my shop. And, while I love them just the same, it is a very different customer who is buying a single print vs. a large framed gallery piece. And, it is a whole different process buying a finished piece in person, to buying a print that you have to take the time to order, and then get matted and framed yourself.

    As far as being on Etsy, I really feel like it can only help you.While I don’t sell large pieces in my shop, it has definately increased my sales of large photographs on my personal website.
    And, I have had many opportunities come my way that never would have if I didn’t have any Etsy shop, (from a musician who is using my photography for her next album cover, to licensing agents discussing representation). You never know who is browsing your shop!

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  16. Kris Shanks commented
    July 3rd, 2007 at 2:32pm

    I have to echo what other people have said about etsy being a great way to make contacts. I sell small painting and block prints on etsy with reasonable success, and larger paintings through galleries and art fairs. I’ve been approached by two different galleries as a result of being on etsy, it’s a great way to get exposure.

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  17. Daniel Sroka commented
    July 11th, 2007 at 6:13pm

    Thank you again to everyone for your answers and suggestions regarding Etsy. I’ve taken your advice and finally opened my own shop on Etsy: danielsroka.etsy.com

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  18. Lola is Beauty commented
    July 22nd, 2007 at 1:52pm

    I just discovered this discussion and would like to add that as a buyer of art, etsy has allowed me to buy paintings i love, which before would have been out of my price range. But the artists on etsy I’m drawn to are those who have blogs I enjoy, (ashley goldberg(who also sells to galleries), simply photo, black apple) where I can see their visual style and have some kind of rapport with them. I see this as a modern version of actually meeting the artist in a gallery setting – it also makes me far more likely to buy more than one piece. I believe the blog/etsy combination is really important. I have had no luck just randomly browsing etsy – as another person said, there is too much bumpf/stuff I don’t like – to put it politely to sort through. Having said that it’s a great thing, to be able to buy smaller pieces/prints in this way – certainly beats those on a budget buying all their home artwork from Ikea as I saw someone do recently!

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  19. Sharon Sinclair commented
    July 23rd, 2007 at 4:10pm

    I have been reading your comments with interest as we have been creating a new website for fine american artists and craftsman to not only sell there wares but to also post there events, such as fairs and festivals,list all your classes and workshops you teach, this all goes on to our interactive map so people can search for classes, workshops, fairs, festivals and events in their area.talk about themselves through our bio page and post at work photos and films. Our site is also a guide to guilds, co’ops, art centers, art schools, galleries and museums, galleries can also sell from our site. We are in beta and just beginning to sign up artists and craftsman and would love to get some feed back from your viewers, we have a blog called the creative road and would love to hear your comments.Our goal is to help artist be found, not only on the web but aslo in there town. Sharon Sinclair, americacreates.com

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  20. cats as pet commented
    July 15th, 2008 at 11:35am

    I think great post. Nice traffic on this blogs.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

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