Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Breakup

A little over a year ago, in September, Etsy changed dramatically. They had already been making changes that were unpalatable for many of us by distancing themselves from their handmade origins and allowing manufactured products. In September of 2014, they changed the look, feeling and heart of their site by removing the treasuries (curated collections of products) from their front page. Making treasuries was a creative, collaborative exercise that I enjoyed very much. It was a way to get to know other shop owners from across the world and to actively promote beautiful products. My paintings would sometimes make it onto Etsy's front page and it was always a huge thrill.

The front page change was a shock to many of us as it didn't just affect the look of the site but the entire way that we had interacted with it and each other. I didn't fully understand how emotionally invested I was in Etsy until then. I spent days in tears. My husband would come home from work and find me in front of the computer with tears streaming down my face. "Etsy?" he would ask. Yes, I would nod. It's hard to explain. But the shift was profound and I know many others who were similarly affected.

After the initial shock and the realization that this was a permanent change, many treasury teams disbanded. What was the point of them if hardly anyone was going to see the treasuries they made? Some stores left Etsy and set up shop elsewhere. Others held on, hoping that maybe the new version of Etsy would still hold worth and meaning. I guess I was one of them.

The closest analogy I can think of is the realization that your loved one has changed profoundly and that they may no longer be 'the one'. It's hard to make a complete break. You want to believe that the time and emotion you invested are still worth something. You distance yourself. You separate but you leave a change of clothes and a toothbrush at their place, well because maybe? So my Etsy shop has remained open.

One of the most positive things that happened to me last autumn was being invited to be part of a fabulous group of handmade artists and vintage shop owners called Tributary Goods. They created their own collaborative shop of products outside of Etsy and have provided support to each other as most of us began the process of setting up our own independent e-shops. We get each other. There's a lot of strength and a ton of humour.

If you have read my blog this past year, you will know that I bought my own domain name and opened a Big Cartel shop in January. It was a good first step. While I liked how it looked, in June I moved my shop to Shopify for the increased flexibility it gave me in terms of the design and organization of my website. I am very happy there. I love how my shop looks and I am impressed on an ongoing basis with the customer service that Shopify provides. It's stellar. It also makes me proud to be associated with a growing, innovative Canadian business providing e-commerce opportunities to merchants worldwide.

Last month, Etsy rearranged the categories on their front page. Art is no longer a main category. If I was sticking around because I thought that maybe they still loved me, I guess this made things abundantly clear.  There were no tears this time.

Today is the fourth anniversary of the day I opened my shop on Etsy. While my love for Etsy as a company is not there anymore, I know I learned a lot from them. Most of all, I feel huge gratitude to everyone who has bought art from me online since October of 2011. I'm also thankful for the friends I have made there among fellow shop owners. So many amazingly creative people.

I still have some products in my Etsy shop but I am not renewing them when they expire. I am only listing my new paintings and prints on Shopify now. Slowly but very surely, I am moving towards creative control and independence, and concentrating on positive change. Blue skies and possibilities. Do you know what? It feels really good.

"I feel huge gratitude to everyone who has bought art from me online."

❤  ❤  ❤  ❤  

Update -- I wanted to say thank you to everyone who has read this post--over 500 people at this point! Thanks to all who took the time to comment whether on my blog, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or privately. It's good to know that I am not alone and that we've shared similar emotions about the changes on Etsy and that many of us are on the same journey to find independence, stability and artistic integrity elsewhere. Thanks for your support. A big hug to you all. ~ Kathleen



14 comments:

  1. Perfect analogy... I feel the same way. I love what Etsy & I used to have, and I cling on to that hoping he'll change! Your new shop looks great - clean and crisp. All of your Etsy friends are still cheering you on!

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    1. I had happy tears reading your message! Thank you, Sarah! Without Etsy, we wouldn't have met! xo

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  2. I just do not understand why art is no longer a main category- unless there is a plan to open a site dedicated to art.

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    1. Art is now under 'Home & Living'. I think it's a lack of interest in fine art rather than an intention to open a site dedicated to it but I am completely cynical at this point.

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  3. I broke up with Etsy before you did, and before it made its awful changes. It didn't deserve us anymore, that's what I think, although it did helped us crossing paths with other people.
    You're doing wonderfully in your new place ! I wish you all the success of the world.
    Big hugs my friend oxox

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    1. If you see this, Sonia, I know you're at Big Cartel. Has the experience been a good one for you?

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    2. I think you showed great foresight in leaving when you did, Sonia. Maybe it saved you from some of the pain of their later changes. Your beautiful shop inspired me when I was setting up mine! Big hugs to you too!

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  4. I could not agree with you more and am sorry to say that I'm still in a state of indecision. Thanks for your words - you may have just sealed the deal for me as I still have both my handbag and art shops but they are currently on "vacation". A very long one at that. I'll check out Shopify.
    Wonderful, thoughtful post. Thanks again.

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    1. I'm glad that you found my words helpful, Lori. I have been thinking about writing this post for so long. There is no right or wrong timing in terms of moving from Etsy and some may be happy to still be there. It's been a long process for me but I'm happy to be almost on the other side of it.

      If you do consider Shopify, there is a Paypal promotion that reduces the monthly fee by 20%. That's a real help, especially at the beginning. https://www.shopify.ca/paypal

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    2. Hello Lori, I've read your comment above. Well, I don't think Bigcartel was helpful in any way, it definitely didn't help me growing my customer base. I admire my friend Cathy (see comment below) for moving so smoothly from Etsy to Bigcartel, but she had a much larger fan/customer base than I have/had/will ever have. I also moved from E to B because I hated having no control over my shop look/layout.
      ox

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  5. Hello Kathleen, it is a pleasure to find a moment to visit your delightful blog. I started selling on Etsy when it was a small community of just a few thousand shops but it's changed so much and I now have my own established and more independent shop. Best wishes to you and thanks for sharing your experience, I hope others will be encouraged to find their own way forward.

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    1. Hello Cathy, I'm very touched to find you here. I wish I had been on Etsy at the very beginning. So many have fond memories of the early days. I admire your lovely shop on Big Cartel and how you have built a loyal following of your beautiful art. I'm grateful to have social media as a way of maintaining contact with those who inspire us.

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  6. Kathleen, reading your post was bittersweet. I know that this is the best move for you, but I can’t help but feel a great loss that it’s come to this. As others have indicated, I suspect this is how it’ll be for many other shop owners. And, while we're 'not there' yet, I feel as though it may be where we're going. At least, eventually. Your new shop is absolutely beautiful and I have no doubt you’ll be much happier in the end. Thanks for sharing and inspiring. Angela

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    1. I really appreciate your words, Angela. It was a long process getting to this point but I realized more and more that when I was on Etsy, I was focusing on negative things. Having my own independent shop definitely presents big challenges but it feels positive to concentrate on them. I think it will foster my creativity. One of the things that held me back, in a good way, was our Canadian Collective team. It was a definite highlight of my Etsy experience. xo

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Thanks so much for taking the time to visit my blog and to leave me a comment. I love reading them. -- Kathleen

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