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Online store gateway to craft production



"The future could be one of thriving cottage industries and skilled artisans lovingly producing custom-made wares. Etsy apple jacket

An "apple jacket," by jacquelineknits, is just one of the handmade items you can find on Etsy. Click to view previous image 1 of 2 Click to view next image

That's the vision of Etsy, a U.S.-based Web site that describes itself as "an online crafts fair." But unlike your local Sunday-morning market, Etsy's crafts fair has some 200,000 stall holders, who have this year sold just under $50 million-worth of their homemade goods.

The site was conceived and launched in 2005 by Rob Kalin, a carpenter, among other things, who was looking for somewhere to sell his work online. At the time, the only real outlet was eBay, but Kalin was looking for something different, something that would provide a place for small-time artisans to sell their creations.

But according to Etsy, the site is more than simply a good business opportunity. "One of our goals is to change the way the economy works. It's become normal for people to buy online and the spread of the online buying culture means it has become very democratic. If you have a computer and camera and you like to make things, you can make and sell anything you want. I consider it liberating for people," an Etsy spokesman told CNN.

If the site's popularity is anything to go buy, it's a model that's proved tremendously successful. But the reason for that success is that Etsy has tapped into a growing pool of crafters and a demand for handmade goods.

In the U.S. especially, there has recently been a resurgence in the popularity of handmade goods. The idea has even emerged of crafting as a form of political activism -- the term "Craftivism" has been coined to describe the idea of 'making your own' as a statement against runaway consumerism and the homogeneity of mass production. A survey carried out by Etsy earlier this year revealed the average age of its crafter/sellers to be 35 -- a far cry from the stereotypical image of grandma knitting a scarf in her rocking chair.

Tapping into that zeitgeist, Etsy has tried to create a crafting community by hosting online crafting workshops and offering advice on how to turn a hobby into a business. The site encourages interaction between crafters, but crucially, it enables interaction between buyers and sellers." (