Saturday, April 30, 2011

Etsy - mostly bad and ugly?

Note before reading: I am not discontinuing shopping on Etsy and neither should you. There are so many sellers who really care about what they are making and put their hearts into it. But if you own an Etsy shop, you might want to consider getting your own domain or switching to Big Cartel, where at least they pay attention to your pleas and reports.

I heard about Etsy in 2006, a year after it opened up, and when it was just beginning to get recognition in the independent crafting world. It seemed like such a wonderful place -- the layout was clean, the community was friendly and creative, and even people who were simply buyers could very easily access the site through a quick sign up and their Paypal accounts. It provided access to everything you couldn't get in your hometown -- handmade buttons, yarns from independent dyers, wool from small farmers around the world. You could buy fabric that was screen-printed, or get ahold of a collection that wasn't carried at the local Jo-Ann's. It was basically a big-city access for anyone in the world.

I live in small-town Iowa. This means that while there are a few interesting stores in each town, most goods come from the local Wal*Mart, Walgreens, or grocery store. There is no fabric, yarn, or body goods store in our town (unless you are miraculously not allergic to Bath and Body Works products). Once a year there are fiber festivals, but they seem to be filled with the generic, boring, over dyed purple alpaca styles of wool, spun by old ladies who spin suspicious materials like hair from their Chow or sometimes their own locks. So most of my buying has come from the internet. Etsy seemed like a godsend.

At least, until around this last year, when Etsy seems to have gone downhill fast. Suddenly, the number of people hawking mass-produced items as handmade seems to have increased exponentially. Mineral makeup, leather purses, clothing and many more items are in question whenever I look at them. Do they look handmade? As someone who attended fashion school, I'll tell you, it's not easy to sew through leather, even with a leather needle, on your basement Bernina. Chances are that the fully-lined, leather purse with studs and metal fastenings is not made in someone's home, but instead by a factory worker in China, since most of those purses require at least five different, very expensive machines, to be produced.

Of additional concern to me is the rising appearance of copyright violators. Etsy's copyright policy doesn't protect any sellers or even designers whose copyright is being violated by other sellers. In fact, the policy basically says that if you think something of yours is being violated, you need to take it to an attorney before bothering them about it. And if you don't have a patent, or you can't prove that the seller is using your pattern, you're pretty much screwed unless you decide to take very expensive legal action. Don't you just love how Etsy protects the thieves and liars?

And Etsy's report function, which is supposed to allow self-policing by the community, seems to be useless. The company repeatedly told reporters of the Orglamix scandal that they wouldn't do anything about it unless Cheri was proven to be a reseller -- after countless reports she was finally removed from the system, but only because she had decided not to return seller's conversations or deliver their orders -- not because she's a fraud who claimed to be producing vegan-friendly, organic eyeshadows when she wasn't. It actually seems that the satire site, Regretsy, does more policing of Etsy's Terms of Service than the real site does, often grouping together to report violators. This recent post shows just how little Etsy cares with a quote from Emily, the curator of the offending collection.

If Etsy has 40 people working in support, why aren't they ever doing anything? What are they paying them for? While there are many honest sellers on Etsy making things by hand and putting them out in the world to make a living, there seem to be just as many slipping through the cracks and breaking all the rules.

So what can be done about it? I don't know that anything really can -- if Etsy continues to allow these companies to thrive in the warmth of their mis-managed community, protecting them and not copyright at every turn, it's up to the crafters, sellers, and buyers who purchase handmade goods and are passionate about what they love to manage themselves. It's time for some accountability. I am taking myself personally responsible for my purchases by asking the following questions:

Does the item LOOK handmade? Could you figure out how to make it yourself? If the item is complex or requires a massive amount of craftsmanship, consider the seller's stock. If they have 147 leather handbags in stock that each contain seemingly complex processes, they aren't worried about taking orders in advance, or they have 100k plus sales of said handbags, they are probably a reseller.

Does this item look like something I've seen before? I'm a knitter, so I have a slight advantage when it comes to knitted products. If I've seen a pattern that is similar on Ravelry to what this seller is making, I usually do a quick background check -- are they a Ravelry user? If the pattern is free, I do a quick download and check the copyright information. Now, it is perfectly possible for a knitter who wishes to knit and sell from a copyrighted pattern to get permission -- don't report right away, but it can't hurt to ask a question, right? If the seller refuses to answer or avoids your questions, you have a right to contact the original designer and see if they're aware this seller might be violating their copyright.

Do the claims they're making stand up logically? This was a huge issue in the Orglamix scandal -- Cheri of Orglamix Cosmetics claimed in multiple places that her mineral makeup was organic and contained only vegan ingredients, but was later found to have made false claims in both cases. In order for a company to claim organic status, they must first go through the FDA -- if a company did this, wouldn't they be slamming that label everywhere on their Etsy? It's a very expensive and complex process that requires testing. Testing that doesn't happen if you're just ordering your base minerals from a company and hand mixing in your basement. Claiming to have FDA or Organic certification is illegal -- it is fraud, meaning that most sellers aren't going to do it without documentation to back it up. This should send off a red flag to anyone.

Please, shop responsibly! If you care about handmade goods, trustworthy designers, and give any value to the creativity of the individual, stand up for what you believe in! If you're just in it for the money savings and convenience, maybe you should read someone else's blog.

Additional Reading:
Etsy Privacy Concerns -- Trouble Thinking blog talks about the privacy issues on Etsy
Etsy Call-Out Blog -- A blog dedicated to calling out Etsy issues
Etsy Bitch -- A site calling for Etsy to take action against sellers in violation of laws and TOS
Etsy Resellers Tumblr -- showing resellers in all their glory
SCRAM bot that isn't doing it's job -- Etsy's answer to resellers and violators

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Quick Obsession - Essie Nail Polish

I am thoroughly addicted to Essie nail polishes. I love the cute little bottles and the candy colors, and have built up quite a miniature collection (though nothing compared to some nail bloggers I know!) My current favorite color is Lollipop, and my most recent addition was Little Brown Dress. I look forward to using Little Brown Dress and one of the colors from my J Crew miniature collection, Mink, in a half-moon manicure like I recently saw on the Create Loves blog:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Malabrigo Book Three Giveaway

If any of you knitters out there have had trouble getting your hands on Book Three, the book I worked on for Malabrigo Yarns, here's a chance to grab one! I will be giving away a copy of the book plus a skein of Rasta in Baya Electrica to one lucky Life on the Double Point reader!

To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is leave a comment on the blog. If you want two entries though, you'll need to follow MalabrigoBuzz on Twitter and re-tweet about this giveaway! At the end of May I will draw a winner. I am giving a lot of time on this contest because I know lots of people haven't been reading due to my absence, and might not be checking here a lot.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


I originally was going to call this post 'Re-Evaluations', until I realized, after typing out how that looks about four times, that I don't really care for the way it either sounds, nor looks, and I would rather just evaluate. No reason to re-do it, since each time I seem to evaluate it seems to be about something new anyway. Note: you may have to excuse any floral language in this post, since I've just finished watching An Education, and since it takes place in England in the 1960s, included a lot of lovely british folk talking in pretty accents.

I wanted to set some goals for myself. I do this fairly often, but I haven't made a habit of publicly announcing them in a long time, since I really hate facing up to my own disappointment. However, this year, I picked goals that I really, truly, want to achieve. Maybe they are impossible, I'm not sure. If they are, I'm going to be disappointed anyway, since they're things I mean to set out to do. I guess my thought by placing them here on the blog is that someone else will see them, and perhaps even ask about their progress, and maybe I'll feel pressured to complete them instead of stagnating in front of this computer screen, pinning things to a board of non-completed wish projects. Plus, I'd really like to document them here and it might be fun if a few of you decided to do them with me! (Challenge!)

Purge or Preserve
Goal Date Finished: July 1, 2011
This is probably a fairly easy, one-afternoon goal. I need to go up to my parent's attic (which, while finished, is very cold and uncomfortable right now in April) and pull out all the boxes and containers with my name on them, and go through all of them. And I need to decide what things I would like to keep and which things I would like to purge from my life by sending them away to a garage sale or Goodwill or down to the garbage. This will include all childhood tinker things, old knitting projects that have been banished, papers, drawings, paintings, and such. The main reason I want to do this is because moving is very obnoxious and I really hated having my mom showing up at my house with a box full of unknown junk. I would, perhaps unrealistically, like never to have boxes of unknown junk.

Sketch, Sew, Style
Goal Date Finished: December 2011
I want to completely design three outfits, start to finish, from sketch to final product. Of course, shoes and such are pretty out of my range of abilities, but I think I could maybe manage to design everything else -- skirt, dress, shorts, top, sweater, whatever -- and maybe even make the jewelry to go with it (a good excuse to do some of the DIY's I've been setting aside on pinterest, eh?) I want to post the stages here on the blog. I feel like three outfits is about twelve pieces total, which seems like a lot but when one of the pieces is a simple a-line skirt or a shift dress, it can't be that hard, can it? And I did go to patternmaking classes, after all.

Art Show
Goal Date Finished: February 2012
This is the longest-termed of all my goals and perhaps the most difficult. I want to have an art show. I have been a painter for as long as I can remember, and I swear, I am not a bad one. In fact, I think I have potential to be a very, very good one. I am going back to school for art this fall and the community college's painting professor who is starting me out (eventually I'll be transferring but I have to get back into the swing of things), has told me that he'll let me direct my own curriculum. So my goal is to put together a complete and interesting body of work that can be shown at a gallery. This is huge and daunting for me and I would love your support! I will show paintings as they are finished, and try and document this process as much as possible!

Those are my big 'goals'. What are some of your big goals? Do you keep a 'bucket list'? And how do you know what you want to do?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Space Perfecting Movements

I am working on getting my bedroom exactly the way I want it. Not an easy feat, since the rules are pretty strict: no painting, minimal wall hangings, minimal space, and I have to allow other people access to the art room/studio without having to wander around in an odd way.

I began moving the furniture around yesterday and moved a bunch of my stuff up from the basement, and now have a little sitting nook that is pretty ideally perfect. The weather outside is still cool, but once it warms up and the trees' leaves get larger, the room has a really lovely green glow to it. I liked the idea of using warm neutrals as a base to put color on, and both the curtains and the chairs have a pop of green or yellow to them.

Notes on the furniture: the 'yarn shelf' is just a really simple cubby setup from Target, as is the bookcase. The wheel is, of course, my Kromski Mazurka. The green velvet chair is vintage '50's furniture from my mom's collection (passed down from my grandmother's awesome mod home), and the wicker chair is a Pier 1 purchase, circa 2003-ish. I made the pillow that sits in it using some upholstery fabric from a local store.

Here's a close up of the stash and book nook. The little beige blob in the upper picture is my sister's cat, Leopold.

Cozy Kitten

Oh Thusa, if I could stay in bed with you all day, I would.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Wardrobe Remix - Cozy Cloudy Day

Boots: MIA
Socks: bought in Uruguay
Tights: Anthropologie
Skirt: Gap
Cardigan: J. Crew
Dress: Anthropologie
Belt: J. Crew

There's a forecast of rain this afternoon, and the sky has been gray since early this morning. Unfortunately, being Iowa weather, we're all worried that it's going to start snowing again this weekend, and it has dropped from the near-70's to mid-40's in the last 24 hours.

I decided that I wasn't going to be miserable about the weather and that I would wear something happy and cozy simultaneously. It's a lot of layers but they keep me comfy here in the house and outdoors. And if you don't have to wear a coat, that's a good thing, right?

Destroyer w/ The War on Drugs

On Tuesday night I drove the 4 hours north to see Destroyer at the Minneapolis Cedar Cultural Center. While we were most excited about the headlining band, the other band -- War on Drugs -- was a lot more energized and fun than Destroyer. They didn't even smile.

But the music was good, and Minneapolis is a really interesting city, very culturally diverse. It was quite difficult to navigate our way around, though! I did get to stop in a little yarn/futon combo store called Depth of Field that was right across from the Cultural Center.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Wardrobe Remix - Sunny Side Up

What I'm wearing:
Shoes: Gianni Bini faux-snakeskin pumps in dark brown
Pants: Old Navy Sweetheart jeans in dark wash
Tunic: Forever 21
Cardigan: J. Crew Jackie O Cardigan
Belt: J. Crew patent-leather belt
Pin: vintage, from my grandmother's collection

I am just starting Wardrobe Remix, since on a personal level I don't find my day to day attire that interesting. I think if I was to describe my style I would say that I like fresh lines, interesting fabric textures, and bright color. I love pattern but have a dearth of it in my wardrobe (an issue I am working to remedy once I get everything else paid off... ahem... computer...). But as someone who has recently, almost accidentally, made major forays into styling, I figured somebody might actually care to see what I wear on a regular basis, too!

In case you don't know already, I did styling for Malabrigo Book Three, and will be creative directing and project coordinating, as well as styling, Book Four, which will be photographed sometime in February.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Fresh Start

It has been a really interesting six months for me. I moved from Iowa to Kentucky to Tennessee. I worked three different jobs while simultaneously trying to make friends and get to know a new place, plan a new upcoming book for Malabrigo Yarns, and somehow figure out who I was in the middle of all of it.

It didn't work out so well, and I had to make the retreat back to what was familiar, and comfortable, and easier. I've had to make some difficult decisions -- I will be going back to school this fall to try and finish out a bachelor's degree. I am not living on my own, but in my old bedroom in my parent's house. And yet, I don't feel defeated. I feel fresh. Because a new start, a clean slate, is what I needed. I just needed something fresh.

I haven't been able to start a knitting project larger than a cowl in about six months. At least, not start and finish. I have done a lot of starting and ripping out, and restarting. But today, I am going to start a new project that will come in use this next winter, and won't need to be done until then. Snowbird, by Heidi Kirrmaier, is a pattern I've been wanting to make for a long time. I even handspun yarn for it (Hello Yarn Targhee in 'Parritch', shown above). So this is my fresh start project, and my fresh start post (the blog has a new look too, you'll notice).

I hope you're willing to stick with me as I start over. Thank you all for being so patient and supportive.