Anticipating "Hello Etsy"

Readers, I am bummed that this post comes days before “Hello Etsy”- the global conference on Sustainability and Small Business coordinated by Etsy Berlin.  I have been following the development of this conference since the initial announcement last year and am extremely excited!  

In the beginning, details were shared as they came out and the only way to learn about the event was to sign up for their updates by email (which I did, even though I knew I could not fly to Berlin for the conference).   You can imagine my happiness upon learning that Etsy was going to host it on a global scale with live streaming online and events in their offices, such as here in Brooklyn. You can get all the details from my fellow blogger, and {NewNew}er, Simone’s posting last Friday.

Now, why the excitement? Well because some of the topics are exactly what I think the “crafting” and “handmade business” community need pay attention to. Often conferences and seminars are structured for individuals just getting their business off the ground or interested in maneuvering through social media and online sales.  I am by no means complaining about that; that information is just as vital. But equally as important to a new business is creating a sustainable platform that will help develop and grow it over time, not just with the need of the owner, but of the clients, community, and global market.

Sustainable business is not just something for large corporations, nor should it ever be "trendy" or "to do"; it is for every business-large, small, old and new. It requires focus and strategy. 

As a matter of fact, it is a common (and not quite truthful) misconception that “crafting” and “handmade business” people are a bunch of older stay-at-home moms or individuals who want extra cash or the flexibility to stay at home with their children. While many do want that flexibility, the reality is that there are a lot of people (of all ages and backgrounds) who are artists and talented individuals who want to make a difference and contentment in their daily lives. Many are tired of the status quo, the way big business operates and are looking to not just be unique, but to really change the way we think of our environment and our consumer behavior.

I mean, honestly, if you have to work for a living, you might as well work on something you love and are passionate about, right? I think so. This sentiment is part of a sustainable business core. It is a piece of the fire that lights you up and it blazes a path, sometimes that you had no idea was opened for wandering.

I know that personally, my business would not be anything without my environmental concern. For example, I don’t wrap my products in plastic. A lot of vendors wrap their items, especially specialty, dainty and/or extremely detailed pieces that they don’t want ruined.  Knowing that I don’t even know how to recycle those plastic wraps, I can not assume that my customer will know how to recycle them (if they are even recyclable). Which is why I’ve chosen to completely nix them from my wrapping. I use paper items, recycled paper, especially Kraft brown bags and ribbon that I usually cut off from fancy shopping bags- all things that can be reused. 

I am aware that I could probably find recycled plastic wrappings or compostable even, but at this point I don't have the additional funds to afford that expense, so I'm doing what I can do that is the least hurtful to the environment. I don't expect everyone to think this way, although I do believe that a lot of artists out there are thinking in this same way (I have quite a few that I'll be interviewing in the coming months). If they weren't, Etsy would not be hosting a sustainability conference! 

However we do still have a long ways to go. As small business owners, we don't always have the means to be considerate or to go about creating a strong sustainable core. It can be costly and so we often look for ways to cut costs, save money, and still deliver a high quality product. Sometimes those things can be and are at odds of each other.  

If I hadn’t had “sustainable business” in my mind from the beginning, I might not know how to address the desire to have a business that is sustainable from the core. Which is why I’m glad to see Etsy delve into this topic.

A Wood III by Machiko Agano currently on display at the Japan Society, NYC. " still expresses the artist's former preoccupation with the effects of reflected light, but also makes a direct comment on environmental pressures..."

Last night, I attended a viewing of the exhibit, "Fiber Futures: Japan's Textile Pioneers" (it runs through Sunday, December 18th) at the Japan Society. As I walked through the exhibit, I got caught in this small room with multiple hanging items as you see in the photo above. At that moment, this posting clicked in my mind more than before. The artist, who was on hand and explained her hand process to me, wants the visitor and viewer to reflect on perception of space and environment. When we see ourselves, we also see the green of nature-we have always been intertwined, but it is more of a reality now than most people think.

The future is greener and brighter and with more resources available to crafters, handmakers, artists, and Etsians, it will only become more so. My next posting will highlight tips and comments from the seminar, but especially the sessions dealing with more “sustainable” and “eco” topics such as: “Greening Your Office for Beginners” with Kate Houstoun and Jared Lucas and “Panel: The Challenges of Sustainable Design in a Local Ecosystem” with Laetitia Wolff, Emily Abruzzo, Erika Doering and Victor Lytinenko.

If you are not able to attend, I highly recommend and encourage you to watch as much as you can via live streaming.