What’s in a Name? Etsy = Artsy, Craftsy

Popular online site gets physical with an Oct. 5 show
Some signs at the Sept. 28 Artisans Market, promoting the Oct. 5 Etsy show.

Some signs at the Sept. 28 Artisan Market, promoting the Oct. 5 Etsy show.

Kate Kehoe has lots of energy, creative and otherwise. You get a sense of that if you visit her booth at the Sunday Artisan Market, where she sells notebooks made out of vintage album covers and video boxes, LPs formed into bowls, a variety of cards and pins – all made by her, by hand.

It’s the Etsy way.

She’s also funneling a good bit of energy into organizing the Oct. 5 Etsy show, where about 30 vendors – mostly from the Ann Arbor area – will be selling their wares in this second annual event, held in the Ann Arbor Farmers Market area in Kerrytown.

If you’re asking, “What the heck is Etsy?” well, you’re forgiven for not having hipster cred. Read on.

Etsy is an online market for all things handmade. Launched three years ago and growing in popularity, it’s a way for crafty DIY types to market and sell their products online without investing in their own website. A lot of items are made from vintage or repurposed materials – like the record-cover notebooks that Kehoe sells.

Just as important, though, is the social aspect of the site – forums where users can share tips, get advice, find supplies or grouse, all with like-minded compatriots.

“It’s really a very strong community,” Kehoe says.

You can search by category or geographic area, and there’s an eclectic range of items with an Ann Arbor connection. Here are some of the things you’ll find online:

  • KaRe Package Baby Clothing, with images of eggplants, carrots, pumpkins, hearts and more on baby Ts and onesies made from organic cotton.
  • Porcelain dog and cat pins, sold by “Popogirl.”
  • Prints of an original painting by John Tebeau, of a bottle and mug of Arbor Brewing Co.’s Brasserie Blonde beer. (Tebeau did the label designs for the bottles.)
  • Hand-dyed boiled wool hats by Scottys Ellys Fleece.
  • Clothing, jewelry and other items from a collective of artists called SAAMAA.
  • Pins of Ypsilanti-related objects and images – like manhole covers and cemetery etchings – sold by Maproom Systems.
Kate Kehoe

Kate Kehoe

Some people who use Etsy, like Kehoe, are regulars at the Sunday Artisan Market, too. But for many who’ll be selling next Sunday at the Etsy aisle – they’ll be set up along the covered section nearest to Kerrytown Market & Shops – it’s their first show. There’ll be photography, leather handbags, fiber art, jewelry, clothing and more.

Kehoe first got permission for the show from the Public Market Advisory Commission, then used the Etsy network to get the word out about the event. Exhibitors are paying $25 each for their space, she says, which covers market fees plus promotional costs.

In some ways, it might actually be an easier introduction to Etsy to check out their Oct. 5 show in person, rather than tackling the website. Rob Walker, writing in the December 2007 New York Times Magazine, described the Etsy experience this way:

LP bowls are among the many items that Kate Kehoe makes and sells on Etsy.com and at the Artisan Market.

LP bowls are among the many items that Kate Kehoe makes and sells on Etsy.com and at the Artisan Market.

“Browsing Etsy is both exhilarating and exhausting. There is enough here to mount an astonishing museum exhibition. There is also plenty of junk. Most of all there is a dizzying amount of stuff, and it is similarly difficult to figure out how to characterize what it all represents: an art movement, a craft phenomenon or shopping trend. Whatever this is, it’s not something that Etsy created but rather something that it is trying to make bigger, more visible and more accessible – partly by mixing high-minded ideas about consumer responsibility with the unsentimental notion of the profit motive.”

Bottom line for many Etsy-ites? They’re having a blast following their inner artist – and if they make some money at it, so much the better.

And as for the name, well, its meaning remains a mystery. “They won’t tell us,” Kehoe says.

Etsy @ The Market: Sunday, Oct. 5 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the Artisan Market, 315 Detroit St., next to Kerrytown Market & Shops.

Section: Business

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  1. September 30, 2008 at 8:52 am | permalink

    wonderful article!

  2. September 30, 2008 at 9:59 am | permalink

    I met Kate 3 years ago through Etsy. From the beggining I was very impressed at her photographic skills, which capture the every day with humor, sadness, and greater beauty than the object itself has. And since then, I look forward to my visits to Michigan so I can spend some time with a great photo budy.

  3. By TiLT
    September 30, 2008 at 1:18 pm | permalink

    Great article. We Etsians love it when people come to see us…and to have so many together at once will be a really great show.

  4. October 1, 2008 at 8:01 am | permalink

    Etsy is an incredible community. I am part of a West Michigan etsy team, and we do something similar to this in Grand Rapids. I wish my fellow etsians the best at their show this weekend and hope that “etsy” becomes a word in everyone’s vocabulary.

  5. By Amy
    October 1, 2008 at 3:35 pm | permalink

    As someone who also sells and shops on etsy, I’m so glad to read this article! Unfortunately, I’ll miss the show, but hope to catch it (and maybe even participate) next time!
    Amy (http://thebline.etsy.com)

  6. October 1, 2008 at 4:20 pm | permalink

    Thank you so much for posting about this. I likely never would have known about it otherwise. :)

  7. October 1, 2008 at 6:44 pm | permalink

    Great article! See you there!

  8. October 3, 2008 at 9:31 am | permalink

    Way to go! This article and your Ann Arbor show is a perfect way to spread the fun of shopping and selling on Etsy. We hope to have a show in Indiana this year with members of our InCrowd Street Team.

  9. October 3, 2008 at 11:40 am | permalink

    Super article. I am looking forward to this show!

  10. October 3, 2008 at 7:40 pm | permalink

    I’ll be there with many a handmade item in tow! I hope we have a great turnout. Thanks again to Kate for all of her hard work in organizing this exciting market day!

    Karen @ http://www.thejunebride.etsy.com

  11. October 4, 2008 at 1:45 pm | permalink

    I would LOVE to come check this out! I had no idea it was going on until I got a notice about it from another seller on Etsy! Unfortunately, I’ve been sick this week & am not up to going out tomorrow! Darn! Hope to make it to the next one though! Everyone needs to come check out Etsy & all the great hand crafted items! Stop buying that imported Chinese CRAP & start supporting American artists & crafters! Remember us on Etsy for all your Holiday gifts this year!

  12. October 4, 2008 at 1:47 pm | permalink

    By the way, I’m at http://www.ArtOnTheAvenue.etsy.com

  13. October 9, 2008 at 1:54 pm | permalink


    thank you for referring to my etsy page, but i’m afraid i have absolutely no connection whatsoever with the aa artisan fair being discussed in this article, and so am rather confused as to why i would be mentioned here at all.

  14. By Mary Morgan
    October 9, 2008 at 2:13 pm | permalink

    Yes, the article was primarily about the Etsy show at the Artisan Market, but I also wanted to give people an idea of what folks were selling on Etsy in general. There were others listed in that section who weren’t involved in the show – I tried to distinguish that by the intro “Here are some of the things you’ll find online:” Sorry that wasn’t sufficiently clear…

  15. October 9, 2008 at 3:04 pm | permalink

    as you began by saying that there were 30 vendors attending, i think most readers would completely ignore that one clarifying sentence, and just assume (logically) that you’re profiling a sampling of the same, *especially* since you’ve not given the URL for my store or any of the others you mentioned.

  16. By Dave Askins
    October 9, 2008 at 3:40 pm | permalink

    Dear Maproom Systems:

    In the future, when you are confronted with a similar situation where you think there’s an unclarity in the Chronicle that you believe accrues to your personal detriment or to the detriment of Chronicle readers, here’s an alternative to consider:

    “While I’m not going to be at the Ann Arbor event described in this article, as I think readers might conclude, my wares can be found here: [insert link]“

  17. October 9, 2008 at 4:46 pm | permalink

    I’m not interested in spamming your site, or selling anything.

    I’d just wanted to make that one clarification about the involvement of the artists/shops you listed with the actual artisan market, and I’ve already done so.

    thanks for your time.

  18. October 10, 2008 at 8:53 am | permalink