Etsy.com, an online community devoted to buying and selling crafts, now has over 15 million members and $63 million in sales each month. Etsy is not only financially successful, but many of its members celebrate their identities as “Etsians,” members of a creative community with a distinctive ethos. While there are many factors that contribute to Etsy’s ethos, one of them involves the way that Etsy features certain sellers/stores as models for the community as a whole.
Combining a content analysis of 237 Featured Seller interviews on Etsy.com (2005-2010) and member-check interviews, our study demonstrates how Featured Sellers embed creativity stories in their interviews as a means to share community-specific creativity skills and dispositions with other “Etsians.” Specifically, we found that Etsy’s Featured Sellers are:
- Semi- or fully professional crafter-artists, with degrees and professional skills, in contrast to traditional stereotypes of craft as amateurish and hobbyist.
- Engaged in an activity of identity and role definition which navigates and defines the relations and tensions between art(ist) and craft(er) as key roles in the Etsy community
“I feel a bit silly and embarrassed calling myself an artist. I would be proud, though, to be considered a craftsperson… It seems the word craft has taken a beating somewhere along the line, but to me, it conjures up the honorable and noble idea of taking the time and care to craft a beautiful decorative or useful item.” [Female; Feb. 5, 2010]
- Embody a view of Etsy as e-commerce tool, virtual community, and inspirational resource.
“I believe my art and craft skills have improved greatly alongside my business skills, as Etsy has allowed me to create and sell my work on a regular basis. Painting full time is continuing to improve my craft, and feedback from the Etsy community helps me hone my skills.
[Female 5; Member Check]
For more information, please check out our full paper From Organizational to Community Creativity : Paragon Leadership & Creativity Stories at Etsy that we will be presenting at ACM CSCW2013 (Feb 26, Session: Collaboration in Creative Communities) and the Cultural Research in Technology (CRIT) Group at Indiana University website.