Artists Increase Exposure With Online Marketplace Etsy

By Cammie Bellamy
Star-News, Wilmington, N.C.

It’s not uncommon for one of Sara Westermark’s rings to end up on a finger in Canada, England or France.

Working out of a Wilmington studio, Westermark sells her jewelry in local and regional galleries. But getting her product onto hands outside of North Carolina means keeping a strong online presence.

In 2007, Westermark discovered Etsy.com.

Etsy is an online marketplace for crafters and artists; everything sold in the site’s million-plus shops to its 40 million users must be handmade, a vintage item or a craft supply.

Creative entrepreneurs in Wilmington are using the site to introduce shoppers outside the Cape Fear to their work, generating a national — and sometimes global — market for local goods.

For some artists, such as John Golden, the exposure that Etsy allows has been career-making.

“I joined them in 2006,” when Etsy was a year old, he said. “I think my membership number was in the low 60,000s….”

“At the time I was a freelance illustrator-slash-animator. I think within a day or so I sold my first piece.”

In eight years, one sale grew to 16,000, today accounting for half of Golden’s income.

Bonus business

For most users, sales are more modest but provide some nice bonus cash.

When Kristy Louden started her Etsy shop — PaperWoodVintage — in 2010, she was pregnant with her third child.

“I had just started working part time, and with all the kids we needed something I could do from home,” she said.

It was inexpensive to get started; Etsy takes 3.5 percent of each sale and charges 20 cents per listing. But Louden’s early days on the site came with a steep learning curve. Working with the site’s algorithms to keep her products visible, perfecting photos to attract buyers, choosing the right price points.

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