When law school gets really hard, I fantasize about chucking it all and becoming an artist (completely ignoring the fact that I am bad. at. art.), and as somebody who likes handmade products and supporting small businesses, I think this whole discussion is really interesting.
And then there is this paragraph, which made me feel a little guilty:
"Have you heard of Etsy’s custom section, Alchemy? Basically, a customer can name a price for a custom-created item, or ask sellers to give a price at which they’re willing to create the item. Usually, people are requesting something like a custom necklace for $10. A custom necklace for ten dollars. And you know what? They’re getting their custom necklaces made for $10. This is not cool, people."
For our Save-the-Dates, we needed a stamp. I was dissatisfied with all of the internet design companies and I wanted to work with somebody that I could well, work with. Somebody that would notice any typos that I made. Somebody I could talk to directly. And preferably, somebody who was not employing children in an unsafe factory. I was unsure enough about the custom-stamp making process that we thought Etsy was the way to go - and I didn't like any of the custom stamp-makers I found when I did a broad search. So I drafted up an Alchemy request and posted it, with the design, saying we were looking for somebody to make us a stamp. I put in that we would pay up to $20, which was the going rate for a custom stamp of the right dimensions at most companies. I got bids for $18, $20, and $12.
We went with the $12 bidder. We had already made the design (although the artist did re-create the design for us) and although it did occur to me that the bid was low, I checked out the seller's shop and realized that their main business wasn't rubber stamps - they responded to other custom alchemy requests like mine, but were actually a t-shirt business. Additionally, the price she was charging wasn't lower than the going rate on the internet, and we weren't paying for something unique and handcrafted - it was a stamp that she made on a laser engraving machine - but thinking about it now, it probably took at least an hour to communicate with me about the stamp and then to put it together. Am I really comfortable with the fact that, factoring in labor, not only did somebody barely make a profit off of us, we let her underbid the other Alchemy bidders like that? Sure, maybe stamps aren't her gig - they're just something she does on the side to make a little extra cash - but they are somebody else's gig, and she is undercutting them and making it harder for that person to make a living. And lets be real - its not easy for people to make a living as craftspeople anyway. But lets be really real here - most crafters have day jobs or somebody that pays the bills. So why are we responsible for making sure they make a living wage? And if you want to make a living off of your art, aren't you responsible for selling your products in a way that makes you the most money, which may mean discontinuing an etsy shop?
I'm not really sure what the answer is here. But I probably will continue to shop on Etsy, albeit with an eye towards paying a fair price for goods instead of searching for the cheapest deal or asking for too little when I post an alchemy request.