stories from my red thread life

What’s it really like to run a handmade business? Five things makers want you to know

Three years ago this week, as I was preparing for Toronto’s One of a Kind Show, I wrote my most popular article ever: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Craftspeople (but were afraid to ask). I received dozens of emails from artisans I didn’t know, telling me that they felt I had expressed what they wanted to say to their customers. So even though I can only share my own perspective, I hope that this article will also represent my fellow makers. We’re a diverse group, but we share a lot. And this time of year is an intense time for us. As we dive into the winter craft show season, meeting the public and sharing our work, here are a few more things that we’d like you to know: Yasmine Louis hard at work in her silkscreen printing studio in Toronto (shared with permission of the artist) 1. We put a lot of thought and work into designing and making our products. This may seem obvious, but when you ask us “How long does it take you to make one bowl/ dress/ guitar/ bracelet?” the answer (if we answered the way we would like to) might be something [...]

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Do you love Etsy?

People lined up around the block and then filled the atrium of Toronto’s MaRS Centre yesterday. The attraction? Etsy, up close and personal. A clever business card by FlowerPot Designs The paramount online marketplace of handmade and vintage goods has more than 1 million active shops around the world. But while the experience of buying beautiful things online can be fun, even addictive, there’s nothing quite like discovering new treasures with your eyes and your hands. (For sellers too, by the way, even though it’s wonderful to wake up and find you’ve received a batch of new online orders while you were sleeping, there’s nothing like meeting your customers face to face.) So in an attempt to promote its Canadian sellers, on September 27, Etsy Made in Canada presented a series of pop-up craft shows in 23 locations across Canada featuring Etsy sellers in their home cities. At the MaRS Centre I set out with a mission; to discover things that I had never seen before. I squeezed through the crowds searching for things exquisite, quirky, or clever. With 120+ vendors, there was a lot to see. These were the less conventional creations that stood out the most for me: [...]

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Reflecting on a tragedy in Bangladesh: Is it possible to shop with a clear conscience?

On April 24, we all heard about a factory building collapsing in Bangladesh. Dozens of people were declared dead, and it was horrifying to hear about this tragedy unfolding from afar. Photos of the scene showed a garment labelled Joe Fresh, and Canadian consumers suddenly felt they had played a part in this tragic event. Now twelve days later, the death toll tops 600. Terrible grief has come to countless people in Bangladesh, and journalists around the world have grappled with the questions raised – some searching for solutions, others laying blame. Many shoppers have been questioning their role. Major retail players whose clothing was known to have been made in the building, namely Joe Fresh in Canada and Primark in the U.K. (with overlapping corporate ownership), have announced plans to compensate the victims and to change the way they work in Bangladesh. In this they were recently joined by a few other clothing retailers whose garments were also found in the rubble. Would they be doing so if their connection to the building had not been exposed? We have no way of knowing. What next? The scale of this tragedy is enormous – I hope it will turn out [...]

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