The term "craft fair" used to be synonymous with church gymnasiums filled with bubbling pots of chili and blue-haired ladies selling doilies, crocheted doll clothing, and shrink-a-dink lapel pins. Thanks to Etsy.com, however, those days are over. The grannies never saw it coming.
Etsy, the web's premier crafter market, allows individual artists to sell their wares to the world — all you need is an internet connection and a dream.
The Music Farm celebrates the website with a special Lowcountry Artist Market featuring more than 20 local Etsy sellers and their goods. The vendors are diverse. Mollie Chen's Muy in Mollie is a collection of original jewelry made from freshwater pearls, Piper Blue by Tessa Fuller features nature-inspired jewelry and gifts, and Stacey Bradley's Perla Anne line offers hand-printed linocut art.
Music Farm General Manager Kristen Gastaldo cooked up the idea last year when she was planning her wedding. "The event came about after buying a variety of customized items from Etsy.com, many of those items coming from Charleston stores represented on the site," Gastaldo says. Pleased with her purchases, she decided to give local designers a venue for some live and in-person exposure.
Karen Young runs Lula Boutique, which sells vintage-inspired handmade jewelry. She got started on the site three and a half years ago. Gastaldo discovered Young's jewels while working on her nuptials and subsequently asked Young to be a part of the Artist Market. "I'm hoping I can meet other artists and find other boutiques to sell in locally," Young says. Currently, she ships worldwide and has pieces in boutiques as far away as Australia. "I'm at the post office a lot," she laughs.
The site works like this: Etsy makes a profit by charging sellers fees to list and sell items on the site. For each post, the seller is charged 20 cents. That allows the item to be viewed online for four months. If the item is purchased, Etsy takes a 3.5 percent transaction fee. Young says those terms are both reasonable and affordable. "I could never buy the kind of exposure the site gives you," she says.
Twin sisters Cheryl and Sherie LaPrade, who run Merrymint Designs, concur. "We absolutely adore having a shop on Etsy and likely wouldn't be where we are in our business today without it." The duo began their invitation design business in 2008 when their brother and future sister-in-law asked them to create invites for their wedding. Baby shower orders and additional wedding invitation requests quickly followed. Eventually, through encouragement from friends, the sisters decided to open a business of their own.
"We ran across Etsy about the same time we decided to pursue Merrymint Designs as an actual business and not a hobby," says Cheryl. While sales are great, the sisters are eager to use the Artist Market as a way to connect with a more local audience. "It will be a great opportunity to just talk with people about our designs and share some of our passion for what we do and how much we love being able to create designs that our customers love and are passionate about."
While Etsy takes a cut of each seller's sales, Gastaldo says all Artist Market vendors will keep any and all money they make from selling their goods. "I've charged the vendors $30 for the space, which includes a 6-foot table, but we are not keeping any percentage of their sales," she says.
Even the City Paper's getting in on the craze. The gals at Stinge Vintage describe themselves as "a couple of ladies in South Carolina that want you to get your vintage fix at an affordable price." Editorial Assistant Susan Cohen and Arts & Scene Editor Erica Jackson will display their finds, from '80s snakeskin heels to designer duds.
Like Jackson and Cohen, many people start Etsy accounts as a side project, something to dabble in when the work day is done. That's how Corinne Citrolo started A Fresh Stitch, her brand that sells children's items. "I'm a stay-at-home mom, and I bought a sewing machine to try to make things for my daughter," she says. It didn't take her long to realize sewing was more than a hobby. Citrolo loved making whimsical kids' play clothes in bold patterns and primary colors, so she decided to start selling them on Etsy. "I've been pretty lucky," she says. Today she sells internationally on the site and also sells at Poe's in West Ashley. The Artist Market will be a chance to share her tiny duds with locals. "I love meeting people and talking about what I do," she says.
The Artist Market opens at 10:30 a.m. and goes until 5 p.m. We can't promise any chili, but we can promise a large variety of some of the coolest crafts, clothing, and tchotchkes this side of the interweb.