It’s an overcast afternoon, but the Pop Up Community Center in downtown Manhattan is buzzing. Spread along a white wooden table, a half-dozen people are ironing plastic bags together to create a fabric made of recycled material. Others are bent over sewing machines, turning the plastic into colorful tote bags, wallets, even pillows. Occasionally they turn for advice to Anda Lewis Corrie, who is leading this workshop on transforming old plastic bags into useful objects.
Just another community service project? Not quite.
Corrie works in marketing for Etsy, an online marketplace where people sell their own handmade crafts. And this workshop is all about sharing the do-it-yourself (DIY) experience–an impulse that Etsy and a number of other companies, large and small, have converted into a sizable business.
Etsy won’t reveal its revenues but expects to turn a profit early next year on what it takes in from a 20 cents-per-item listing fee and the 3.5% commission on goods that merchants sell through the site. In 2007 those merchants sold 1.92 million items worth a total of $26.5 million, according to Etsy. The 2 1/2-year-old startup produces online videos, hosts virtual town halls, and runs workshops with the goal of persuading more folks to teach each other to create and sell crafts on Etsy.
Although the craft craze is well-established, with sales hitting $31 billion in 2007, it’s taking off with a vengeance online. Hubert Burda Media, Germany’s 58-year-old sewing-magazine and pattern giant, relaunched its English-language BurdaStyle Web site in July to share sewing patterns that can be modified to make new designs by the site’s visitors.
Photo by Etsy.
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