*A week after this post Etsy changed its definition of handmade. I wrote a second post about the new policies which you can find here.

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**After I wrote the post about Etsy’s new policies, Etsy got in touch with me & that led to lớn a podcast interview with Etsy which you can find here.

It takes me two or three hours lớn make a stuffed animal. The process involves me cutting và marking the fabric, pinning và sewing the pieces together, turning the toy right side out, and then stuffing it và adding eyes and details.

Given how long it takes I find it difficult khổng lồ put a price on the finished toy. A price that would fairly compensate me would be so high that very few people would likely pay for it. It’s difficult lớn build aprofitable business selling handmade stuffed animals.

If you love lớn kiến thiết toys, but you also want khổng lồ have a successful business, you need to lớn come up with some solutions. I sell patterns, like many of you vì chưng. But another option is to lớn hire help. With someone, or a fewpeople, khổng lồ help you cut và mark, pin và sew, stuff & detail the toys you can fill bigger orders. You can sell wholesale và you might be able to turn a profit, but it will still be difficult because you have lớn pay your employees before you pay yourself.

If you send the design khổng lồ an overseas factory and have sầu the toys manufactured where labor costs are low, you can increase your margin. I’ve spoken with several plush makers who have sầu pursued this route with success. And look at Ugly Dolls, right?

When I imagined the factories that manufacture plush toys I envisioned lots và lots of machines. These would be machines that could somehow do all the work of making a stuffed animal. Even though when I make a toy I have sầu to lớn carefully cut và sew each part by hvà, I assumed that in a Chinese factorythere was some kind of machine that could bởi all of that. How? Well, I never really got that far.

My assumption was blown lớn pieces the other day when my frikết thúc và fellow plush maker, Laura Stantz, shared this đoạn phim with me.

Here we see a Neopet plush toy, Flotsam, being manufactured at the Dong Guan Gain Charm Toys., Ltd. in DongGuan City, Trung Quốc. The Flotsam was made as a prize in McDonald’s Happy Meals a few years ago. I know the đoạn Clip is 14 minutes long, but watch it. I think you’ll find it fascinating. When Laura showed it lớn me she said, “It was so intriguing to lớn me how similar their workflow is to my own. You know, minusthe metal detectors and the 4,000 workers.”

She couldn’t be more right.

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At 4 min. 5 secs. I think you’ll begin khổng lồ see what I mean. This woman is sewing a toy EXACTLY how I sew toys. Look at her tweezers. She is making that toy by hvà. At 5 min. 34 secs. you’ll see the toys being turned right side out. That man is turning the toy right side out exactly how I turn toys. By hand. At 6 min. 50 sec. the toy is stuffed just like how I stuff toys. In fact, I need that tool!

But it was at 7 min. trăng tròn sec. that I really began to rethink my assumptions. This woman is ladder stitching Flotsam closed by hand. Just like me.

Because, of course, it’s impossible for a machine khổng lồ make a stuffed animal like this one. It’s got gussets. It’s tiny. It has to be handmade.

Me và Laura and these factory workers are all doing the same thing. It’s so striking!

If we use Etsy as a meter for what counts as handmade in our current culture, though, Flotsam not included. In fact, for a long time Etsy required sellers make each và every thành công in their shops themselves. More recently, in an effort to hang onlớn creative businesses that needed lớn expvà & hire employees in order khổng lồ meet demvà, they changed the policy.

Etsy’s expanded definition of handmade now includes “hand-assembled.” The policy states: “Handmade items must be created by the seller operating the Etsy siêu thị (or a member of that shop). Selling commercial or mass-produced items on Etsy’s handmade categories is not permitted.” So the stuffed animal can be made by a member of my siêu thị, but it can’t be mass-produced. If I have sầu four employees sewing for me, my toys are handmade. If I hire 4,000 factory workers, though, they aren’t, even if the process is exactly the same.


The same day last week that I watched the đoạn Clip I also read this post by Kevin Morris on the DailyDot entitled, “Why Etsy’s Brave sầu New Economy is Crumbling.” The article focuses on Etsy resellers, a topicthat’s been discussed at length many times in many places. About Etsy’s new definition of handmade Morris says, “According lớn Etsy’s rules, that might look lượt thích this: one artist screen prints fabric, then another artist sews clothing from the fabric. The finished sản phẩm is listed in a collective Etsy siêu thị. With Dickerson’s changes a store can also now outsource its designs to a machine cutter, which makes a larger collective sound more và more like an assembly line, with each ‘member’ simply being one step in the assembly process.”

Neopet Flotsam on the left. My Shark on the right.

But I’d lượt thích to point out that what “handmade” means is complicated. I would arue that the woman who sews & turns và stuffs Flotsam is making that toy by hand, just lượt thích me. And I’m guessing she’s earning small wage from doing so, just lượt thích me. At the same time, there’s no way I’d pull a stuffed animal out of a McDonald’s Happy Meal và say it should be sold as handmade on Etsy.

I’d lượt thích to ask you this question: where bởi we draw the line? How much hand making is necessary khổng lồ Hotline something “handmade”? Are my toys more handmade than Flotsam, or not?