Blog: November 2017

Craft resurgence: but can micro businesses really make a living?
(Pictured above: glass vase by Adam Aaronson)

Online market place Onbuy says there's no doubt the UK has been enjoying an arts & crafts boom, with some craft sites seeing a more than 8,000 per cent increase in members over the past decade.

 
But even though our crafters are highly skilled and professional, comparatively few can make a good living from their work.
 
 76 per cent of businesses in the UK are defined as ‘microbusinesses’.
 65 per cent of those who sell their craft do it to supplement other incomes.
 71 per cent of microbusiness owners hope for their companies to grow into larger establishments.
 
E-commerce website Etsy has seen an 83-fold increase in users since 2008 - demonstrating demand for unique arts and craft products is no flash in the pan. And with programmes such as The Great British Bake Off, Sewing Bee and The Great Pottery Throw Down, it's clear Brits are more than open to the charms of hand-made and bespoke products
 
The arts and crafts boom can be attributed partly to the fact that more of us are becoming self-employed (whether by design or default...) or we're doing part time work for someone else and our own thing for the rest of the time.  
 
And it's microbusinesses like these that make up 76 per cent of British businesses..a figure that may surprise some..and the majority of these business-owners hope for their efforts will result in larger companies at some point.
 
This year British online marketplace Onbuy has been researching the rise of the craft microbusiness, and not surprisingly it started looking at Etsy, one of the largest platforms for the craft sector, which was founded in 2005 and allows individuals and businesses to sell arts, craft, clothes, jewellery and decorative objects online. The site has 54 million members (50 per cent are active buyers and 3 per cent are sellers) spanning 83 countries.
As far as who sells on sites such as Etsy, Onbuy found:

 86 per cent of sellers are women.
 95 per cent of sellers work from home.
 78 per cent of sales are from repeat customers, demonstrating customer loyalty.
 79 per cent run their Etsy for an outlet of their creativity, 65 per cent use it to supplement other incomes.
 
Another site, Folksy, which launched in 2008 and focuses exclusively on UK designers and artists, has seen an increase of 526 per cent in sales from June 2009 to June 2012. And in case you're wondering...the most popular items sold last year were:
an intricate embroidered hoop
a chunky crochet cow
wooden craft candle holder
 
Onbuy spoke to a knitted textile designer Claudia Hartley about her online Etsy shop Mad Ram Clothing, which she runs from home three days per week. She describes her shop as a ‘labour of love’, and would like it to grow into a full time business.
 
'Having studied knitwear to degree level, I was struggling to find a way to make ends meet during the quieter summer months. I began taking out panels in old denim jackets and re-inserting hand knitted panels or embroidering designs into them. I am keen to make as minimal an environmental impact as possible, so source only vintage and end of line materials.

'Now my Etsy shop is full of one-of-a-kind, hand embellished, vintage pieces, as well as the opportunity to commission ‘the jacket of your dreams’. I choose to sell on Etsy as it is arguably the most well-known of the handmade marketplace sites. It’s likely that otherwise customers wouldn’t find you.

'I think the interest in handmade crafts can be attributed to the fact people are far more interested in provenance than they used to be, which is great for a business like mine that tries to be as sustainable as possible. People love having something truly unique and buyers like to be able to tell the story of an item. I think we’ll see a huge surge in bespoke fashion over the coming years, people are buying less, but buying right and I think that’s a really positive step away from the destructiveness of the fast fashion market.'
 
Cas Paton, MD of OnBuy, says the digital age has really changed the way we consume and buy products: 'The internet has given rise to the ease of selling hand crafted goods online and the ability to sell and market your business. With the vast takeover of mass market brands, there is a growing desire for bespoke, unique and rare products, which have been handmade rather than mass-produced.'
Tags:
Decoration, Lifestyle, Outdoor space, upcycling, eco friendly, eco home