On my recent East Coast trip, I got the chance to visit Etsy’s headquarters, in Brooklyn’s industrial-chic Dumbo neighborhood. The offices are just as cool as you might imagine – crocheted “sweaters” on the exposed ductwork, giant cardboard monster sculptures in the corridor, floor-to-ceiling murals of deer.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Etsy lately, and how it’s become the center of the new “handmade economy.” This economy also includes the indie craft fairs and artisan markets that have sprung up everywhere lately (pretty much every medium-to-large American city has sprouted a new, youth-oriented handmade fair in the past decade – here in the Triangle, we’ve got the Rock and Shop, founded in 2004). Our generation is not only into “making stuff,” we’re also into selling it.
But here’s my question: why are Etsy and all the handmade fairs so overwhelmingly female? Men like to make stuff too, obviously, and plenty of men are artists or designers. But when it comes to these new types of “buy handmade” microbusinesses – a type of business Etsy says is the wave of the future – there’s a lot of XX chromosome action. Something like 96 percent of Etsy sellers are women, and indie craft fairs are also heavily female-dominated. What about this kind of business appeals so much to women? Slate writer Sarah Mosle has a rather controversial answer. Any other thoughts?