What Makes a Maker?


As a blogger and a maker I do a lot of searching on Etsy.  It's a great place to find all kinds of unique products and I'm constantly in awe of what the creative community can come up with.

Lately I've noticed an odd trend on Etsy, though:  I was looking for a mug with a certain phrase on it the other day, and while searching for it, noticed a ton of the same photo of the same person holding the same mug, and the phrase was clearly Photoshopped on top of the photo.  The words didn't round off right the shape of the mug- it was clearly a square box on a round canvas.  If you search for prints, you'll see the same thing.  It's a pretty setup, but you can just tell that the wording is just not printed on the paper.  I get it- if you can get away with not actually making something you're not sure will sell, it saves you on materials costs, etc. but it seems like fake making.  Where's the gratification in seeing the finished product, and why not let the customer see what they're actually getting?  These not-really-printed products make Etsy look like a little like Zazzle.

Which then leads to the slippery slope question of what is handmade?  Is it the person who paints the phrase on a mug by hand, or is it the person who takes time to design a phrase with fancy typography and then has the mug printed?  Is it the person who screen-prints their design on a t-shirt, or the one who creates the design and then sends it off to be printed?  Who is more a maker? I don't know if I have an answer for that one.

Do you notice this trend, too, or is it just me?  What's your definition of a maker? 

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  1. I know I've had this conversation with you before, but I think a maker is someone who makes. If you're getting things outsourced, you've now become simply a designer. This is exactly why I have waffled over the outsourcing thing for quite some time. It's why I ended up not doing NSS. And I'm not sure I'd be happy if my hands weren't working on the making aspect. While I can understand outsourcing, from the perspective of growing your business (it's something I still may have to consider), I can't stand that Etsy has allowed the digital download crap. That seems to cross the line because that's not even providing an actual handmade product.

  2. I definitely think there is a difference between a designer and a maker. I think they are both important and there should be space for both but I feel that if you are more of a designer then you should represent yourself as one. I personally consider myself a maker but I do like to modify the designs I work with. I often modify them to tailor my own needs and style. I don't usually consider myself a designer when I do that. I think its the natural swing of things to want to make trendy items but also make a profit. I think working handmade means you'll have to make sacrifices that not everyone wants to make.

  3. Paige @ Little NostalgiaFebruary 10, 2015 at 9:53 AM

    I've seen those mugs, too, and they drive me crazy. They smack of outsourcing and while I know that's allowed on Etsy now, it doesn't make you a maker. I agree with Heidi's distinction below that once you get your stuff produced elsewhere, you're just the designer. And that's not *necessarily* a bad thing, because some businesses will grow to that point, but it does take away the handmade charm.

    My situation is a little different and I do consider myself a designer when I work with clients (obviously, hence the job title). I'm curating a pretty collection of stuff for them, and although I do put the boards together myself in Photoshop, it doesn't feel the same as cutting fabric and sewing a set of pillows. I'm a maker on Etsy and a designer face-to-face.


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