So in (slow) preparation for loading some art on my dormant Handmade at Amazon site, I’ve been doing some research on what’s already there. Some gorgeous, inspirational stuff, worthy of scrutiny. And some…that is not so much.
Apparently, in the rush to sign people up, and with possibly not enough experience in the jewelry/handcraft industry, the jury at H@A let slip in some things that none of the regional art festivals I know would allow through the door as ‘handmade’.
Anecdote to sum up the problem: I know a costume/corset designer who has a small shop with only a few employees: Damsel in this Dress. She designs her own patterns, does limited runs of each design in excellent fabric, and she and her staff work to the upper limits of their considerable skill on each piece. Renaissance Faire workers, theatrical folks, cosplayers, re-enactors, and other costuming wonks know her work and love it. (I plan on buying one, eventually.)
It’s not the highest level of corset costuming, because the founder obviously can’t afford to do a few hundred hours of leather tooling or embroidery on limited-edition pieces that can only sell for a few hundred dollars in her market. But the seams are clean, the rivets and stays are strong, the fabrics are curated with a keen eye toward both beauty and long-term durability, and all pieces are very well made.
She applied, but wasn’t juried in to H@A.
Now, browsing just H@A’s handmade jewelry areas (which are one of the most prone to fraud, industry-wide), I found numerous sites where the only thing that ‘jewelers’ are doing is assembling commercial charms/components with commercial chain. I can even name many of the commercial suppliers. Some ‘jewelers’ are at least customizing some of their work with image or letter stamps, so I can grudgingly say they’re doing some handwork in choosing or placing the stamps. But they sure as hell didn’t make their charm blanks or their stamps from scratch!
Here’s one example that I will call out (and risk giving them some exposure): EnCharmed. The artist didn’t make the silver chain or the little silver animal charms…those are all commercial, right down to the jump rings and spring-ring clasps. Many of the charms ultimately come from two suppliers: Nina Designs, and Sunwest Silver. All the ‘artist’ is doing is assembling pre-made materials, taking photos, and marking up the cost. The same artist offers some pieces that are custom-stamped charms…but again, those silver charm blanks and the steel stamps are all commercial.
It’s cute stuff. It will sell at those prices. Does it belong on H@A? I don’t think so, because there is no real skill or work in making it.
In the upper-level art fair circuit, what EnCharmed is doing is called ‘Buy/Sell’, and It Is Not Allowed. It panders to the casual customer and offers some quick sales, but it also cheapens the work of real jewelers doing real fabrication and skilled, complex assembly.
I expect to see this stuff on Etsy now. Not on Handmade at Amazon, which spent so much time last year touting its exclusive and discerning jury system. I’ll be honest: I feel let down and much more skeptical of H@A’s jury process.
It’s the same reason I’m careful about the brick-and-mortar stores or art festivals where I apply to sell. I don’t want my work to be in the same display space as that of a charm-assembler or simple bead stringer. Because I can’t compete with pieces taking five minutes and $10 to make, and I’m not even going to try. I cannot reach the budget-conscious customers who can’t tell the difference, or show no sign of wanting to learn.