A guild of convenience

Work by Sharon Alexander

As the global march toward a digital future continues, some local crafts merchants are following suit by opening their own shops on Etsy, an increasingly popular e-commerce website that calls itself “the world’s handmade marketplace.” It specializes in handmade and vintage items as well as arts and crafts supplies. Most of the sites 800,000 sellers use it to make a little extra money and gain a little extra appreciation. For others, the site is their livelihood.

Sharyn Alexander is one of Saugerties’ newest converts to the Etsy experience. An accomplished ceramic sculptor and jeweler, Alexander saw the site as alternative to the labor-intensive craft circuit.

“When I had my business 20 years ago, I was doing about 15 shows a year,” Alexander said. “Now I’m a mother and I don’t have the same kind of time that I did when I was in my 20’s and I’m down to about six a year. The idea was a way to market my work closer to home.”

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The Etsy shop complements her website. On the site, she can fully control the presentation, but there’s no e-commerce function. The Etsy page provides that, though it lacks customization features.

“It’s incredibly user-friendly and I’m having a great time with it,” she said.

At the moment, she’s working on getting the site noticed through search engine optimization.

“There’s a big learning curve, and I’m still trying to figure out how to do it,” she said. “I’m literally just putting my work up and figuring out how people find you. If you look up ‘jewelry,’ for example, you’ll get hundreds of thousands of hits. What makes your jewelry stand out? If I put in ‘primitive porcelain jewelry,’ I’ll be one of the first pictures, but who is going to do that?”

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