Observations are fun. For the last month I have been going to the Fremont Sunday Market and I have sold on Etsy for almost three years now. The venues are very different.
Market: You Have to be nice in public.
I could be having an awful day and selling online and no one is going to see it. On Etsy I can have a little snark session over someone offering me $2 for a piece worth $12, but in public you have to thank them for their offer and then refuse politely because the public is watching. At the market I have to be the nice, smiling person that I am not. This isn't to say that I am wildly vicious or mean, just that I am a poorly socialized nerd who doesn't always cue into subtle body language. I really have a hard time making eye contact, I am self conscious about the fact that my teeth aren't normal and also I stand crookedly and my neck is stiff so I feel like a bit of a freak. Honestly though, people don't seem to notice.
Etsy: You have to know time zones
Etsy is an international venue. I know a few folks don't sell internationally but when asked I always encourage people to sell to ANYONE who wants your art. In general, exchange rates are good for people outside the US, so even with shipping your piece still looks like a bargain to them. The thing is when they start asking questions about stuff - make sure you check what time it is in Australia or Ireland because it will save you some "did they get my message?" issues. Typically, the minute one of my regular international buyers shows interest in a piece, I put it on reserve right away, because they might have gone to bed and we'll resume the sale in the morning - a reserve shows that you care :)
Etsy: Photography, Writing, Promoting
You get bonus points for hanging in there on etsy. It's a very crowded venue that is contingent on things that as an artist you never signed up for. That is - to get noticed you must have wonderful pictures, to keep the customer interested, your description must capture their attention, to even get the person looking at your shop, you must have attracted their attention in some way. I feel a wee smidgeon of guilt that I do pretty well on etsy and I am not the best ceramic artist out there - but I am aware of the hurdles you have to cross to sell even one item on etsy - you have to pick up additional skills and then keep at it day after day after day.
Market: The Character of the Place
Fremont is known as a hippie, freaky, far out, silly, nipple baring, artist loft cuddling area of Seattle. Its market is known for flea marketry, cheap but pretty decent food, beads, fresh baked goods and lots and lots of stalls filled with crafters that try once, get horrified by the driving wind and rain and leave for good. At first blush, this looks like a terrible place for me. In fact, I poo-pooed it for a year. Then, I came to realize that my pieces are small and a lot of the rummage tables are like that - they attract people that love detail and spend time browsing. Sure enough, when I go, I sell lots of small detailed things - not the big pieces, not the art pieces, but things that can be tucked into a purse as they continue shopping. The wonderful thing is that I sell pieces from six year old girls (little bunnies) to 80 something year old grandfathers (little frogs).
Etsy: The Character of the Place
On etsy I am simply not going to encounter the six year olds and 80 year olds. Market sales are largely incidental and etsy is somewhere you go on purpose. On etsy I sell just about anything I make and some items I absolutely cannot sell at the market are popular on etsy. My current favorite example is drop plates - thin porcelain plates made in a wooden mold and finished off with a couple animal sculptures. I can barely keep them in stock on etsy and they are currently my most common commission item. What does Fremont Market think of them? They are soap dishes. What's wrong with soap dishes? Well, the moment someone says it is a soap dish, about $20 has to come off the price tag, because in neighboring stalls there are vintage soap dishes selling for $5.
Market: I can talk about it
I know that if I don't put a measurement on a piece within the first two sentences of a description on etsy, there is a chance that when the person gets the piece, they will be shocked at the size. At the market, the pieces are as-is, and if a person is interested, I can fill their heads with all the technique information, inspiration and fun facts that I generally don't add to a description. These conversations are fun, and I love some of the questions I get. Other ceramicists can thank me later for explaining why it takes so long to make a piece, what cones mean, what porcelain is and why stoneware is different, because in the last few weeks I have regurgitated a good portion of what I've learned - and it's been fun.
That's it for now, gotta go take pictures!