SOCKPUPPET PRAISE: Friends of Socktopus

It seems like just about everyone can remember their younger days in preschool, kindergarten, and elementary school when time was filled with fun activities including playing with play dough, buckets of crayons, story time, and the creative ways in which we used glue, colored paper, crimped scissors, beads, and clay to enrich those kids who think with the right hemisphere of their brains in their artistic growth and development. Most of us also remember a time when we were forced to make the mundane sock puppet, in which we take used socks, fill them with cotton, add buttons as eyes, and cloth as mouths, and sewn them together to make our own sock puppet friend. Most of us remember the sock puppet as being slightly creepy, with one eye bigger than the other, and half done. While the few who excelled at making them, remember bringing them home as family members used the sock puppet as a way to tell us stories that made us laugh until we almost peed ourselves.

Now, it seems like with the birth of the internet, Pinterest, youtube, and web, that both the DIY project and the craft industry has taken off as another entity of the capitalist competitive market making the U.S almost 44 Billion dollars (according to the Association for the Creative Industries) which has gone up 45% since 2011. It should come to no surprise that platforms like Etsy have transformed a female dominated past time of crafting into new heights. When Etsy first opened its doors public in 2015, many people treated it like a fancy blog instead of a company that brought in $2.4 billion in global gross sales that year. (Crafter’s Paradise Quartz) However, with the internets help it is hard not to see how crafting, as an old age industry, has adapted, modified, and transformed into a very lucrative business that uses technology to produce, sell and distribute one persons art into another person’s home, in the blink of an eye. For most of us in the 21st century we have figured out how to make what was once a hobby, or a leisurely pastime, like blogging, taking pictures, or making family videos, into an object for mass consumption due to the innate need to use technology and social platforms to democratize every inch of our selves and our lives. Apply this to include our crafting, and you have a product to sell into a capitalist market for sale and mass production.

But what does DIY crafted products offer that other brand name home decor and hand-crafted companies don’t? Uniqueness, hand-made quality projects that you can’t find anywhere else except places like Etsy. If you want off the market products that are unique to you, then platforms like Etsy offer you individuality, and a home-grown, carefully made, quality that you can’t buy at any mass market stores like Bed Bath and Beyond, Pier 1 Imports, or Ikea. It also allows you to connect with your buyer, and the producer of the work you wish to own, in personal ways that make you feel like you are not only bringing home a product, but a story behind the maker of the product and a truly personal item. For instance, the way Etsy enables DIY and craft artists to tell their buyer about themselves, their product, and the story behind how they got interested in making such creative craft products, attaches a personal story to the product, instead of just a tag. Not to mention that it is a story and an artistic product that you can’t get elsewhere on mass markets, making it that much more unique, distinct, and special. In her about me, the maker of Friends of Socktopus Clarity Miller States,

“I started with sock monkeys about 15 years ago and shortly thereafter came up with the Socktopus- half monkey, half octopus. I was diagnosed with a rare and serious kidney disease when I was 15, and because of my health, having a “regular” job was not an option. I had always loved making things, so I got to work sewing.

I began selling my creations on buyolympia.com while attending the Evergreen State College.
I’ve been a part of Etsy since 2007, and since expanded my line to include plush creatures, buntings, wiener dogs, quilts and craft kits.

I love being a part of the Etsy community, and I love knowing that my handmade items are delighting children from 0 to 100.”

This introduction already makes you feel as if you are not only buying a plush toy but supporting a personal story of the creator, and supporting her ability to continue making and creating plush creatures as she battles a rare kidney disease. Etsy markets the personal story of each creator, so you as the buyer are inevitably not only promoting, aiding, and encouraging the delicacy and innovative originality of each handmade craft, but also the story behind their hobby and their hopes to make their hobby mainstream. If you are diligent enough to look at the creative history of the buyer, you can see that a lot of the Etsy handcrafted DIY shop members are creators in other artistic fields as well. For example, Clarity Miller, the listed owner, designer, maker and curator of Friends of Socktopus, has a professional background in other areas of the creative arts and creative industries. She writes:

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Etsy enables sellers to showcase, market, and put together their perspective creative industry backgrounds to produce, generate, fabricate, and design handcrafted art that empowers other creative directions and passions. It lets Clarity put every inch of herself and her self-interests and career passions into her craft, to market it the way she wants and deems appropriate, which is something the capitalist mass market of maker, production, distribution process deems unnecessary. It is safe to say that Clarity’s background in other arts such as photography, fashion, and textile arts helped her to create a truly solid, very well marketed hand-crafted product of amazingly high quality plush toys. With her background in photography she is able to snap the pictures that draw you to her products, some of those include its use next to children and babies, and others show the whimsical fun and humor of each plush toy and animal creature. Not to mention each photo highlights the ability of the textiles of the fabric on each toy to match with baby decor, and bring a uniquely creative zest to a newborn’s room. Although each toy looks homemade, it also looks high quality due to the pictures. It is core and important to note how Etsy equips creative owners like Clarity to market their crafts in their own way, highlighting the unique creative past of each marketer and seller. All around, Etsy shows the producers of art how to sell it, with each widget and design of the website guiding artists on how to effectively sell their artistic product in a competitive market, without the need for a middle man retailer, or major distribution company. It takes the personalized hand crafted artistic creativity and shapes it to become a marketed product of highly specialized value, even allowing the artist to determine the prices, and how the ordering process is fulfilled.

 

In stark contrast, other platforms like Youtube, only give you the how to for DIY puppets:

 

 

You can see how much creative ingenuity and passion it must take to make and mass market these plush toys and dolls. However, Etsy as a platform truly elevates the art form into a craftsmanship and commodifies the art of making soft sock puppet and plush toy dolls. It does this by giving the art a business feel. With pictures, materials used in production descriptions, a report of who the contents creators and curators are, all giving business and commodified narrative to this DIY craft. Now, crafting, which used to be a grassroots industry has become mainstream with the usage of platforms like Pinterest and Etsy. Sure enough, Friends of Socktopus has also used Pinterest and Instagram, to connect with users and the buyers of their product. Friend of Socktopus Instagram

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You can tell that they have such a following that kids were being their stuffed dolls for halloween, which is an amazing brand feat for a stuffed plush toy. Not to mention that buyers on Etsy can leave comments that include pictures of how users are using their toy products to add to the decor of a newborns room eloquently creating a stylized look book for the toys. Essentially the product markets itself transforming DIY crafts into a brand of luxury stuffed toys and decor. Etsy as a platform gives sellers the tools to turn their arts and crafts into a personalized business on a platform where buyers want something different and unique shipped personally to them. It is a platform where personal artists ship their personal art personally to personal customers, and that’s where the difference lies. Creative arts are customized pieces, with stories, handmade in its particular and Etsy has found a way to commodify the personalized piece to a very niche mass market of buyers who want different non-wholesale item. It is where DIY is turned into luxury personal products, and craftsmen and woman are able to sell their art to people who appreciate it for what it is, a crafted item.

 

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