Extremely irritating

It’s not really surprising, but it is very annoying and it most certainly isn’t flattering. One of my photographs of my original work has been used by a website promoting mass produced scarves.

Last week I was doing my monthly online research and tidy up, and checking my Google Analytics, when I saw this search results page and noticed one of my scarves. Naturally, I had been expecting to see my work on an image search for ‘hand painted silk scarf’, but not my photograph associated with another website, and, to add insult to injury, wrongly describing the scarf as hand dyed and not hand painted.

My photo of my work promoting another site.

Over the years I have been contacted by various people and asked if they could use a photo. I’ve always said that’s fine and mentioned in passing it would be nice if they included a credit for me. However, these people have not only purloined my photo, they are also using my painted scarf to advertise their website, all entirely without my permission and with no acknowledgement or link to my online shop. I did a quick recce of their site and it is a puzzle, oddly changing and without any details of who or where in the world it is based. Something doesn’t feel quite right about it and I won’t be clicking on any of their links again even if they do pinch another photo.

And this is my scarf as it appears on my online shop.

I have worked hard to promote my business. During the past five years, as well as designing and painting the silk, I have spent hours photographing, photoshopping and managing the presentation of my online shop. I have paid for and attended a photography course to improve my product photography and photoshoot skills. I am both angry and disappointed that my work (the silk painting and the photography) has been used in this way and my luxury scarves have been linked to a dubious, mystery website. I suppose this kind of episode is to be expected in the ‘Wild West’ world of the Internet even for a minnow venture like mine and it’s simply a case of shrugging your shoulders, forgetting about it and getting on with business as usual.

Me and Etsy – The End of the Affair

Over the last couple of months or so I’ve spent a fair chunk of my time revamping my Etsy shop in preparation for their latest online changes. I know that plenty of folk are resistant to change if change appears to be pointless. What’s the expression ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’ However, considering making changes can prompt you to dispassionately scrutinise the status quo. The Etsy new look for their shops has certainly made me tidy up and redesign the look and feel of both my Etsy outlet and my own online shop.

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My Agnes Ashe online shop homepage as seen on an iPad.

Okay, so that was all well and good, but then, on the back of a few other gripes, came the final straw. Etsy introduced an easy to use template for a shop’s policies. Just bear with me here for a sec. Etsy has ‘found’ that customers don’t like reading lots of words, particularly about boring issues such as time to send out goods, delivery details, buying from another country, insurance and what happens should wish to return an item. Yes, I agree, I don’t want pages of legalese, but when I’m buying I do want to know what to expect especially if I’m buying a special gift for someone and time is crucial.

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Homepage as seen on a PC.

Etsy has been around for over a decade now and should know that the ‘world of handmade’ is not a homogeneous place where ‘one size fits all’ solutions are going to be the answer. Like many of my fellow Etsy artisans who create one-off pieces, I spent sometime writing my policies to give my customers as much information as possible. As Etsy sellers, who are not all based in the US (Etsy is a US listed public corporation), we are subject to our own, quite specific, national trading laws regarding online commerce. I would have thought that this fact alone would suggest that a policies template for everyone was going to be inappropriate. It transpires that you don’t have to use the new template, but there’s a hint that if you don’t comply you are less likely to be ‘found’ when customers search on Etsy.

So, is it time I left the Etsy platform – the end of the affair? I’ve only been an Etsy seller since 2013, a relative newbie, but during this time Etsy changes have meant a broader acceptance of work for sale that is neither vintage nor handmade. Of course, digitally printed silk scarves spring to mind – what can I say! This issue, coupled with a general race to the bottom pricing as some crafters flood the Etsy market with cheaply made offers, means I feel that perhaps it’s no longer the place for me. Remember the film depicting the short reign of Anne Boleyn, ‘Anne of a Thousand Days’, well I’m ‘Agnes of 947 days’.

Update – I have now closed my Etsy shop.  All my hand painted scarves and textile art is available from my own Agnes Ashe boutique/gallery which is run through a professional eCommerce platform based in the UK (most of my sales are to UK customers). I may have left Etsy, but I do still ship internationally to Europe, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan and accept major debit/credit cards.

That’s it – end of the moan and end of all those boring . . .  words.

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Logo on homepage as seen on a mobile phone.