We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Programming ... or storquegate investigated

Now, I know I blogged the return of the giveaway this week and I promise it will be up at LUNCH TIME, but in case you are like me and usually out of the loop

(and not like the amazing Katie of BlackStar and Sherry Truitt who stay on top of these things)

- there was a bit of controversy stirred up over the last few days over at Etsy. And since many of my blog readers are Etsy sellers I thought it important enough to report on.

(stuffs pencil behind ear and types furiously while swigging back can of Bud and stuffing down a pastrami on rye)

It started with Blog Action Day which is an annual event asking bloggers to spend one day a year (Oct. 15th) blogging about the same important issue.

This year's issue was drinking water (team Ecoetsy had a great post by Lorigami on the correct topic actually) and Etsy's blog The Storque decided to join in on the action with a Blog Action Day post.

Now, there were problems with this post from the very beginning because the post supporting Blog Action Day, the point of which is every concerned blogger blogging about the same thing on the same day, was not about drinking water at all. It was about coral.

So, OK, I guess that was a mistake that was easy to make because ... well, coral lives in the water ... and uh, I guess because you might have to, I don't know, read what something is about before you sign on or google blog action day or something like that ...

(or maybe there is some kind of connection between coral jewelry and clean drinking water for the billions of people that don't have it that I am missing somehow - I am not really a scientist after all, I just play one on the internet)

Now the 2nd mistake was that this blog post was not written by an Etsy staffer or even an Etsy shop owner, but a designer of jewelry for mass markets like Target and Nordstorms, and every market in between,

jewelry made with diamonds and silver and gemstones (none of which are without controversy) and possibly in places this designer would not likely admit to, who may have had intentions beyond self promotion (although a nice link to her off-Etsy business is quite prominent) this we will never know - but whose very presence on the Etsy blog which represents Etsy's incredible community that includes thousands of "handmade"

(as in made with their own two hands and not hundreds of other people's hands)

jewelry designer/makers, was enough to incite a near riot ....

(now Etsy sellers are way too scattered to actually take to the streets and picket the Etsy Brooklyn headquarters, but many took to their keyboards for a kind of cyber riot, the kind that unfortunately doesn't last long in the forums before things get shut down - picture cyber police with night sticks and cans of mace or just an Etsy staffer with a "close thread" button)

Truly, I am not so concerned for the Etsy sellers who sell coral jewelry (this post was about the important issue of the impact of live coral harvesting on the ocean's eco system) because I think people who buy coral jewelry will continue to do so.

The truth of the matter about coral is that coral is not a gemstone, but a living organism that the World Wildlife Fund has on its top ten list of endangered species (according to Treehugger)

and jewelry makers should be aware of this and know that they are working with suppliers of dead coral - I don't have any idea how they are supposed to "know" this, so would just avoid it myself, but I'm sure there are conscientious sellers out there who know what they are getting, I hope.

How this will be spun (or ignored) by Etsy is anybody's guess - but it kind of felt like I was working for Ford and the execs brought over somebody from Chevy to blast me about the problems with my wing nuts

(do cars use wing nuts? for some reason Etsy and wing nuts just seem to go together in my head today)

and I knew Chevy had problems with their bolts, screws and seat cushions ... and they were Chevy for pete's sake ....

I know this isn't the best analogy, but you get the idea and I know Etsy is not my boyfriend caught making out with the head cheerleader behind my back (the cheerleader he had always proclaimed not his type) but why does it feel like I've been cheated on somehow .... and need an apology and a box of really good chocolate and an explanation of Etsy's TOU.


MAB said...

You know, Etsy broke their own rules over and over here, and that's what is discouraging. They basically called out all sellers who use or sell coral across the board, they featured someone who is a designer who doesn't create anything by hand, and they allowed that featured person to link to their own personal off etsy site. Any one of these actions would cause a seller to get a thread closed or a shop yanked. It's discouraging, and you have to wonder about who okayed this.

Did admit ever weigh in after the explosion?

Catherine Ivins said...

I don't know MAB - I think the drama continues right now with the accusation that Etsy asked her to write the post, had sort of assumed she had courted etsy....

Wear Your Wild said...

I wondered why my ears were burning! :)

Just delete the damn coral post already!

Can I say damn here?

Jen said...

Oh what a hot mess this is! Admittedly, I go about my day taking no notice of Etsy drama.... so thank you, Cat, for this blog post!

Here's an analogy for you: it's like McDonald's setting up a tasting station at your local organic co-op.

Catherine Ivins said...

Yes, exactly Jen!

sherry said...

I didn't exactly know what to say until today. I saw Ina had a post on aution bytes and I bit the bullet, used my real name and said this:

Etsy's Anti-Coral Blog Post Provokes Sellers
by: Sherry Truitt
Web Site
Mon Oct 18 10:55:32 2010
The blog post by Temple St. Clair was in diametric opposition to etsy policy.

Coral is legally sold on etsy. Much of it is ethically sourced. Etsy allows the sale of many controversial items, including fur, butterfly wings, feathers and leather. Our personal opinion is always superceeded by the TOU of the site.

If you don't like it, don't buy it. You are not allowed to however disparage other artists who use those materials in their work.

Ms. St. Clair not only did that, but encouraged readers to sign a coral banning petition, thereby affecting the livelyhood and reputation of some sellers.

Ms. St. Clair also invited readers to preview her jewelry collection on her own website and provided the url. That is also in direct violation with the TOU of etsy. She does not actually make the jewelry she sells, so she would not be permitted to have a shop.

Should Ms. St. Clair visit your site, I would be interested in the silver, gold and gemstone mines she sources from around the world as well as the labor pool she employes to craft her pieces.

As jewelers we try to ethically source our materials, but unless we are digging them out of the ground ourselves we really don't know where they come from, nor how the workers are treated. Jewelry is NOT a green business.

I am hopeful etsy management will make a statement this morning.

Thanks,Cat. Love you.

Catherine Ivins said...

Katie you can totally say damn here- thank you for making us aware of this! And Sherry thank you for your eloquence- I think Etsy has no idea who Etsy is ...