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3 Easy Ways to Shop “Actually Handmade”

Cover Graphic with the Blog Post's Title Words 3 Ways to Shop Actually Handmade and Image of a Woman Sculpting Pottery With Her Hands

In this post, we’ll share our best tips and resources for supporting genuine handmade artisans: those millions of creative micro-enterprises who rely on craft for their livelihood. 

We used to trust Etsy as our go-to shopping place for handmade. But with the sheer number of dropshippers and inauthentic resellers on the site, the Etsy platform no longer earns our automatic trust. It’s just one reason why 30,000 Etsy sellers went on strike this year – and why we banded together after the strike to build an artisan-owned marketplace. We need a genuinely handmade shopping alternative

As usual, some of the best advice comes from Reddit! Quotes from savvy redditors on r/femalefashionadvice: “Anyone else done with Etsy?” are in italics throughout this piece. 

Shop your values:


Browse Trusted Directories of Handmade Artisans

Etsy sellers have been recognizing the problem of non-handmade goods on the platform for years already. Several initiatives have begun to assemble directories of “actually handmade” goods. 

Check these directories for genuine artisans: 


Shop Etsy Marketplace Alternatives

Social Media 

“I like to find makers on Instagram. You can go back in their feed and get a sense if it’s an actual person or a reseller. The good ones usually sell things on a schedule and sell out quickly. Some will use Etsy for their storefront but many are moving away from it. Also want to add Etsy’s search really sucks and always shows me what they think I want to see vs using the specific words I type in. Instagram you can search with hashtags and find things you actually want.”
r/Pink_pony4710

Alternative Handmade Marketplaces

Browse our post about Etsy Alternatives for other, independent handmade marketplaces:
The Best Etsy Alternatives You Can Try Right Now (2022)

Our Etsy Alternatives spreadsheet has two tabs that can be useful: 

  • Artisans Cooperative has similar general marketplaces
  • Didn’t Make the Cut tab has niche marketplaces, directories, and much more. 

Local and In-Person

“It’s not really what you are asking for, but the obvious alternative is to go in person to support your local antique stores, fair trade craft stores, art galleries, handcraft gift stores, and art co-ops. Obviously more difficult to find something specific that way, but you know your money is going to support a local small business and local artists.”
r/Secret_Dragonfly9588

Holiday fairs, indie craft fairs, and local maker retailers that specialize in local, handmade sourcing (like “Portland Made” or “San Diego Made”) have already done the vetting and curation for you. Plus, those maker businesses and craft fairs are small businesses themselves who are trying to support artisans in your community. It’s a win-win! 


Tips to Filter, Search and Critique on Etsy 

There are still great artisans to be found on Etsy, but it’s no longer the only, trusted way to shop handmade. Redditors and our experienced artisan-sellers on Etsy tips to share for how to tell if an Etsy seller is “actually” handmade: 

Use Etsy As a Search Engine

Many consumers are choosing to shop off-Amazon by using Amazon as a search engine for shopping goods. The same can be done for Etsy. Once you find search results that interest you, do a little research, filtering and critical thinking. from there. 

It’s in your interest as a buyer because you can often find the same thing sold cheaply elsewhere. Etsy’s fees are now so high that both inauthentic resellers and savvy Etsy sellers alike have had to raise their prices on the platform to accommodate Etsy’s growing commissions. 

Does the Etsy Seller Have a Website or Alternative Sale Channel like Instagram?

  • “And sometimes I find the original seller’s website or Instagram and purchase through them instead. Sometimes it’s even more affordable than what I found on Etsy.”
    r/Jazzlike_Log_709
  • “I would suggest that if you are shopping for vintage pieces, many of the shops have their own websites and sometimes you get a discount buying from there as opposed to Etsy which rips off their stores.”
    r/flindersandtrim
  • “I feel like nowadays Etsy just got too big for its initial mission of handmade and small businesses, to be honest… I use it mostly for inspiration lists, save stuff that I like and then if/when I buy something, I try to check if they have their own direct website and order through them.”
    r/001luscioushair

Etsy sellers are not allowed to encourage off-site sales on the Etsy platform, per their terms and conditions (breaking the rule can get them kicked off!) but they are allowed to publish their website under their Seller Profile information.

To locate the seller’s website/social media on Etsy, put on your reading glasses! Honestly, sometimes it might be faster to google the seller first. The links are tiny and easy to miss: 

  1. From a product page, click on the seller’s name in the top right:
  1. This takes you to the seller’s store page. Scroll WAY down, past the listings, reviews, and shop updates:
  1. When you hit the “About” section, you’re almost there!
  1. Below the seller’s (truncated) story, here are the links the seller shared with their website and social media info:

Tips for Looking at the Store Critically

  • “I look at all the items they sell. If it appears to ‘flow’ (common theme across all items) I feel more safe that the item is original to the company. If I’m looking for a silk blouse I expect that shop to sell significant amounts of silk items vs an assortment of everything.”
    r/pasta-hating-goat
  • I have some awesome stuff I’ve bought on Etsy, but you definitely have to wade through a lot of cheap dropshipped crap to find the good stuff. These are my tips:
    • Look for sellers with REALLY high ratings. For a seller with hundreds + reviews, I generally don’t buy from anyone who’s under like a 4.7. If it’s a newer seller I’d be less picky about the average because a few unfair bad reviews might be bringing them down, but I’d definitely read through the reviews to see what went wrong.
    • Reading the negative reviews is also a good thing to do with more established sellers. Are people complaining about things like shipping time, which is often out of the seller’s control? Not a concern. Are they saying they received an item that didn’t match the quality of the one pictured on Etsy? That’s a huge red flag…that should really never be happening.
    • Look for sellers who are willing to make alterations. Even if you don’t need custom sizing, the fact that they’re able to accommodate those requests makes it much more likely they are actually in charge of production.
    • Look for lots of detail about the item. The seller should be able to provide measurements of every item (preferably every size of that item), fabric content, cut, etc.
    • Look for sellers that specialize in one type/category of item. Someone selling purses, shirts, belts, home goods, etc is unlikely to have the skills to make all those things themselves. Vs. someone who is just selling leather goods – there’s a lot more transferable skills and equipment there.
    • This one is a little squishier, but look for items that seem like they could plausibly be handmade or at least made by someone who does not have access to high tech factory equipment. For instance…a linen tee with a simple boxy cut is a pretty easy item to make by hand or in small batches. A bra with an underwire, lace trim, mesh panels and/or padding would be MUCH more labor intensive to make by hand. If it is truly handmade, the price point is going to be very, very high. If you see that bra sold for $30, there’s no way it’s actually handmade.” 
    • With clothes I’m especially suspicious of models that appear in one item photo and nothing else…most small businesses wouldn’t hire a model to shoot photos of a single item and then use someone else (or no model) for the rest of their inventory”
      r/giveuschannel83
  • “I’d add one more… are their photos consistent? On the shops that stole my photos, you can see that some of the photos are gorgeous (they’re mine!) and some of them are like processed 3D renderings. Some of the photos were also clearly photoshopped. Those are bad signs.” r
    r/branfordsquirrel
  • “You can but you have to find ethical Etsy sellers based on reviews or other people’s advertisements. Etsy is a good place. Also, have open conversations with sellers. That might help.”
    r/miraabunny

Reverse Image Search

  • “Not sure if it helps but I usually sort/filter on Etsy by shops in the USA, and then you can also google reverse search to see if the items are unique or from Alibaba or something.” r/saint_karen

Reverse image search can actually go two ways: is the Etsy seller an Alibaba reseller, or did a scam artist on Alibaba steal an Etsy seller’s idea and imagery? Use reverse image search with the same critical eye. 

This is how to do a Google reverse image search. Go to images.google.com, and click the camera icon in the search bar. Simply copy the image URL of the item you’re looking at (hover and right-click to Copy Image URL). You’ll see where else that image is being used in an item for sale and what the price is. 

For example, this Google Image search of a bird necklace sells on Etsy for $26 and on Alibaba for $1.92. This search shows it’s worth doing a little more investigating as to what’s going on here:  


The bottom line? Use these tips to give artisans their due and be a savvy buyer. There’s nothing quite as rewarding as giving unique and delightful gifts to our friends and family this holiday season that reflect our values. 

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