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What Handmade Is

This post is most likely going to get emotional and I will probably say stuff that I normally wouldn’t put on this blog. But I am just so overcome with the emotions, good and bad, from the past month that something just needs to come out.

I had an incredible Valentine’s Day season. I sold a lot more cards than I expected. I cried happy tears on more than one occasion and had several “Is this really happening?” moments.

I got a lot of sweet messages from customers. I also got a couple not-so-sweet messages from customers. And I’d be lying if I said they didn’t upset me.
On a particularly busy day, I received a message from a buyer. The message opened with: “If you don’t respond I will leave negative comments about you all over.”
I was shocked. Partially because I was worried about it from a business stand-point, but mostly because I couldn’t believe a person would choose to bring up an issue in such a way. I would never threaten an Etsy seller like that, regardless of what the problem was.

I am so glad that more and more people are joining the handmade movement. But part of me feels like this growth is decreasing the value, appreciation and understanding of what buying handmade means.

In most cases, handmade is a person. Not a machine. Not a team. One person. A person who loves their product, has a passion for their business, and tries their absolute hardest to provide the best possible customer service. But, that person is only human. And I think that’s something that can be overlooked.
I wondered if this buyer understood what buying handmade meant. I wondered if she knew I was spending 12 hour days folding card after card on the floor at my living room coffee table. I wondered if she knew her little $4 purchase was helping me pay my rent (yes, the threat was made over $4). I wondered if she knew the effort I put into giving my customers the best possible buying experience. I wondered if she knew the only thing she accomplished was hurting a sensitive girl’s feelings.
I wondered if she was just a crabby person.
People make mistakes. No one is perfect. I know I will continue to be faced with the occasional buyer vs. seller issue. But it’s how both the buyer and the seller handle the situation that shows what kind of person they truly are.
It is hard not to let the negativity effect me. I take such pride in the work I do for JAA, it easily hurts my heart when some one thinks the job I do is not good enough. But I continue to remind myself that this stress means my business is doing well. And for that, I couldn’t be more thankful.

Join the discussion 50 Comments

  • angela says:

    Isn’t it sad that one negative can weigh on your heart more than 100+ positives?

    Try not to let her get you down.
    We all know the real quality [and love]behind your brand.

  • Jaclyn says:

    A wonderful post about an important topic. So many blogs I read are nothing but sunshine and butterflies, but owning a business is much more than that. It’s a lot of hard work and, sometimes, crappy people who don’t have a personable bone in their bodies. I have found that answering such responses in as professional way as possible is often helpful. I also think it’s helpful to remember that anyone who immediately goes on the defense like that has probably been burned before. (Or maybe they’re just a dick. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt — it can be a curse.) In any case … you should feel nothing but proud of the holiday season you’ve had. Your shop is one I always associate with quality, friendliness, creativity and promptness.

  • gina says:

    AMEN! I so agree with what you said about the value and appreciation of handmade is in some cases decreasing….I feel like this too sometimes. But, no matter what, there are people out there that appreciate and understand handmade. I think the understanding is the biggest thing. I work at a small shop in San Diego a few days a week where all is either handmade or made by a small company. So often people come in and say to whoever they are with “this is SO over priced! I could easily make this. This is so stupid.” People just don’t get it and they aren’t OUR customers. And plainly, some people just suck :).

  • Amber Enns says:

    you do amazing work my dear!
    it is unfortunate that some people don’t see the love that goes into each item made in the handmade community.

  • I’m glad you wrote this. I deal with this all the time. We get a lot of positive responses but when that negative one comes through, usually at no fault to us, it really can be upsetting. I’ve been re-doing entire orders because a bride has changed her mind. It’s frustrating to spend the money but the fear of negative feedback or a negative imagine for this business I’ve put so much energy into is debilitating. I really wish Etsy did more for their sellers in this specific area. I shouldn’t have to redo an order based on the fear of negative feedback because someone sent me the wrong spelling and such. Hang in there, you’re doing a fantastic job and the people who matter, realize how special your business is.

  • Elizabeth says:

    Julie, my 98 year old grandmother, the scourge of the Sunshine Home, starter of betting pools, breaker of speed limits and seducer of old toothless men would say this to you word for word.

    Julie, tomorrow, you will be over it…and she will still be a bitch. Who wins that one?

    You have a mouth on you also, so I think I can get away with saying this here. 🙂

  • Amy says:

    I’m so sorry someone felt they had to treat you like that 🙁 I hope your business flourishes 🙂

  • As someone who sells on Etsy, I can completely relate to this. What we do is so personal, and it can be really difficult putting yourself out there! I think the same goes for blogging as well. We’re taking a chance here, and we should be supporting each other. People make mistakes, that’s just a part of life, but we’re all human. Thanks for reminding us all of that. Also, your work is amazing, so I hope this doesn’t bring you down too much! xoxo

  • Dorien says:

    I received the card I ordered this week (in Belgium) and I couldn’t be more happy with it. You are one of the only persons I know that actually really cares about her customers and replies to tweets etc. I am definitely going to order again. Thank you for your creativity. And I hope you don’t get too many negative expierences anymore.

  • Julie Ann, you said it so well. The fact that this person’s thoughts moved you that much shows the kind of person that you are and the passion you have for your business.
    I agree though with Elizabeth’s 98 yr old Grandmother, tomorrow she will still be a bitch and you will still be a passionate, hardworking business woman.

    BTW- your shop is awesome!

  • I’m sensitive too, and I understand, but you need to take a step back, breathe, and then put that person where they belong. At the bottom. They don’t get it, they’re not nice, and they most likely act like that all the time to everyone, so don’t take it personally. A nice person wouldn’t do that, regardless if they know you or not, and regardless if it’s through email or not… Let it roll, focus on the positives and keep on foldin’ 😉


  • I’m so sorry someone was so ugly to you. You’re so wonderful! Remember, there are some crazies out there. Try to focus on all the greatness! You are very inspiring to me 🙂

  • Alas, having the odd nasty is the privilege of carrying on one’s own business. The other one is to remember the crabby person, and choose not to do business with her again. That’s another privilege we small business people have!


  • Cyn says:

    JAA is so special to me. Not because Miss Julie, you are my friend, but because I see the love and value you put into your business every day. It is your baby, and to hear that one nasty gram from some old grump (that’s just an assumption) could affect your day, breaks my heart. There will always be someone that will try and rain on your parade, but remember, the rest of us freaking love you…and your amazing cards.

  • lolly says:

    Honey, you have NOTHING to worry about when it comes to crabby-asses. It does come with the territory but, as I’m sure you already have, just look at how successful you are and how HAPPY the majority of your customers are. I couldn’t be happier for you or more proud. Keep killing it! Xo

  • Eyelah says:

    It’s really unfortunate you received a message like that from a potential buyer(not sure if she purchased the item) but it is a reflection on them not you. I work in customer support for an online retailer and I have to deal with people like that constantly both on the phone and in email. In fact people are worse via email because they feel ‘bold’ in being disrespectful. I don’t think this behavior decreases the value of the handmade moment because they most likely behave that way to any business.

    Since your business is growing you are more likely to come across more douche-nozzles than before. There isn’t much you can do about it except be as professional as possible about it when responding to customers. I know it’s hard to do that especially when it’s your own business but you’ll definitely get better at it over time.

  • Natasha says:

    Congratulations on doing so well. I love your packaging.

  • I’m so happy I was able to play a very small part in a successful Valentine season. 🙂 On the flipside, I felt a tug at my heart reading what that person said to you. I can’t believe the nerve of some people. I agree with you about with the “buy handmade” message becoming so big that people expect the same kind of rapid customer service they may get from a big box store. I hope getting it out and sharing it has at least made you feel better. Your work is awesome and you’re doing an amazing job with your business.

  • I worry about value decreasing as well, as more and more people join for the money and not for the love of what they make/do. But I decide to stick to my guns and do what feels right to me, give the experience I’d want and hopefully if you’re genuine the people will come. Right there with ya’!

  • Katherine says:

    I’m an artist too (musician) and we go through struggles that seem to hit our hearts a bit stronger than the bigger guys. I think your work is beautiful and fun and something only you can offer. Not matter what happens around you, just keep on 🙂


    P.S: Maybe this will make you feel better. I used to work PR for a trampoline company before I came back to music full time. Yes, a trampoline company. You want to see unreasonable complaints? Wait until you hear someone complain about their trampoline delivery. Oh, the things they would threaten! Laughter really helps. (not at them…that kinda makes it worse). But shutdown the laptop, have a laugh and it will fade away 🙂

  • Chloe Moon says:

    I applaud you for being strong about this obviously crabby person. You are absolutely right! We are only human and if it takes an extra day or two for a handmade product to reach your door from an etsy seller people have to remember that maybe the person, not machine, who made it wanted to take a little extra time to make it right. People need to give up the urgency of instantaneous gratification.

    I’m glad to hear of your Valentine’s day success and I hope you continue to grow and flourish!

    Ergo – Blog

  • Love this: “Julie, tomorrow, you will be over it…and she will still be a bitch. Who wins that one?”

    You’re a smart, successful woman with a good head on her shoulders. Look in the mirror and smile. You’re worth so much more than the comments any nasty buyer can make.

    We love your work, and we’re glad we can be here when you need to bare your heart a bit.


  • Ginger Mandy says:

    I have seen a lot of people on blogs, Facebook, and Twitter lately talking about how much it sucks that one negative comment can so easily outweigh the hundreds of positives. Brains aren’t always very smart!

    Either way, the response that person sent you says FAR more about their character and terrible attitude than it does about your product. As someone who has purchased from you and will do so again, I know that you are not distributing something that warrants such a response, unless you are smearing ACTUAL turds on your cards about poop 😉

  • Sandy says:

    I love that you were honest and put this out there. People can be so rude and I don’t think they really stop and think what they are saying or how much people who are self employed work. I love your work and you’ve been nothing but gracious and kind to me when I’ve ordered from you. I hope you know you have so many fans and I’m sure friends that you mean the world to. Don’t let the miserable people get you down. Hugs.

  • Barbara says:

    Some people are just perpetually miserable. You create beautiful cards and make so many people happy. I hope that all the positives of succeeding at running your own business quickly outweigh this crabby person’s comment. Sending lots of sunshine your way (:

  • Dawn says:

    I loved Elizabeth’s comment. “Julie, tomorrow you will be over it … and she will still be a bitch.” That said, had I been you, my feelings and confidence would’ve taken a hit as well. Attacking someone (or someone’s handiwork) does not resolve the issue. Too often we let one negative comment corrupt our thoughts, even after we have heard countless excellent feedback from other people. There was once, long ago, that I received a blog comment. It was left anonymously, and it told me that I couldn’t write. That I clearly had no grasp of my native language. That I shouldn’t pride myself on studying English, because I can’t even convey a simple phrase. That I show disrespect to punctuation. (That was the weirdest accustation.) It stung. It hurt. I was writing on my blog to write … to write anything, something. Everyone has a particular writing style, whatever comes natural to them. And this person swung their wrecking ball right through my page and tilled me to the ground. But, you know what? I have to think about Elizabeth’s grandma–because, at the end of the day, I’m still me. And that person is still a jerk–even more so because they would not leave their name.

    As for handmade? There’s quite a movement here in Indy for it, and I love it. I attended a fair called “Handmade Promenade” during the Christmas season. All local artists. All handmade things, at a limited quantity. I also frequent another store, “Homespun.” Again, all handmade. The items can be pricier, yes, but I still love them. I know it took time and effort and materials to create those things, so of COURSE they’re going to be more than your run-of-the-mill-Walmart-garbage. However, I love the personalization that goes into handmade items, and the care that artists/designers put into their pieces. They want to make people HAPPY. Not meet a quota.

  • Heidi says:

    That’s absolutely awful that someone would say that! I often feel this way about customers as well because they can be so demanding. It certainly is a stress that is hard to take, but like I said the other day, you eventually have to decide that you also have a life to live and let go. Much easier said than done of course– I mean I’m just as guilty of taking everything to heart too. While Etsy is a handmade site I think there are still a lot of people that see it just as a big website with a bunch of really cool stuff. They don’t even realize that most are handmade artists and that’s where we run into the issue of a crabby-pants like you wrote about. Hope you’re enjoying your days off now and getting some much needed rest and relaxation!!! 🙂

  • The person who sent you that nasty message was most likely NOT a healthy, happy, kind, thriving individual. Unfortunately we all bump shoulders with people like that every now and then, especially in any kind of business. At least you can rest assured that this person is not a threat to you, your reputation, or your personhood.

    Katie | Loverly She

  • There’s always one negative person. Don’t let it bother you and concentrate on all of the good feedback! I have ordered your cards and personally have seen the quality of your work! It’s fabulous. Keep it up! XO

  • Rude people are the worst. I’m so sorry that jerkface had to rain on your parade, and I hope you’re already feeling better about it. I’ve noticed an upswing of Etsy buyers who are either outright mean or very, very demanding in the last year or so, and I think it’s because of the marketplace growth you mentioned. It’s great that so many people are getting into the handmade movement, but they totally don’t get what it means. Maybe all of us who blog should write about this and maybe word will start to spread.

  • jess says:

    I have fairly successful Etsy shop and have my share of rude customers. I live in fear that someone will leave a negative (or even a neutral!) review! I was Etsy was a more generous in taking the side of the seller, but more often than not it seems they support the buyer, or at least give the buyer more of a platform to leave negative reviews. I’ve even had so-so experiences as a buyer and realize there are so-so sellers out there, but I don’t see it worth it to hassle someone for not being what I consider the best they can. It’s not worth it for either of us.

    That being said, troop on! I also get wonderfully supportive emails and photos from my customers, and I’m sure you do, too! Your work is adorable, everyone makes mistakes, and I’m guessing you make a lot less than retail chain stores! Good Luck <3


  • I want to start off by saying that I think you’re awesome and the work that you do is even more awesome! I know that even though the good weighs out the bad, the occasional bad does have a way of bringing your life to a pause. You just need to keep your head held high and know that no matter how big or how small, you’re making someone’s day just a little bit better. No matter what anyone thinks, there’s nothing better than receiving something handmade! The value behind the creativity and craftsmanship that goes into making something handmade, is priceless. There will always be negative people, and like you said it just goes to show you, the character of this person for her to open her complaint to you in that manor. Always remember that you’re doing what you love, and the rest that comes with it, is just learning experiences. Keep up the great work!! Great post!

  • BCshutterbug says:

    I think everyone has said most of what I thought while reading this post. I appreciate you sharing your experience with the negative comment, it’s something I imagine every seller will end up experiencing eventually. You’ve got an obvious ton of support from a lot of customers.

    I have to admit, part of what I love about your product is your packaging! The pretty string, the little paper hearts, your awesome business card, fun stamps! It’s the little things like that which are part of the charm of handmade businesses. Admittedly I’m not sure who is going to get half the cards I’ve bought so far, they just needed to be part of my card choices for when I do need to send them. Also one I bought for myself lol.

  • this is such a great post girl~!! sorry to hear that you had to face that negativity, but just look at all the positives out there and keep your head up!!


  • I’m sorry to hear that, Julie. I feel bad that some buyers are impatient. I mean, I know I’ve had my fair share of complaints when a seller is not replying at all but to give such kind of threat just for $4? Just sad. 🙁

    Your creations are lovely. Keep up the good work! 🙂

    Kisty of The Style Mermaid

  • Love this post. I can relate to your feelings and that experience 100%. I’ve been wanting to write something like this for a while now, but you said it way better than I would have! Don’t let the bitches get you down 🙂


  • irina says:

    Hi Julie,

    I admire your work and read your blog. You are trully amazing. I just hope someday I can live from what I make.
    Lons story short I am taking a class about internet business, and one of the mentors said something I think might help you go through this bad situation:
    you know when your project has great value, because then appears the people who are against it, or are behaving in a “bad” way:)
    So take it as a positive thing! You are doing a fabulous work !

  • Hi^^,
    This looks sooo cuuute ♥
    I´m going to make one of those too.
    Love your blog, its so sweet 😀
    Please check out ours:
    XOXO Haily & Abby

  • Psbrick says:

    I work in customer service, it’s hard but try to remember that the complaints and rudeness are usually not about you. Unfortunately, there are a lot of sad angry people who take their personal issues out on others. Sad but true! Keep your chin up and know that your best IS good enough!

  • Amanda Irel says:

    Sorry to hear that someone was immature and rude enough to threaten you via Etsy instead of properly and calmly addressing a concern they might have had. That being said, you shop is fun and unique and I appreciate your craft.

  • Bev Feldman says:

    I hear ya! I’m a sensitive person also and would have a hard time not taking something like that to heart. Just try to remember to look at all the positive feedback you have received and how much you have accomplished!

  • There will always be trolls and (forgive the potty mouth) asshats. That’s not to say what you express about the handmade movement growing isn’t valid, it is. As it grows, sadly the proportion of those sorts of people also grows. Don’t let them get you down. Screw ’em.

    As for potentially badmouthing you-that is concerning from a business woman POV. But those of us who buy from you (and stalk you online, lol) know better. I think that’s one aspect where the handmade market still has it all over the conventional one. If I hear badmouth crap about some company, I *might* believe it or let it unconsciously influence me. With the handmade folks that I buy from and have gotten to know via their blogs, tweets and overall sharing of their life with their customers, not buying it. Calling BS. Discounting the source because you guys not only work your butts off, you put it all out there and share YOURSELVES with your customers. It makes it pretty easy to separate what’s real from the malarky. It’s also what makes you so awesome and deserving of your success…well the kickass cards don’t hurt either, but you get my point. 😉

    I guess what I’m saying is your REAL customers got your back, don’t sweat the jerks.

  • I love your shop, and I love your cards (I bought two for V-day!) and it saddens me to know that there was one person who was so rude. And this goes for everyone who has ever put anything out there on the internet. It’s so brave doing that.

    That’s what I find sad, is that with the internet, it brings out more nasty people. I don’t know anyone who would ever start a conversation in that way, even if they had a complaint. The internet has taken away some of people’s compassion.

  • Pamela Bates says:

    try not to sweat it, instead think about all the nice things people have said to you and use the negative to move your forward doing bigger and better things.

    some people simply have no tact.

  • You are amazing. Your shit is fabulous. And bitches be damned.
    Love you.

  • Nic says:

    I’m a sensitive person when it comes to stuff like that. One negative comment tends to negate all of the positive ones I’ve ever gotten. I wonder about some customers sometimes.. Don’t they realize that if they come at us nicely, we will be nice too?


  • Kristin W says:

    It’s great to hear this perspective. As a buyer, sometimes it’s easy to get angry if you get bad service and not think about that. I’ve never been someone to make a big deal about little things, but this is easy to forget when dealing with Etsy sellers. Thanks for sharing!

  • Dave Conrey says:

    It’s funny, I was just having a conversation with Jeanette of Sweet Perversion about this very subject; getting hate mail from customers or people who felt it was their moral obligation to attack what you do.

    I’m thinking this person you dealt with is naturally a very sad individual and just likes to spit her venom toward anyone that she crosses paths with because she can be cruel in a digital world.

    I say, let the haters hate. Keep kicking ass at what you do and don’t sweat the small timers who are only their to bring you down.

    Jeanette, on the other hand, would have an entirely different response, probably something in regards to a finger gesture and a public shaming on her Facebook page.

  • chelsea says:

    I’ve been a fan of your shop for sometime but only recently discovered that you blog as well. I am now following your blog and I’m so inspired by your creative journey. It’s awful that are people out there that don’t understand how difficult it is and are just mean for the sake of being mean. But it’s also reassuring to know how big and supportive the Etsy community is. I’ll be following and hopefully buying one of your cards soon!

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