Saturday, January 5, 2008

Encouraging Kids' Art

I got sucked into a very interesting Etsy forum thread for more than three hours last night. It was started by a woman who was thinking about opening an Etsy store for her kids to teach them the value of money, since like her, her kids are big crafters. She was looking for advice. That simple question turned into a huge, and often times nasty, debate between those who felt that kids deserved the right to share their creativity on Etsy just as much as adults did and those who adamantly disagreed for various reasons. It took me two hours to read the first thread alone (as I said, I really got sucked in) and then by the time I got to the end of that one, Etsy admin had closed it because of the nastiness involved. Another mom had started another thread even before the first one closed asking other moms if their kids were already selling on Etsy. That one stayed a bit more civil but some of the detractors from the first thread made their way over and continued to voice their objections. I posted in that one. My comments are below. Things added in [ ] are thoughts that have popped up as I’ve written this post.
All I can say is wow. I read the entire thread that started this conversation and have now read this entire thread. My basic thoughts on the topic lean more towards letting kids sell their work if they want to, with proper supervision and guidance. I'd prefer it be through their parents store if they are in elementary school, but if they are in middle or high school and are bright and capable enough to run their own store, with their parents supervision as Etsy requires, then more power to them. [It’s a heck of a lot more valuable than hanging out on MySpace for hours on end.] I've seen some truly incredible artwork done by children. Like some who have posted in either of these threads, I work in education and I see the value that art brings to kids' lives, no matter their skill level.

Yes, I know those of you touting the legal aspects of this discussion will throw darts at me now. Go ahead. I have twins: I can handle anything. :-) When it all comes down to it, however many legal articles or opinions are shared, it's Etsy's decision and it's been documented in the other thread that’s now been closed. Will they change it based on these threads. Who knows?

However! In reading through both of these threads, the thing that has troubled me most has been the negative attacks. Why can't we all just get along? I've been on Etsy for about 8 months...haven't sold much, but have bought a lot because I've seen some great stuff and I want to support other artists. I have a blog on which I feature great Etsy finds all the time. I do juried arts festivals and I sell online much better on my own personal website, but I'm still here because I enjoy the venue and meeting other artists and craftsmen. I'm a member of three street teams and I think this is a great site. I do agree with some of the posters who've said quality is definitely all over the place. There are some amazing artists here and, yes, there are some things listed here that look like they have been created by very untalented children...when they've been created by adults.

But you know what? So what! The fact is, everyone here, no matter their skill level, has taken the time to share a piece of themselves through their art, whatever that may be. Personally, I'd be much more likely to buy a piece of art from someone with a positive attitude than someone sending out snippy remarks in a forum thread. Near the beginning of this thread Baleen said "Isn't the spirit of Etsy about creating things rather than ripping them down?" I couldn't agree more. I was shocked by a comment on the other thread essentially questioning someone's parenting skills. There should be no place for that here.

In this thread, JennyGardener said "How, as a community, can we support young artists while still respecting the integrity of Etsy and what it proposes to do? I think this is a key question. How can we encourage and support our young artists without either condescending to them or putting them in sketchy legal/social situations? How can we ensure the best quality of work and business at Etsy for ALL sellers and buyers?"

Jenny makes a great point, and it's not just about supporting young artists and it's not even just about art. It's about supporting ALL artists in a positive fashion, no matter their art OR their opinions. Do I personally like stuffed animals with cuss words on them [something that came up in the thread earlier]? No, but I also believe everyone has a right to express their own creativity. To each his own. Just mark it MATURE and don't list it in toys.

I come to Etsy for inspiration. POSITIVE inspiration. Why can't we all just be respectful of each other without being petty? And encourage without judging? Okay, go ahead and throw your darts now....
So yes, as you can see that thread got me a little fired up, mainly because I saw no need for the nastiness. There were some examples shared by parents having sections in their stores for their kids’ art, and there really was some great stuff! My girls are still far too young to do something like this, but I’m definitely encouraging their crafty side. We made the purses you see here together. They both laid out their own designs. All I did was handle the hot glue gun (and burned the heck out of my fingers more than once….). Livvie designed the single bow purse, Sarah the double. In the next couple weeks, I’ll post some of the amazing artwork done by kids under 18 I found through that thread. And by the way….I think I did a double whammy on the Creative Every Day project today…sharing more writing and helping the girls with their purses! Any comments you’d like to share on kids’ artwork? Just click the comments box below!

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ELLIE said...

I totally agree with you that there is no need for the nastiness in order to have a productive discussion on the pros and cons of children (teens) selling their art on etsy....but the first thing that popped in my mind is perhaps that etsy could start a children's store (an area just for kids to sell)...I think if a young person has the intelligence to sell and deal with it all they should be given the chance....I think younger then high school they might need parental guidance ...
I love what your kids made...I think as adults we should ALL encourage and pave the way for young people to express and display and sell their art...they are the future after all!!!
Thanks for sharing all this!!!

Kelly Warren said...

Tbanks Ellie. Yes, that was one of the suggestions that was made. Some of the high schooler participating in the discussion didn't really like that idea since they felt their art wouldn't be taken seriously that way. Good point. Who knows what the answer is. I understand Etsy's lawyer is going to be writing an article in the Storque about it soon. Should be interesting!