Everyone has the right to a hobby – even crafters!

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You don’t have to sell your crafts if you don’t want to. I have learned so much in this last year about creating and selling my crochet designs, and would love to do a series of blog posts focusing on the things I know now about selling crafts that I wish I knew a year ago.
But before I do any discussions on how to monetise a craft, the thing that feels most important to me to say is this. You don’t have to! You don’t owe anyone an Etsy shop, you don’t owe anyone a business plan. If you get joy from crafting, then craft. It doesn’t have to become your day job, it can support your day job, by giving you a creative and healthy outlet outside that!

Image shows clip art of woman knitting, and the text ‘you have the right to a hobby, and are under no obligation to monetise it.

But in the crafting world, there is a clear pressure to ‘sell stuff’. Spend any time on any of the larger Facebook groups, or scrolling Instagram, and for crafters, you would easily get the impression that if you are not selling your stuff, you are not doing it right. I couldn’t disagree more.

Images shows clip art of a man fishing, and the text reads ‘if a doctor likes fishing at the weekend, they don’t get told to give up their medical practice and get a job on a trawler

Hobbies have a purpose. They entertain. Fun is important!
They foster community. People with the same hobbies come together. In studies, people with hobby groups, such as a book club, were more likely to survive cancer. The researchers concluded that having visitors from the group while in hospital was one thing that had a huge impact on recovery rates.
Feeling part of a group is a human need. Whether you like knitting, fishing, or reading books, being part of a hobby group is good for you!
Crafting has been found to have many health benefits from relieving anxiety, reducing perceptions of pain, and even slowing the progress of dementia.

Image shows clip art of a man golfing, with the text ‘or if they like golf, they don’t get told to give up their medical practice and run a pitch and putt’

And many hobbies are allowed to be just that – fun hobbies for the sake of enjoyment, well-being and community. Imagine a successful male doctor who likes to spend his weekend on the golf course, or fishing. These are clearly hobbies. That doctor may dream of an eventual retirement where they can spend more time doing these things, but is unlikely to be put under pressure to make money from them, and quit their career.

Image shows clip art of woman knitting, and the text ‘but if your hobby is in the textile arts, you can’t go 5 minutes without being told ‘oh, you should set up an Etsy shop’

But it’s quite different in some other fields. An overlap between the idea of crafting, and of selling, can be seen everywhere. A google search for ‘sell your crafts’ produces 266,000,000 results. That’s some serious industry in structures just to provide sales platforms.

This puts any crafters, especially young crafters, under huge pressure. In communities where so much talk is of selling, I see so many young crafters saying they are going to quit, because they don’t make any sales. ‘It’s not about the sales!’ I want to yell. ‘You are allowed a hobby, and no, you won’t get rich selling little crocheted bees. And you might never sell any. But if making them gives your heart joy, get a display shelf. And give as gifts. It’s OK to do it because you enjoy it. Your worth is not measured in the Kaching of an Etsy sale.’

Image shows a clip art of a smiling woman sewing a tee shirt, and the text reads ‘So what’s different? Art versus sport? Traditionally male versus traditionally female? Social class origins of the hobby? And Capitalism! It’s all about capitalism.

So, what’s different between the male doctor who has a sport hobby, and the (probably, but not always) female who crafts?

Firstly, different hobbies are treated differently. Sports don’t produce a tangible good, nor do other hobbies such as reading. But in crafts and arts an item is created – physical or digital. You can’t sell the 6 hours you spent curled up with a good book, but it’s theoretically possible to sell the painting you worked on for 6 hours.
And we live in a capitalist society that tells us that if hoods are being made, they must also be being sold. But maybe the painter approached the paining just like the reader approached the reading? Because they needed some chill out time after a hectic week? And what if they want to hang the painting on their own wall?

Gender preconceptions are an important aspect. Our society views male and female productivity differently. On the one hand it devalues women’s work, but directly linked to that, it doesn’t award women time away from work in the same way. The man who worked all week and spends the weekend fishing is on a well deserved break, but the woman is culturally expected to spend all her non employment time caring for family, and generating extra income as part of that. For well over a hundred years women in the west of Ireland, and Dublin would spend every spare minute knitting Aran jumpers which were sold at high cost in the states, but traditionally these women were often paid in basic food parcels, not even cash. There is a long, sad history everywhere of exploitation of crafters for capitalist production. We can celebrate the craft without being part of that.
In future posts I will look at some aspects of setting up The Fairythorn to sell crochet designs. And for anyone else who may want to turn a hobby into a jobby, more power to you, I’ve got your back! Just remember, you don’t have to if you don’t want to.

Image shows a clip art of a girl making a toy doll, and the text reads ‘this week I will only be posting about crafts that I don’t sell’
Image of text which reads ‘Because our crafting is about our mental health, our creativity and our self expression first and foremost

By Ciara

I learned to knit as a young child, and came to crochet much later in life when I could no longer knit. Sharing the joy of crochet with sustainability and slow fashion in mind is a passion

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