Etsy - This is probably the leader. Etsy is an online community of artists and crafters. Anything hand-made can be bought and sold on Etsy. Born just 2 years ago, over 1,000,000 items have now been sold here. So yup, it's pretty big.
Etsy allows anyone to set up there own shop quickly and easily, wherever you are. It is probably one of the most beautiful websites I've ever seen. It offers users the ability to search for art and crafts by category, colour, location and a whole lot of other unique ways.
Their distribution model is similar to ebay or amazon - They don't need a warehouse to store all the artwork. Instead, the artist ships directly to the buyer once a sale is made. This means there's no limits to the amount of items they can have for sale.
Made It - Made it is the local version of Etsy, and specializes in Australian work. It is nowhere near as big as Etsy, but then again is a lot younger.
Made offers items for sale in a lot of categories, including art, clothing, homewheres, jewellery and lots more. From purely an art perspective, there isn't a lot of work on Made It just yet.
Redbubble - Another local mob, this time in Fitzroy, redbubble is another up and coming art community that seems to be doing well. Redbubble allows you to upload your images and designs, and redbubble takes care of the printing. As an artist you can upload images for cards, wall hangings and even T-Shirts.
Most of the artwork for sale here is Photography based. But there isn't anything to stop artists and illustrators selling their work here. As a buyer, the service is very good, and they even give you different framing options that you can choose from.
With a membership base of over 10,000, the redbubble community is off to a strong start.
Deviant Art - Deviant Art claims to be the biggest art community online. I don't really know a lot about it, and it seems to be a little overwhelming when you visit the site. But by the looks of it, artists can upload and sell there work through Deviant Art. There seems to be a huge amount of art here, including tonnes of manga stuff.
Artflock - Artflock is another online gallery that allows anyone to upload and sell their art, this one based out of the UK. It is a nice looking site, and seems to be a good way for any artist to sell their work. Mostly 'On the wall' type art here.
The only problem with artflock is that most of the art here is crap. Even the most popular art on artflock is generally mediocre.
But all in all, these sites have been done well. I think Etsy and redbubble are the two that stand out for me.
A few thoughts on these types of sites:
- All of them allow artists to be "Global Microbrands" and sell their stuff to the whole world. That's a good thing for independent artists everywhere.
- By allowing anyone to add their artwork, without restriction, you are bound to get a lot of bad artwork in there. Which is why the rating systems on these sites are so important, to bring the best artwork to the surface.
- These are big sites, with many people working on them. There's a lot of time and effort gone into all of these. Not the 'one man band' operations that I had in mind for my business.
- The sites that nurture their communities are the ones that will do well. That's one of the reason why I think Etsy and redbubble stand out from this crowd.