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Handmade Survey Results

Word Cloud graphic of the most-used words from the handmade survey. Most prominent are POD, Handmade, design, and artisan.

Handmade Survey Results

Designing a Marketplace for the People Who Use It

The Artisans Cooperative released a survey to define “handmade” February 13, 2023. We created the survey to learn our community’s opinions on what kind of artisans and products to include on our marketplace. The poll closed on February 26, 2023.

Through this poll we are demonstrating our commitment to platform cooperativism: the people who will be using the marketplace should have a voice in designing and developing it.

The results are guiding our governance team in developing a Handmade Policy. For background on why we created the poll and how it was developed, read our post, Take the Handmade Definition Survey.

In this post, we’re sharing the poll results!  

TLDR: Jump to Conclusion >>>

Word Cloud graphic of the most-used words from the handmade survey. Most prominent are POD, Handmade, design, and artisan.

Handmade Survey Results

The survey was conducted via Google Form with answers stored in a secure Google Sheet from February 13-26, 2023. We received 110 responses. 

It consisted of 5 major questions with ample opportunities for additional comments: 

  • The Right Word
  • Why We Buy:
    • Design 
    • Production
    • Shopping
    • Business Scale
  • Does This Belong? 
  • Print-on-Demand (POD)
  • Product “Artistry” Categories
  • Opportunity to Revisit The Right Word: The BEST Word

Additionally, there was one demographic question that helped us slice the data: 

  • Whether the respondent was an Artisan or general Partner / Supporter
Demographic results of handmade survey: 70% were artisans, 27% were supporters, and 4% were partners.

The Right Word 


The following questions will ask you to rate on a scale of 1-7 how much different words or terms describe the products and artisans you want to see in the marketplace. 

(shown in alphabetical order below, presented in random order)

1- Not at all
2- A little
3:- Slightly
4- Somewhat
5- Moderately
6- Very much so
7- Extremely


When viewed as an average and median of all responses, it seems clear that the respondents think we should stick with the word “handmade”. 

Both artisans and non-artisans picked the same words for the top 3, but artisans ranked “handmade” higher.

Handcrafted” and “artist-made” were also strong contenders, although as one commenter rightly pointed out, it should be “artisan-made” not “artist-made” for the Artisan’s Cooperative (our mistake!). 

Other appropriate words to incorporate into our marketing would seem to include everything with a median score of 6 or above, including “original”, “independent”, and “authentic”. 

Why We Buy


The following questions will ask you to rate on a scale of 1-7 how important different parts of the [Design Process, Production Process, Shopping Process, Business Scale] are to you when it comes to shopping from an artisan.

1- Not at all important
2- Low importance
3:- Slightly important
4- Somewhat important
5- Moderately important
6- Very important
7- Extremely important

These parts were then listed in randomized order (here, in alphabetical order by subsection):


For this series of questions, we were trying to understand, why do folks choose to go to a handmade marketplace to shop instead of to a mass-production marketplace? 

We divided the parts into four questions, grouped them by sub-section: 

  • Design Process
  • Production Process
  • Shopping Process
  • Business Scale

During analysis, we found it insightful to compare the average importance between the sub-sections first. 

When talking about “handmade”, most conversations immediately drill down on the production method: arguments about hand tools vs machines almost invariably come up first. 

But interestingly, when looking at all the aspects of handmade, the production method was the least important to respondents when choosing to shop from artisans by average score.

Two-thirds of the comments we received on this topic emphasized that use of a machine did not preclude handmade or that production method was not important. Some of the comments about this were particularly insightful and thoughtful: 

  • By answering not at all I do not mean the items aren’t important, I just mean it’s not a factor that influences weather I buy. All three of the manufacturing options I consider to be handmade and they do not make me decide not to buy something over another production method.
  • I don’t think we need to go back to the ideology of William Morris or Gustav Stickley in terms of the purification of the handmade process. Using a Glowforge to cut or engrave wood or an electric drill to assemble something does not negate the originality or quality at least at this time in our advanced technology and use of power tools. Ray and Charles Eames designed all their furniture and many can still be found in museums and homes, because they were designed well and are still timeless. Made through a manufacturing production- this does not automatically assign something as bad or poor quality.
  • IMO [in my opinion] something being made with a drill/machine/outsourced for printing/etc aren’t necessarily something that would make me less interested in a product because so long as the product is still original and comes from a small business or individual artist. For example, someone is selling zines or art prints, but uses printing services. They still put effort into designing the piece. Same goes for someone using something like a laser engraver or 3d printer.
  • Machines can be a required part of the process. As an example, I cut cabochons. I used power tools to do it. If I did it with hand tools, I could only make about 4 cabochons a year, and they would be of inferior quality. The power tools I use are not automated, however. I use the machine, but I command the machine.

More important to respondents was the size of the business, the shopping impetus, and the design process. In some ways, this result is quite profound. It tells us that shoppers trust artisans on their production method: what they want to do is support the artisan more than the particular labor process.

And given the importance of business scale, the comments indicated a strong affinity for the “micro” scale as opposed to “small”: 

  • Sooooo happy to see Micro-business as a question, it’s a term that consumers need to hear more often. Any business that has between 1-500 employees shouldn’t be grouped in the same “small business” category because that is a very large gap in terms of size. 
  • Small business already feels too big! Micro-business looks like the right size for this website.

Next, we looked at the aggregate of all the answers, regardless of section, to see which particular aspects were most important. 

The “Top 10” list explores the details of what is most important. Most of the top 10 reflect a desire to support a small, independent artisan who has the freedom to be creative and make ethical choices about their work. 

The way in which artisans produce that work is less material. Few people go shopping for artisan-made wood block toys because they want to know the wood was cut using a hand saw instead of a band saw. They are content to let the artisan decide on the right tool.

What they do go shopping for is an artisan-made wood block toy because they can trust that artisan not to put a toxic gloss on the surface, to use a high quality wood, and support a small business who is happy to make it this way at their own workbench. 

Does This Belong? 


These are some common and uncommon selling situations on handmade platforms. In each of these examples, how much do you agree or disagree about them being included in our marketplace?

1- Not at all important
2- Low importance
3:- Slightly important
4- Somewhat important
5- Moderately important
6- Very important
7- Extremely important

The examples were then listed as separate questions (here, in alphabetical order):


We presented 21 different problematic examples of artistic businesses that could arguably be included on a “handmade” marketplace, inspired by real-life experience. These examples were chosen to probe the boundaries of the definition, and attempted to represent a variety of crafts and materials without prejudice. 

An assessment of the comments on this section revealed two top themes:

  • Vintage items do not belong
  • Outsourcing portions of production is okay

Comments indicated that we had done a good job challenging respondents to think about different situations: 

  • Excellent work on making those serious head-scratchers. 
  • Many of these examples are kind of grey line scenarios … which is probably why you chose them. 
  • This was a really interesting exercise in thought process. I realize i have a wide range of what’s acceptable to me to be sold on a platform for “handcrafted” items. I stand by my choices and have reasoning behind it!
  • Very interesting examples.
  • wow – this section gave me a LOT to think about!

To analyze the results of this question, we first created a data column that explains the craft boundary being explored. Each example explored a different fuzzy boundary of the craft sphere, whether it be a business scale, design originality, unique “craft materials” such as food, plants, or writing, hot-button topics like AI or NFTs, and more. 

In analysis, we first looked at the Top 10 examples that “most belonged”, ranked by average. The median also showed a clear break from 6 to 5 after the Top 9, which gave more credence to this arbitrary threshold.

We had these thematic observations about the Top 10 examples that most belonged: 

  • Inclusivity to any kind of craft material / art, even non-traditional ones like writing, food, digital designs, and plants. 
  • Inclusivity to any kind of tools, equipment, or materials so long as there was original design and a small business behind it, even in the case of plastic phone cases on a laser engraver. 
  • Recognition that authentic artisans may hire help to focus on the creative side of their business, including outsourcing shipping and fulfillment, hiring printing companies to produce printed materials such as photo prints or playing cards, and using mass-produced components such as beads and hardware. 

The Bottom 12 examples can be split into two groups: the “murky middle” and the “bottom third.” 

The Murky Middle presents the most problematic examples, which we should either not allow on our marketplace, or carefully craft policy language around. We have these thematic observations about the Murky Middle: 

  • A dash of original thought added to a re-sold item is a murky area, whether it’s embellishing an already-made skirt, re-selling artwork that one person commissioned but someone else created, or simply adding a framing service to a vintage or authentic original work.
  • Reliance on larger businesses, even when considered a “small business”, was murky, particularly for non-printed materials. There was less acceptance for the local frame shop with 12+ employees and the sewer that outsourced production of skirts even though there was a strong support for outsourcing printed materials in the Top 10.  

The Bottom Third are clearly examples that don’t belong on our marketplace. The clear theme was lack of originality. Whether it’s relying on computers (AI, NFTs), or cribbing other artisan’s designs, re-selling vintage goods, monogramming mass-produced wine glasses, or selling a completed paint-by-number, what they all had in common was the seller not producing original ideas. These were entrepreneurs rather than artisans. 

Print-on-Demand (POD) 


“Print-on-Demand” (POD) is a printing technology and business process in which products are not printed until the company receives an order, allowing prints of single or small quantities. This can be applied to books, graphic designs on common items like t-shirts and mugs, or photography/canvases. Printful is an example of a POD service that integrates with Etsy.

Some argue that POD is just a loophole for non-handmade artists. Others point out that POD can make selling more accessible, keep prices competitive, and produce less waste.

  • Should we generally allow POD products in our marketplace? 
  • Should we allow POD on certain kinds of products, but not all?
  • Should we allow POD for self-published books / zines?
  • Should we allow POD for prints and stickers: canvases, photo reproductions, posters, greeting cards, stickers?
  • Should we allow POD for basic apparel: T-shirts, hoodies, hats, tote bags?
  • Should we allow POD for everything else: blankets, flags, socks, mouse pads, beanbag covers, laptop cases, pillows, water bottles, etc.?
  • Are there other products you think we should allow POD for?
  • Should we allow POD for certain members, but only with an extra level of verification?

1- Not at all important
2- Low importance
3:- Slightly important
4- Somewhat important
5- Moderately important
6- Very important
7- Extremely important


Print-on-Demand (POD) has been a particularly hot-button issue when it comes to handmade marketplaces. Not everyone is familiar with this production method, so we provided a definition of it in the question and several proposals for how POD might be partially allowed to tease out the boundaries of the issue. 

Analysis of the comments revealed several themes, some of them contradictory. This section had the most comments, and in fact, “POD” was the most-used word in all the comments in the whole survey, as shown in the word cloud.

Most popular comment themes were:

  • Original artwork is okay for POD
  • Should verify ownership of artwork for POD
  • No POD
  • OK with POD but not on low quality items
  • I don’t understand / don’t know enough to answer

Some comments registered uncertainty. But for those that were familiar with POD, there were strong opinions. Here are some representative comments: 

  • I think this is the hardest one in terms of defining what is handmade but personally I don’t think it is. A mass manufactured shirt or piece of plastic with some writing on it that’s printed on demand doesn’t qualify as handmade in my mind.
  • I think POD is okay as a way to support one’s core creative life. If POD sales are the focus, then not okay.
  • Fundamentally opposed to POD in any form being considered as handmade. It’s not. Nor does engraving a production made item.
  • Small scale outsourcing is okay; mass manufacturing and/or POD designs using commercial clip art are not cool in a handmade marketplace.
  • There are plenty of POD sites that people can sell from. Don’t need to do it here. Also there’s a lot of design copying/IP theft in this domain – so many examples on etsy.
  • If by POD you mean, “this product was printed and shipped from redbubble” then maybe not? It’s not bad, but its very far removed from the artist. But at the same time, the artist still put work into the design. But generally being able to use printing services is good and I think should generally be allowed, especially for paper products (prints, zines, etc). 

To review, we sorted the results by average and median response: 

We have the following observations about the results: 

  • Similar to the “Does This Belong?” section, printed materials were exceptionally well-supported (self-published books / zines, canvases, stickers, photo reproductions, posters, greeting cards, etc). 
  • There was a willingness to consider POD under certain conditions: for certain kinds of products, or certain POD providers, or certain kinds of artisans with additional verification. 
  • Basic apparel had the second-to-lowest average but a median score of 5. If we did allow basic apparel, it would be in combination with another kind of restrictions, such as only certain verified artisans or approved production partners. 
  • The “everything else” examples of typical mass-produced merchandise were rejected quite definitively, the only question to receive a median score of 4 instead of 5+, and to have an average response of “disagree”.

Product “Artistry” Categories 


To help with shopping filters and price differentiation, should products be self-identified with labels by category or tier of artistry?

[Yes, No, Other…]

  • Artisanal: made primarily from raw materials (eg, yarn, hides of leather)
  • Craft: made primarily by assembling or combining from ready-made components (such as beads, clasps, and wire)
  • Artist Reproduction: a reproduction of one-of-a-kind original works (such as a writer with a self-published book, a photographer selling on canvases, printable PDFs, or all print-on-demand)
  • One-of-a-Kind: a one-of-a-kind original work: only one has been produced (such as an original oil painting, or a custom-commissioned digital artwork)


The comments received in this section revealed there were possibly fatal flaws to this question as it was phrased. Respondents either voted “yes” or “other”, with none voting “no”: perhaps because this question was poorly-worded or the survey was too long. 

“Other” commenters generally rejected the definitions of the proposed labels, particularly “artisanal” and “craft” as poorly-worded and ill-defined. In short, it was too difficult, and too amorphous, to try to differentiate “artisanal” from “craft” if indeed those were even the correct words to begin with. 

However, the comments did tease out an important idea: it would be good to label anything factual about its production, which would correspond to a search filter. This would be a different list than the one proposed, with some overlap, such as: 

  • In-house Production
  • Print-on-Demand
  • Custom Manufactured Goods
  • One-of-a-Kind (OOAK)

The BEST Word 

Unique to this question, we gave respondents the opportunity to revisit their responses in Section 2, The Right Word. 

If they said “yes”, they were presented with this question to identify the “best” word from the same list as The Right Word, but as a Multiple Choice rather than a scale of 1-7.

If they said “no”, they skipped this question and had one last opportunity to share comments before the survey was completed. 


From the same list of options in Section 2 (The Right Word…), select the BEST word or term to describe the products and artisans you want to see in the marketplace.  

(shown in alphabetical order below, presented in random order)

List of words to describe handmade from a handmade survey: handmade
arts and crafts


24 respondents (22%) provided an answer to this question, while 86 respondents (78%) chose to skip it. 

We posed this question a second time because we wondered if, after a thoughtful series of questions, people may have second thoughts about the meanings of the words, perhaps choosing a different word than “handmade” for example. 

Because there was such a small response, the data is inconclusive. However, we did find it noteworthy that “handmade” and “handcrafted” were no longer the top choices, and that “artist-made” had significantly more support. 

The results are summarized below: 


In addition to the questions above, we provided multiple opportunities for both Artisans and Supporters/Partners to provide additional comments and feedback. 

The sheer volume of comments received made it impractical to assess them all, but we reviewed each of them and incorporated them in each question’s analysis section.


We are very excited about these results and grateful to all the respondents who took the time to complete the poll! We feel these results give our Governance Team clear marching orders on defining our first Handmade Policy. 

Coming up with a definition of “handmade” is a messy business. As the woodworker-philosopher David Pye said, almost throwing his hands up, “Is it not time to give up and admit that we are trying to define in the language of technology a term which is not technical? ‘Handicraft’ and ‘Hand-made’ are historical or social terms, not technical ones. Their ordinary usage nowadays seems to refer to workmanship of any kind which could have been found before the Industrial Revolution.”

We cannot come up with the perfect definition of “handmade”.

But thanks to these poll results, we can take away these conclusions in developing guidelines for what kinds of products should be on our marketplace: 

  • We will continue to use the word “handmade”. Flawed as it may be, it is the most universally-recognizable and has a colloquial meaning that matches our intent. In addition to “handmade” these words are also appropriate:
    • Artisan-made
    • Handcrafted
    • Original
    • Independent
    • Authentic
  • When we decide to shop from artisans, the actual production method used is actually the least important factor. More important to people is the desire to support a small, independent artisan who has the freedom to be creative and make ethical choices about their work. 
  • Respondents agreed that almost any kind of craft material / art, and any kind of tools / equipment / production method should be included on our marketplace so long as the artisans are authentic, and their work is original. 
  • The murkiest areas of inclusion came when only a dash of originality was added to a re-sold item, or when the artisan was reliant on larger businesses for production, except for printed materials
  • People agreed that it was lack of originality that did not belong on our marketplace, whether it’s relying on computers (AI), infringing on other artisan’s designs, re-selling, or otherwise.
  • Respondents were supportive of the idea of allowing some Print-on-Demand (POD), but that it should be restricted (whether by artisans, suppliers, or product types).
  • POD for original artworks on print materials, such as books, zines, posters, canvases, greeting cards, and stickers, had clear support, while basic apparel and “everything else” (common swag) was not supported. 

These results manage to be both revolutionary and common-sense, and we can’t wait to hear what you think. 

What do you think about these results? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 

About Artisans Cooperative

We are growing an online handmade marketplace for an inclusive network of creatives: a co-op alternative to Etsy.
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