Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Unbearable Whiteness Of Being

 Before I launch into my post, I want to put a disclaimer.  These pics aren't that great, they were snapped really fast for the sake of experimentation.  I will explain below.

It's no secret that I have a love/hate relationship with Etsy.  I love buying from and supporting other artists.  I also love having something a little more unique.  Etsy is a great place to find that.  There isn't much that you can't find on there.

  However, Etsy themselves make me crazy.  They do things that are so counter intuitive at times, and they feel it's their right to dictate what artists do sometimes.  I realize it's their site and they can do that if they want, and we have the right to not sell there.  But in so doing all too often they tend to homogenize and suppress artist's right to express themselves how they want, charge what they want, and even in some instances to dictate what artists should make...not to mention how they run their businesses.  

The latest mandate handed down from the powers that be is that if you want to have even the tiniest hope of making the front page you have to photograph your work on a plain white background.  Now for the most part this doesn't really affect me because artist bears rarely make the front page anyway.  We aren't hipster enough for Etsy.  That aside, it still makes me crazy.

I know that white backgrounds are the fad right now.  In fact I play into that a little bit by currently  having a white background for both my blog and website.   I do not have it for my photos though.  I have been watching the front page of Etsy for a while since they started doing this and I don't really feel that it enhances anything overall.  There are too many shades of white that don't mesh.  Without consistency, which is impossible since you have so many cameras, backgrounds and photographers...they can't achieve the look they truly want.  Sometimes I can't even tell what an item is unless I click on it because there is no context.  Even if I can tell what it is, I can't always get a feel for the size of the item, or what exactly the artist was going for.  I also went through all my purchases and discovered that I haven't bought a single thing from Etsy that was displayed on plain white.  I find that I am clicking those front page items a lot less than I used to.

Certain items do look good on a white background, but others just don't.  A distressed, old looking teddy bear looks strange floating on a white background in my opinion.  I think the setting sometimes helps tell the story of your piece.  It's an important component in displaying your art.  You wouldn't go to a show and put everything on a white table cloth or white shelves.  That would be odd, and people would probably stroll past your table to get to a cuter display that draws them in.

However, I will let you give your honest feedback.  I am curious which image you prefer?  I have done plain white, sorta white and a background with a prop.  Maybe I am in the minority in thinking this.  Again keep in mind that the pics were taken really fast for the sake of this experiment.  Thanks in advance for your feedback!


jenann said...

The plain, white background doesn't draw my eye to the little bear in the same way that the other two backgrounds do. Odd, isn't it? Without other aspects of the photo to distract me, you would think I'd concentrate on the bear more, wouldn't you? But it is the other way round.
Then there's the issue of white items - especially bears etc. How are you to make them appear more than a fuzzy blob, if only a plain white background is required?
Given that they exist to work with artistic people, wouldn't you think it would be in Etsy's interest to let those very capable people decide how best to display their products?
Poor little bear! Bring him back from floating around outer space - he must be totally disorientated!

Heather said...

For me, I like the middle picture, the "sort of white" one the best. It's kind of cloudy and whimsical like this particular bear.

Now, I can't say this would be the same for me with *every* bear you make, but for this particular one, I think that background suits him nicely. :)

Steph Kayne said...

Personally, I like the last picture, with the colorful background and prop. The white is too plain, and same with the sort of white. I like to see an environment for the bear; one that doesn't detract, but enhances it.

Wish You Were Here Mom said...

I had no idea you can't be on the front page of etsy if you don't use a white background! My favorite backdrop on your 3 sample pictures is the middle "sort of white" one. It's not too busy like the last one but it's not too plain like the first one! I think it should all be a matter of personal preference - it's YOUR art so you should display it the way YOU want!
Hugs, Janice

Kelly said...

Thanks you guys! I like the last two better than the plain white too. This whole thing with Etsy and white is a recent thing. The problem is you won't be put in treasuries as much anymore either if you don't use white because people want to get those to the front page. If you want to see, you can go to Craftcult and look at the front page treasury list. That's what made me notice. So I went to the forum on Etsy to investigate and I was directed to a post they made about it.

Debora Hoffmann said...

Hmm. I really like the second photo because it is an etherial look in the background and sets off the bear very well but doesn't detract from the bear. And I also like the third photo. But the all-white background? Um, no. Not for me. Strange that Etsy wants to dictate backgrounds...white doesn't helps showcase things.

Katy Cameron said...

Ha, bucking the trend as ever, I prefer 1 and 3, I'm not so fond of the off white. For me though the whites do have to be white and not mucky grey...

KellyJo said...

I'm a little late on this. But, I liked the #1 and #2 the best. The #3 picture I felt like the bear has been defined for me. Not leaving me to see in him what I want. Whereas the other two are simpler and I am given to my own interpretation. :)

Amanda said...

Funny enough I think your bear looks great with the white background but I think thats down to that particular bear. I think you've got a good eye for what looks good so I would go with your gut instinct.

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