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Kayte Terry

Etsy Labs: Get Out of Your House and Get Crafting!

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Written on April 3, 2007 4:56 PM

It's hard to be crafty in New York. Most of us barely have room for a bed and a dresser let alone a designated crafty area. Sky high rents make it difficult to live off of our handmade wares and crafty business people often find themselves making things in the wee hours of the night on their kitchen floors. Enter the Etsy Labs, a new Etsy venture in Brooklyn, out to change the way New Yorkers craft. A community studio of sorts featuring sewing machines, metalworking supplies, silk screening and even a green screen, the Esty Lab goal is to get people out of their house and learn the beauty of collaboration and skill-sharing.

Cool DIY art decorates the walls of the space.

I visited the Labs one sunny weekday afternoon and was so excited to see and hear about all of their plans for building the crafting community in New York. Full time Lab staffer Mary took me on a tour of the building and filled me in on some of the future plans for the labs. The labs are set up in a big lofty space with areas designated for different craft media, as well as a kitchen and lounge area. The Etsy offices are also located here; though many of the people working on the website live far from New York, they use the Etsy Labs as their base and the location for their monthly "community" meetings.

I was immediately struck by the friendliness of everyone there, the coolness of the space and most importantly, how big the space is! We New York dwellers are always impressed by a lot of open space but it's even better when it comes with big windows streaming in direct sunlight. I often craft in the middle of the night in my windowless "studio" and I am just as often taken by surprise the next morning when I find out that the navy blue fabric I thought I was using was actually dark brown. I have a feeling this wouldn't happen if I was sewing at the Etsy Labs. And let's be honest: how many of us have sewing machines, sergers, screen printing equipment, metal working tools and letterpress machines in our apartments?

A view of the space and a preview of some of the great sewing supplies you can use as a member!

While the labs seem like a really fun place to hang out, craft and chat with other crafters, I really appreciate their emphasis on making crafting a real business for people. Etsy sellers can come in, take pictures of their products, upload them on the site with the computers in the lab and pack them up for shipment at the mailing station. The marketing department, which is just across the hall, uses a different Etsy seller each month to design their press kit. This month, the designer is Rebecca of Moontree Letterpress. Mary herself is a very successful Etsy seller , so she is a good guide for people just starting out and trying to find their Etsy way.

Shelves for crafty supplies available to all members and an ever-growing craft libraby for all to enjoy!

Another super-cool aspect of the Esty Labs is the commitment to "upcycling" and repurposing. The term upcycling refers to the practice of converting waste materials into products of greater value. Coined by the authors William McDonough and Michael Braungart in their book, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, upcycling is preferable to recycling, which turns waste back into the same thing over and over. On a typical day at the Esty labs, staff and lab member might be making envelopes out of old science books or grocery shoppers out of old plastic bags, all of which they sell on Etsy to get funneled back into the labs. The Labs themselves were designed to be multifunctional: hinged tables can get latched to the wall for more space and the green screen area can be used for video projects or as a space for bands to play.

This side of the Labs has a green screen for video, tables for sewing machines and even a small skate ramp.

There are a lot of cool plans in the works too! On April 15th, starting at 3 pm, the Etsy Labs will be hosting a T-shirt Reconstructing Extravaganza. People can come in with their old t-shirts and remake them into something cool with the help of the Lab staff. There are also plans in the works for news-themed video podcasts (with crafty anchors of course) and lots of video blog tutorials for those that live a little too far away to make it to the Labs in person. And my personal favorite idea: sometime in the near future, the Labs will be hosting a craftathon featuring twenty-four crafts in twenty-four hours! Now that’s some crafty stamina.

The Labs are open every day from 11-6 (with plans in the works to stay open later) and the cost of membership is only $20 a month. For classes and events, check out their website.
The Etsy Labs hold a Monday night craft night every week from 6-8 and a Wednesday Afternoon Tea (and Craft) party every week from 4-6. This would be a perfect time to visit and see what they have to offer!
I definitely have plans to return and I think I will be signing up for a membership next month. It's probably a good idea to get out of my apartment every once in a while!

comment by susan b. on April 4, 2007 7:57 PM:

ooh, I love all the pictures and info! Can't wait to visit the Etsy Labs in person in June... :)

comment by mary on April 6, 2007 6:33 AM:

Aw Kayte, what a wonderful article and wonderful time we had meeting you! Thanks so much for all of your kind words and love!

Hope to see lots of people at the T Shirt Party!


comment by bonniegrrl on April 12, 2007 7:47 PM:

this is soooo cool! thanks for posting!
I had no idea Etsy even had labs! that rocks!