Many handcrafters are investing in this growth of demand by starting out with dedicated workspaces and brick-and-mortar stores. One doesn’t need to look far to find examples of this in the Bay Area. For example, Oakland has become a well-recognized center for craft brewing. That fact seems to have set the stage for producers of other artisan foods and beverages to follow suit throughout Oakland, San Francisco, and elsewhere.
"Small batch ice cream stores are popping up all over the Bay Area,” observes Gregory Willis, a Bay Area entrepreneur with a professional background in the food industry. “These stores produce a few creative flavors each day and then change their entire menu the next day." Willis is very familiar with food product design, but his creative and entrepreneurial interests aren’t limited to that. Recognizing the interest in handcrafted goods, he is now helping his wife Lisa, a graphic designer, as she works to revive a particular old-world art.
In 2008, Mr. Willis purchased a small tabletop printing press for his wife, a graphic designer. Soon after, Mrs. Willis was printing her own designs using centuries-old crafting techniques, and selling the finished products on Etsy. The response was extremely positive and the couple now maintains a studio in Treasure Island and runs Missive Letterpress and Design as a full-time business. They have acquired three additional antique printing presses, which the mechanically-
To Mr. and Mrs. Willis, the demand for handcrafted goods was immediately obvious. In fact, for many retailers, it’s becoming hard to ignore. EBay recently announced the launch of a new web venture that will be dedicated to selling handmade goods from around the world. This move can easily be seen as a response to the success of Etsy and similar competitors. It also illustrates the expanding range of options that the internet provides for handcrafters who want to deliver their goods to the public.
Many, including Mr. and Mrs. Willis have used the existing online marketplace as a stepping stone to independent distribution. While Mrs. Willis maintains her presence on Etsy, the site does not support the level of customization that her buyers demand. As a result, Mr. Willis built a separate website and online shop for his wife’s work, missivepress.com.
By branching out in this way, the couple hopes to stay ahead of the outpouring of interest in handcrafted goods, which is evident in the Bay Area and across the country. It is an ongoing trend that presents a welcome challenge to entrepreneurs and artisans like Mr. and Mrs. Willis. “With the recent resurgence of interest in antique print methods,” says Mrs. Willis, “we hope to leverage modern technologies to deliver handmade cards, invitations and correspondence to a whole new generation of consumers.”