Why My Etsy Shop & I are on Strike

More than 20,000 Etsy sellers are on strike this week, from April 11-18, protesting Etsy’s exploitative polices and the dramatic 30% increase in seller fees. Over the course of the pandemic, Etsy has made a killing in profits for its shareholders by gouging sellers and forcing more experienced sellers into their extortionate offsite ad scheme (you can’t opt out if you make more than $10,000 a year on the site.)

2/3 of my sales come from Etsy. 1/3 are from my own shop, http://www.feralstrumpet.com. I have always thought I needed Etsy to survive financially. It is my ‘day job’ and allows me to do things like eat and heat the house while I write books. (Unless you are celebrity, writing will not earn you enough to live on, even if you have a book deal and terrific agent.) But since 2017, the site has taken an increasing amount of my earnings, and every year I give them thousands of pounds. Can you imagine paying hundreds of pounds a month for something with no actual support from the service? The strike is a way to say, hey, Etsy, you need us. We are the ‘cred’ in your supposedly ‘beloved, trusted brand.’ Without us you are just another marketplace full of cheap, sweatshop made goods and drop-shipping, print-on-demand identikit items.

These fee hikes and exorbitant, non-voluntary add-ins have come during the pandemic–this is plague profiteering, disaster capitalism at its finest. Since Etsy went public, the company has patronised, gouged and ignored the needs of its sellers. Yet it knows who these sellers are, or were before it drove them out of business–the last Etsy census was in 2019. I wrote about that in a previous post where I concluded with false optimism that ‘I hope that this clear picture will enable Etsy to make better decisions supporting its sellers, while I long, quixotically, for a return to the handmade marketplace it once was.’

87% of sellers on Etsy identify as women– Etsy allows a flexible scale for new businesses, allowing women to experiment with possibilities. The census from 2019 also points out that women perform 3/4 of all unpaid care work– meaning that the flexible business model Etsy provides is well suited to women who keep the world turning with their care and kindness.

A significant number of Etsy sellers are also disabled and live in rural, impoverished communities, like myself. This exploitation of our demographic is, well, just plain evil. Seeing thousands of others stand beside me in my outrage has been empowering–and it has also revealed just how many of us are at the mercy of Etsy and this new world of the gig economy.

These are our Demands:

1: Cancel the fee increase.

2: Crack down on Resellers.

1: Cancel the fee increase.

2: Crack down on Resellers

3: “Golden” Support Tickets for AI bot driven shop shut-downs.

4: End the Star Seller program

5: Let All sellers opt out of Offsite Ads

How can you help?

The Vagabond Collection Launches

Our new collection is a tribute to my favourite of Colette’s writing as well as my own wanderlust. While in Prague and Glasgow I was able to see many of Alphonse Mucha’s original drawings and photographs, revealing his process. They informed my aesthetic sensibilities, my collector’s and designer’s eye.

I am longing for those images and ideas I found in old Europe. 

Here is a selection of vintage and refurbished adornments as well as pieces inspired by Bohemian costume jewellery from the early 20th century. I find myself yearning for flash and decadence tempered by the patina of history. This is the aesthetic that first shaped Feral Strumpet—the glitter of the tart. Ten years on, it’s exiting to revisit these roots. 

You’ll find vintage and new art nouveau and deco designs, glittering Bohemian crystals as well as one of a kind treasures from all over the world. Shop the collection here.

Mucha’s source photograph, and the finished poster

Collage Notes & Visual Inspiration

I think of new designs by taking visual notes on my phone, making collages that remind me of colour and balance I’d like to use in future jewellery designs. I love the fluidity of William Morris (this image is from the Birmingham Museum online collections) and in these sketches the designs seem to grow with a fractal certainty. I made the collage above using the Bazaart app, one of my favourite visual memo tools.

What’s New for Feral Strumpet in 2022

Happy New Year from the Northeast Coast of Scotland!

The first full moon of 2022 is just past and it’s been an emotional one, coming out of a difficult year for many, ourselves included. Mike and I are both looking forward to what will be our eleventh year in business! Not bad for a little endeavour that started on a rented kitchen table with a shoe box full of beads and vintage jewellery. 

This year we hope to bring you more lovely creatures hand cast in pewter by our production partners at Green Girl Studios. 

Ally has finished writing a book about the witch trials in Scotland which will be published by a major UK press—but she can’t say more about it until the publisher issues the formal press release.  In between the intense activity that book writing and publication bring, she’ll be crafting one-off pieces and keeping old favourites in stock when she can. 

Thank you for reading this far!  This week in the shop we have some more Glasgow Roses and new versions of old favourites. 

https://feralstrumpet.com/collections/whats-new

The Glasgow Roses Collection

Margaret MacDonald Macintosh

My newest collection is inspired by the Glasgow rose, a design motif attributed to Rennie Mackintosh but originated by his wife, Margaret MacDonald and her sister, Francis MacDonald. Both artists worked in metal, gesso panels, illustration and embroidery. The sisters had a studio at 128 Hope Street in Glasgow and were part of the Art Nouveau movement in Glasgow called the Spook School, and they were two of the Glasgow Four. Francis’ use of symbolism, Celtic mythology and her dream-like colour palette have inspired me. Her death at 48 is thought to have been a suicide. After her death, her husband John Herbert MacNair destroyed much of her work.

Frances Macdonald

I have always loved the organic simplicity of the Glasgow rose–it feels both modern and timeless. I have rendered these roses in spiralling lines of sterling silver and copper, combined with stones that echo the original colour-ways used by the MacDonald sisters–hues of mauve, purple, blood red and green. Where possible, I’ve used recycled pearls and stones, salvaged from broken vintage pieces. The collection includes necklaces, earrings, rings and shawl pins featuring variations on the motif which represents Scottish aesthetic innovation and a playful, refined femininity.

To Our EU Customers

Many of my EU customers have been asking me what has changed since the UK has left the EU. Here is a brief summary of what you can expect at my Etsy shop as well as at feralstrumpet.co.uk. We still ship FREE  to the EU for all jewellery orders. 

Buying from our Etsy shop means you will be charged import tax for your country at checkout, and we will put this information on the package. (A recent order to Germany was charged 19% and Italy 22%—as examples) This means it will not be delayed in customs—you will not have to pay handling fees or import duties at customs and this will speed delivery. 

Buying from my independent site means shipping is still free, but your item might be stopped in customs and you will pay import fees. 

If you have any questions or see anything you like in my shop, email me and I will be happy to answer all your questions!

We see ourselves as a European shop in a European country even if the UK government has decided otherwise.

Season of the Witch

self portrait from 2012

This is a reblog of a post I wrote six years ago. It was a reaction to the commodification of witch culture. Six years on, it still feels relevant. Especially since I have spent the last year furious writing a book on this history of women accused of witchcraft in Scotland. I’m reprinting the post here with some updates.


So being a witch is in– even Urban Outfitters is getting in on the haute occult game, selling crystals and divination tools, usually the wares of the local, independent pagan or New Age shop. This look is a simple resurrection–it’s Stevie Nicks’ bohemian style, but paired way down: 1970s Victorian-inspired dresses in black, layers of jagged hemmed garments worn in an undefined silhouette.  If you look like you just stepped out of your chicken-footed cottage, you’ve got it right.  It’s all the rage.  But what if the rage is you, and has always been? How do you ride the tide of fickle fashion when the High Street is cashing in on what you love? I say, keep doing it, and do it like you mean it.

A Polyvore Set featuring Feral Strumpet designs.
A Polyvore Set featuring Feral Strumpet designs.

The upside of all this is now that these trends have names–Dark Mori, Nu Goth, etc., I’m able to find my style sisters–like-minded souls on Instagram and Pinterest, mutual style inspirations and co-cacklers. Though this subculture has been overly aestheticised and commodified, there is one striking development–community. There are many of us coming out of the broom closet and we are finding each other.

How we adorn ourselves is our most immediate form of self-expression– it can be the most intimate descriptor we have of ourselves.  When fashion takes these shapes and ideas and sells them back to us, we have to keep playing and keeping things true to our own identities while supporting other independent, pagan, heathen and witch-friendly businesses.  

Ten Years Feral

This month is Feral Strumpet’s ten year anniversary. Celebrate with me–I’m offering 15% off shop wide during the month of March, 2020 at feralstrumpet.co.uk. No coupon necessary!

This business has grown from a shoebox full of beads, a kitchen table and a little Etsy shop to an independent business with my own maker’s space supporting my partner Mike, myself and our three cats. 

I miss the tight knit community of makers that Etsy used to be.  Without those early friends and allies, my shop would not have survived those early years, working alone in the kitchen of a rented bungalow outside of York. There is no way these relationships could be forged in the corporate, reseller based space Etsy has become now. 

Almost ten years ago, I wrote this post about my first four months as an Etsy seller,  In those first four months, I sold everything I put in the shop, except for a single necklace. I immediately reassessed my business plan, branding and packaging. I invested in the best tools I could afford.  Years later I created a devoted website which truly reflected my aesthetic and gave me the independence to make my decisions about what was best for my business.

So much has changed over the last ten years, but we are looking forward. I was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis in my hands, so things will be changing. I will focus making more one offs, as that is what I really love, and continue to offer more carefully sourced vintage.  Keep a look out for monthly shop updates with unique pieces! 

I’ve been naking these designs for ten years. Which is your personal favourite?

Feral Gift Guides

This holiday season, let us help you remember friends and family. All our pieces come gift wrapped, ready for giving.  We are currently going to the Post Office several times a week–so you don’t have too! If you are missing someone this holiday, we have a unique gift that will say you are thinking of them. We can include a note as well on your behalf. 

I’ve put together some gift guides to help you choose:

Gifts for him
Gifts for Knitters
Gifts for Your Witches
Gifts under £20