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byhand-logo-largeByHand is an ideal resource for those who buy,  sell and support handmade.  We were so impressed with the efforts of its founders that we thought our users might want to know more.   Silkfair interviewed Rebecca Dillon for an introduction to the site.  The interview was both personally insightful and informative.  The handmade revolution continues, read on.

Tell us about the story of and how it came to fruition. was conceived and created by my husband, Adam. Frustrated with handmade venues that seemed to advertise only to sellers and not to buyers as well as social networking sites that seemed steeped in nothing but seller spam, he wanted to create an environment where artists could showcase their work and at the same time really get seen. We feel ByHand reflects an answer to these issues. Front page blog posts are carefully monitored for content and we also actively advertise to buyers as the bulk of advertising.

Who are the folks behind the scenes at and what are their backgrounds?

M. Adam Kendall is the creator, designer and programmer for ByHand. He currently works full time as a programmer for an independent company in Arlington, VA. However, his background growing up was very different from this and another reason that ByHand was created. Adam actually came from a lower income family with three other brothers and a sister. His dad lost his job at one point so he is very familiar with what it is like to struggle through a hardship. He also, unfortunately, remembers what government cheese and powdered milk taste like. Adam’s mom was a seamstress who worked at her craft to pull in extra money to help support the family. It’s because of her that Adam gained an appreciation for arts and crafts and the reason he knows how to sew. He also learned woodworking from his dad and metalworking from his grandfather. You can read Adam’s whole story on ByHand under Our Story.,com_content/Itemid,272/id,1342/view,article/

Myself, Rebecca D. Dillon, I’m from a pretty average American family. I grew up as part of the struggling middle class in the 80s with a mother who was always trying to give my brother and I whatever we wanted and therefore living a bit beyond our means. My mom was always doing arts and crafts with me and taught me how to bake. I attended college locally at Roanoke College where I studied a bit of everything including photography, screen printing, graphic design, pottery, 3-D design, drawing, painting, art history, poetry and even writing. It took me seven years, but I eventually managed a BA in fine arts. I do a lot of the basic customer support for ByHand members, the advertising and marketing. I also work up the artist features and interviews.

Together, husband and wife make a pretty good team.

Why handmade? Why do you think supporting handmade is important?

Handmade is the backbone of America. Pretty much everyone who immigrated to America came here to work for themselves doing whatever it was they knew how to do. Handmade is [also a piece of] women’s history, [including] baking, cooking, sewing, and crafting – all those things women did before they were allowed to do anything else.  Before we could work and actually make a living at it and before we could vote, it was a woman’s skill at these things that helped us through the wars and clothed a lot of families through the ’50s. So, handmade is really important. It’s part of America’s culture. We should be supporting artists here at home and abroad who work for themselves, not a factory that mass produces items at the expense of their workers.

Additionally, the artists who produce handmade typically care about what they are making. They are going to be more stringent about the quality of their products than someone who is working on a line everyday for
someone else.

How many members do you have on

We are right at a month old since publicly launching and we currently have 2, 071 registered users.

How do you choose your artisan item of the day and your featured artisans?

I personally choose the artisan item of the day at this time. I select from two different pools. One is members who are active on ByHand. The other is just random members listed in our Artisan Directory. I basically go through and look for items that I feel are good products and have good pictures from these two pools. I try to include items from every category and every price range.

The Featured Artisan is pretty straight forward. Anyone who makes handmade items can apply by visiting the pinned topic on applying in our Links and Opportunities forum. Basically I just ask you have a decent number of items in your shop and good photographs. You then only need to submit a photograph of yourself – because we want to make this personal – along with several paragraphs about who you are and about your craft.

Let’s say that I am an artisan and I am brand new to What is the best way to navigate the site and use it to its fullest?

To use all of the features on ByHand you need to be a member. So signing up is number one. Registration is simple and free. You can then find everything you need by visiting the main tabs at the top of every page.

Community includes the forums and clubhouses – both places that offer a way to share ideas with others and get any help you might need. You’ll also find Site Help there which gives you a basic run down of all ByHand’s features and how to use them.

Shopping is primarily for buyers, but many artisans love this section as well. This is where you go to get to our Handmade Search, member created Spotlights, to enter our handmade contests, find members in the Artisan
Directory, and most importantly Wishlists. Wishlists are perfect for buyers as they allow members to add an item to their their list on ByHand from any of eight handmade venues without ever leaving the site they’re on. Wishlisting is as simple as one click from your toolbar and that’s it. ByHand users can then go to their Wishlists and create individual lists from their items as well as email their list to friends and family. The lists are a great tool for artists because every list that gets sent links back to the list on ByHand. This brings more buyers to ByHand and gives all of our artists a better chance of getting additional exposure. Of course it’s even better if they’re on someone’s list!

Our Story is where you can read the background behind ByHand, find buttons for your website and our invite feature.

My Stuff is the big deal though if you are an artist. This is where you can find and fill out your profile, create Spotlights of your work to be seen in Window Shopping throughout the site, write blog entries for the community blog, and manage your Wishlists!

ByHand also provides a run down of all the features available at the top of the homepage under Benefits for co-op artisans.

What does one have to do to become a member? Do you only restrict users to handmade artisans?

To become a member on ByHand all you have to do is register. It’s as easy as that.

There are no restrictions on joining ByHand. Everyone is welcome. You can be an artist, a venue, a reseller, or just buyer. We welcome everyone to become a member and celebrate handmade. The only restriction we have set forth is that only handmade artisans can list their shops in the Artisan Directory.

With the current downturn in retail spending and the economy in a recession, what have you noticed in trends for handmade products and online selling sites? Is handmade suffering or thriving?

Online sales for handmade seem to be up. I’m not sure if this is because more people are turning to the internet to supplement their income in poor economy or if it’s because it’s easier to find and buy handmade with all of the options that are rapidly becoming available. I know that for me locally my soap sales dropped 50% the last quarter of 2008. However, my online sales for soap made up for that 50% that I didn’t make.

That being said, I think it’s easier to sell handmade items that are $20 and under. I also believe that more luxury oriented items, such as fine art, are currently suffering in this economy with sales that way down overall. So, in my opinion I think it all balances out. If you try to appeal to all price ranges in your market you can succeed at selling online even in this economy. It does take a lot of work, though.

Tell us your favorite part about managing and being a part of

Definitely getting to meet new artists and finding so many wonderful handmade items I never knew existed! My own personal wishlist just keeps growing!

What is a typical day for Rebecca Dillon and

Well, I  sleep in too late, stay up WAY too late, and neglect my soap business. I don’t do things in any particular order really. I am constantly doing a little bit of everything. I’m catching up on email, writing up an artist interview, changing the featured artisan, looking for new places to advertise, networking, writing out interview proposals for online venues and shopping based blogs, searching out new ways to market ByHand, participating in the forums, helping out with any problems members may have, writing content for the front page, monitoring front page blog articles – basically whatever is needed during any point in time. I am currently devoting 8 – 10 hours a day to ByHand. Adam, on the other hand, is constantly programming behind scenes from the time he gets off work ’til the wee hours into the next morning. Sometimes he provides support or fixes a bug during his lunch, as well.

What inspires you as an artisan and as a handmade supporter?

As an artist, just the fact that I’m able to do something creative. I think it’s in my genes. As a supporter, knowing that I’m able to give back and that I’m helping out someone else who is just like me, is able
to do what they love to do.

Describe some of the unique features such as the window shopping feature and the clubhouses.

Window Shopping is a fun way to browse. Basically, Window Shopping is set up like a Spotlight with nine items but with all of the items being random as they are chosen by the computer from all of the member created
Spotlights. You are shown a set of items. Want to see more? You just click ANOTHER and you’re given a whole new set of items. Click ANOTHER again and you get another new se, and on and on. We also have an improvised version of Window Shopping at the top of every page on ByHand. There’s not a button to click to change the items, but they change every time a user changes the page or refreshes his /her browser. Additionally, anyone can add the Window Shopping code to their own website or blog in the same way they can Spotlights and then they have their own little Window Shopping feature.

Clubhouses are like groups or teams, but since we wanted to create a more personal site, I got to name them Clubhouses since clubhouses are, well, where friends play! Any member can create a Clubhouse on any topic. It can be venue specific, artisan specific, location specific, or just because! Clubhouses can be set to allow anyone to join or moderate. Additionally, every Clubhouse has its own forum where members can discuss anything they like.

How do you foresee the growth of Where do you think it will be in five years?

I don’t think either of has really thought that far ahead. I’d love for ByHand to continue growing as it has in its first month. That would just be fantastic. After all, our goal is to help artists and if we continue to grow and members continue to come back to use ByHand we have to be doing something right. It’d be great to be at a place in five years, though, where we’re able to put ads for ByHand in major print publications and our buyers are outnumbering our sellers!

Any other comments or features of which new users should be made aware?

There are always new features. Adam is constantly programming member suggestions for features or improving on existing ones. Just this past week he added a new venue to the spotlight, wishlist, and handmade
search features that’s dedicated to handmade edibles.

He also made it possible for members to blog on ByHand then automatically be able to import their blog entry right to their blogger/blogspot or wordpress blog. Additionally, members can now upload a banner for their ByHand blogs and he’s also working on a way to allow users to customize their blog sidebar as well.

I’d also like to point to out that a new directory was just added for Supplies and Services – this is for commercial suppliers, services, venues, etc. It’s not free like the Artisan Directory. It does cost $5 month for a listing, however, all funds from this directory go back into advertising for ByHand. We are and will remain non-profit for as long as it’s possibly feasible. We had been paying for many of our ads out of pocket, but we are hoping this new directory will help to reduce that burden. Additionally, we also offer advertising for anyone through Project Wonderful ads. These ads can be found throughout all of ByHand except the forums. All funds from PW ads go back into advertising through PW.

Currently we are not recouping any expenses despite several upgrades – a new server, increased bandwidth, and buyer targeted advertising – on our end as that is our gift to the community. We hope to get it back someday
in karma.


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