About a hundred artisans from Atlantic Canada gathered in Charlottetown to sell their handmade goods at the Etsy Atlantic Spring Market this weekend.
Organizers say that by noon Saturday, 1,500 people had come to the city's Delta Hotel to check out the products, with vendors selling everything from coffee mugs to homemade cookies.
For a lot of sellers, this was the first time they had a chance to network with other Etsy users since the pandemic began.
"In the last two years, a lot of people have taken up new hobbies, learned how to do new things. So now this may be their first market," said Kate Hunter, team captain with Etsy New Brunswick and one of the people who organized the event.
"We've got seasoned sellers selling with [people] who's never done a market before, and there's a little bit of mentorship going on there just within our community online. The promotion, the networking has been really wonderful."
"Just to see people who I messaged over the pandemic through Instagram or Facebook, to get to see them in person is really uplifting," said Tania Pendergast, a calligrapher and illustrator who started making art as a form of self-therapy after leaving the army.
Pendergast, who besides having an Etsy storefront also sells her artwork to small shops across P.E.I., said she hopes an expected surge of tourists coming to the Island as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted helps her business.
She said that for the last two years, she's had to rely heavily on online sales to stay afloat.
"Those shops that have stayed open and moved a lot of their business online have displayed my work online as well," she said. "I was able to sell that way along with my Etsy shop. Locals will come and pick up from my house, too. So there's been a lot of good local support."
Artist Danielle White said a lot of businesses who purchase her goods wholesale have cut down on their orders or even closed down because of COVID-19.
White said she hopes events like this indicate things have somewhat returned to normal.
"It certainly feels good to see the community again. That part I've really missed."
While a lot of sellers said they relied on the online sales Etsy brings, the platform has recently been the subject of some controversy.
Earlier this year, the company announced it was hiking transaction fees from five per cent to 6.5 per cent, causing thousands of sellers to boycott the platform.
White said she understands the frustration, adding that the issues go beyond just the fees.
"They've also changed a lot of their practices. So the way that things are searchable, the algorithm and the way that they pop up results," she said. "We're getting to the point where in order to even be seen on Etsy, you need to pay. So there's the fees on our sales, but they're also charging for [ads].
"Then also they've introduced another thing where they're doing ads on the Internet. And if you get seen and you make a purchase, they take an additional fee. So they're taking, in some cases, a considerable amount in fees."
Pendergast said that business owners should compare different platforms, but that she's sticking with Etsy because of the community.
Organizers said they did not charge fees for vendors to sell their goods in the market, and opened up their participation to both Etsy and non-Etsy sellers.
They said they are using the Etsy name because that's where the community started and that's how they know each other.