Building on Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Hands to Heritage Initiative, Nest Partners with Etsy to Elevate Handworker Craft Communities Across the US
Pictured above: Vanessa Robinson, a Gullah basket weaver, displays a large, handwoven sweetgrass basket with a classic elephant ear design. Photo credit: 1212 Designs.
The partnership elevates the Gullah weaving community by providing market access for their renowned handwoven baskets.
The launch also includes a second round of the Gee’s Bend Quilters.
Etsy is announcing their partnership with Nest to support the Gullah basket weavers, a community in the Lowcountry of South Carolina – to increase market access for the community’s renowned, handwoven baskets. By providing a dedicated showcase for 16 basket weavers on Etsy, this partnership will pave a path to a new financial future for these artisans, while elevating the community’s contributions to the history of American craft and shining a light on their intricate handmade products ahead of the holiday shopping season.
The launch of the Gullah weavers on Etsy builds on the success of two of Nest’s recent creative collaborations. The first is Hands to Heritage – an initiative under the Women’s Economic Development Portfolio at Bloomberg Philanthropies to increase the national profile of the Gullah basket weavers of South Carolina. The second is the partnership between Etsy and Nest which began in early 2021, when Nest, Etsy, and Souls Grown Deep elevated awareness of the craftsmanship of the Gee’s Bend quilters. This remote, Black community in Alabama had earned widespread acclaim for their bespoke quilted works, but until this partnership, had not been provided with an online platform to scale sales. The Gee’s Bend launch on Etsy with the support of Nest and Souls Grown Deep led to massive success, with multiple shops selling out almost overnight when first launched, and the demand for these quilts continues to grow.
Today, they are also launching a second round of quilters onto Etsy’s platform as well.
Both the Gullah weavers and the quilters of Gee’s Bend represent important chapters of American craft history that the Etsy platform will play a crucial role in spotlighting. The women of Gee’s Bend, who are largely descendants of slaves, began quilting in the 19th century as a means for physical warmth. Yet by piecing together scraps of fabric and clothing, they created abstract designs that had never before been expressed on quilts. The Gullah people are the descendants of enslaved West Africans who were brought to the US to plant rice. They are known for their weaving traditions and intricate patterns, as for generations they have created exquisite baskets made of sweetgrass, pine needles, bulrush, and palmetto palm. For years, the 250-300 Gullah weavers have continued this unique basket weaving technique, prioritizing teaching the future generation and keeping their craft tradition alive. The creation of these baskets is embedded into the cultural landscape of their descendants who continue to reside in the Lowcountry of South Carolina and the nearby barrier islands.
“Through our ongoing partnership with Etsy, we have collaborated to offer both technical know-how as well as the prowess of Etsy’s platform in order to raise the profile of the Gullah within the American craft space,” said Founder and Executive Director of Nest, Rebecca van Bergen. “The baskets have attracted the attention of museums, ranging from the Smithsonian to the Burke Museum in Seattle, yet their weaving tradition remains unknown to many Americans. I am really excited to be continuing our work with Etsy to expand this opportunity into the Gullah.”
By elevating the Gullah basket weavers on Etsy’s platform, the ultimate goal is to generate local, national, and international interest in this largely overlooked craft community, as well as leverage increased awareness and interest to expand the weavers’ market access through online retail shops and brand partnerships. In addition to providing the weavers with a platform to sell their items to a national audience, Etsy has also made an investment of $75,000 into the community, which will be used to provide business capacity services – such as professional photography, design, and merchandising mentorship, shop content creation, shop management training, and shipping and fulfillment assistance.
“I believe that establishing a platform for entrepreneurs to display and sell their goods is a great way to meet new customers and I’m hoping this is a way to make my business grow even more,” said Jennifaye Singleton, Gullah weaver from Huger, South Carolina.
Through collaborative partnerships such as the work in support of the Gullah basket weavers, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Nest’s largest multi-year supporter, is highlighting the essential work of artisan crafts and the handworker economy in the United States.
“Bloomberg Philanthropies, with its investments, has supported women around the world to reaching their maximum levels of economic independence. It has been demonstrated across the Women’s Economic Development Portfolio that when women increase income and assets, they can readily support their families, their communities, and their countries. Bloomberg Philanthropies has been a proud partner of Nest’s work in the handworker economy for the last 8 years. We look ahead to reaching communities in the United States who have been placed at a disadvantage, but still hold sacred what’s most important—their culture and their heritage—by bringing them to the marketplace to increase income-generating activities,” said Verna Eggleston of the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Women’s Economic Development Initiative.
About Etsy: Etsy, Inc. operates two-sided online marketplaces that connect millions of passionate and creative buyers and sellers around the world. These marketplaces share a mission to keep commerce human, and we’re committed to using the power of business to strengthen communities and empower people. Our primary marketplace, Etsy.com, is the global destination for unique and creative goods. Buyers come to Etsy to be inspired and delighted by items that are crafted and curated by creative entrepreneurs. For sellers, we offer a range of tools and services that address key business needs.
Etsy, Inc.’s “house of brands” portfolio also includes fashion resale marketplace Depop, musical instrument marketplace Reverb, and Brazil-based handmade goods marketplace Elo7. Each Etsy, Inc. marketplace operates independently while benefiting from shared expertise in product, marketing, technology, and customer support.
Etsy was founded in 2005 and is headquartered in Brooklyn, New York.
About Nest: Nest is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) supporting the responsible growth and creative engagement of the artisan and maker economy to build a world of greater gender equity and economic inclusion. Through programs that support the wellbeing of artisans both in the United States and globally, Nest is bringing radical transparency and opportunity to the informal handworker economy.
About Bloomberg Philanthropies: Bloomberg Philanthropies Women’s Economic Development Portfolio is committed to the core belief that women are central to economic growth. Bloomberg Philanthropies partners with governments, nonprofits, and the private sector to create opportunities for women and their families leading to their maximum levels of self-reliance. Since the inception of the Program in 2007, Bloomberg Philanthropies has invested in vocational training programs in over 120 countries, directly impacting over 724,000 women, with a secondary impact on more than 2.8 million family and community members.