SUPPORTING TWO OF AMERICA’S MOST STORIED CRAFT COMMUNITIES
Through our work with the Gee’s Bend Quilters and the Gullah basket weavers of South Carolina’s Lowcountry, Nest, in partnership with Etsy, is providing storied craft communities with the business support and technical know-how so that our country’s most talented artisans can thrive as entrepreneurs.
Along a wide bend in the Alabama River, quilters in a small town known as Gee’s Bend have been producing countless patchwork masterpieces that constitute a crucial chapter in the history of American craft. Yet while the Gee’s Bend Quilters have earned global acclaim—with their works exhibited at institutions ranging from the Whitney to the Metropolitan Museum of Art—this fame has not translated into economic advancement. Their average annual income is below the poverty line and some residents of the Bend live without the necessary amenities of mobile and internet access, limiting their ability to expand the sale of their goods.
Alongside Souls Grown Deep, Nest has been working within Gee’s Bend to build community-led programs that unite their heritage quilting tradition with brand and retail partnerships to expand the opportunities for income generation. In addition to supporting 19 quilters as they sell online for the first time through Etsy, Nest has also facilitated a range of brand partnerships for the quilters. Collectively, Nest’s work in the community has generated over $400,000 in income all of which has gone directly to the quilters.
In partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies, Nest started working with the Gullah basket weavers in April 2021 through Hands to Heritage—an initiative in the Women’s Economic Development Portfolio at Bloomberg Philanthropies to increase the national profile of the Gullah basket weavers of South Carolina. These weavers are known for their incredibly intricate and exquisite basket weaving tradition—a craft that they have preserved for over eight generations using sweetgrass, pine needles, bulrush and palmetto palm. While the baskets have attracted the attention of museums, ranging from the Smithsonian to the Burke Museum in Seattle, their weaving tradition remains unknown to many Americans.
Building on Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Hands to Heritage Initiative, Nest is partnering with Etsy to support the community as they make their foray into direct-to-consumer sales through a dedicated spotlight and their own individual shops on Etsy.com.
Direct-to-consumer channels play an increasingly important role in supporting the sustainable growth of small maker and artisan businesses. Through the marketplace platform that Etsy provides, makers and artisans can reach a significantly expanded consumer base, gain new customers and earn a new, sustainable source of revenue to grow their businesses.
The success of our work with the Gee’s Bend Quilters showed the incredible potential that Etsy has to elevate the craft communities with whom Nest works and provide the individual makers within those communities with sustainable new sources of revenue. In support of our continued partnership with Etsy, and the launch of their Uplift Makers Program, Nest provides the Gee’s Bend Quilters and the Gullah basket weavers with training and ongoing capacity building as they launch and maintain their individual shops on Etsy. This support comes in the form of workshops and one-on-one trainings on product photography, shipping and logistics, pricing and trends. Additionally, Nest supports the ongoing maintenance of the Gullah basket weavers’ and Gee’s Bend Quilters’ Etsy shops with photography and inventory management trainings.
“Owning my own Etsy Shop has allowed me to build my very own house. A house that I own free and clear with no mortgage.”
mary margaret pettway
“I believe that establishing an Etsy platform for entrepreneurs to display and sell their goods is a great way to meet new customers. I’m hoping this is a way to make my business grow even more.”
jennifaye singleton | huger, sc
“Working with my daughter and granddaughter on Etsy has been real good! We get together now more than we used to. We get together and sew and laugh and talk…Now my granddaughter is almost as good a quilter as me!”
“I want to thank Etsy for having my work on their storefront I feel it will make a big difference in my sales in the future.”