Amazon Handmade Open Letter

Dear Madam, Sir,

I consider leaving Amazon Handmade because the sales are disappointing. I have given some thought to the ‘why’ of this and I would like to share some insights.

I’ve looked around, as a potential buyer, on Amazon Handmade in the section in which I sell, that is ‘Art Prints’ and I was tremendous disappointed to find my work popping up at page 52+. I understand this can happen when a broad search term is used, however, the first 50 pages where full of work by only a very few and the same artists or companies. They are FBA (Fulfilment by Amazon) sellers and as a consequence of their FBA, their products hog the first dozens of pages. This is discriminatory to non-FBA sellers and also, I’m sorry to say but many of the FBA prints are nowhere near living up to the definition to be of any artistic value. You might say in defence that taste is debatable or De gustibus non est disputandum, I agree, but although they could be handmade, they are barely recognized as such. They are more ‘prints’, i.e. minimalistic textual prints than ‘art’. Part of me evaluating ‘art’ prints is coming from my educational background, however another large part is related to the conflict between FBA and original artisan or artwork and/or handmade-art. How can one produce handmade art, often sold with customization, by having it stored in a warehouse? Prioritizing FBA artisans and artists might not be a smart move on the long run. Art and Handmade can’t be rushed.

To prevent disappointing customers showing repetitive pages full repetitive buying options by the same FBA sellers as well as artistically disputable artisan handmade work, Amazon Handmade needs an artistic director or curator who makes Amazon Handmade a place where buyers go to in order to find high(er) quality artistic and artisan handmade products and art works. Such curator can made Amazon Handmade a wonderful place to explore, appreciating all the fine and truly handmade and artistic work. Take for instance Artfire. The first page of this website is so engaging, you start exploring and it takes an effort to pull yourself away from the it.

If Amazon Handmade isn’t actively curating its handmade and artwork, but continue to prioritise showcasing the best FBA sellers, Handmade will stay a boring place to find inspiration or gifts. I understand there is tension, even conflict, between the need to make profit and showcasing an attractive, which means variable, gallery. But just because of this tension, somebody with a broad and deep understanding of art appreciation should work on those first essential pages that show up when a regular search term like ‘Art Print’ is used.

The next appointed aspect of Amazon Handmade that is troubling me is that buyers has zero feeling that they are actually buying handmade products or art works. The whole art experience is missing. Amazon Handmade has the same interface as the book and DVD and all other products sections with small pictures and too few options for information on the studios where the artisan products originate from. In order for Amazon Handmade to succeed in selling handmade products and artwork, artists and artisans need to be able to dress up their online studios to enchant their customers by giving them an art experience that is essential to buying handmade, artisan or artwork of an artisan or artist. Take Etsy. Etsy is now allowing artists to at least upload 5 studio pictures, their story and a video. That bis most helpful for customers to get to know the person behind the art. I have mentioned the interface so far. There are technical troubles too. When I upload my art prints often the colours change. This isn’t a disaster for a book or CD cover but changing hues has a big impact on how artwork is showcased and experienced.

Amazon Handmade needs to inspire artisans, artist and customers. In fact, it needs to become a gallery. Artwork and handmade products can’t be sold as books or batteries. The whole dimension of having an art experience, admiring the artists take on life, stepping into his or her studio in order to feel what this artists is doing, making and communicating is essential. Experiencing art and an artist online using a digital medium is compromised compared to stepping into an art studio physically, smelling paint, touching clay, leafing through sketchbooks, and drinking a cup of coffee in a studio that allows you to take in the world of an artist. However, much more can be done to bridge the gap and make buying art an uplifting and enjoyable experience. But for that Amazon Handmade needs to hire artists and curators who make sure customers feel they aren’t buying schoolbooks but something made by artisan human hands.

Amazon Handmade has been going nowhere for me and I’m disappointed because with such huge potential of customers it should and could have been successful. Maybe Amazon Handmade will outgrow its half hearted approach on art and handmade products by embracing innovative technology that helps art-lovers and artist to meet each other. Only then, Amazon Handmade will have an added value to me.

All said, I have positive experience with the sellers and help departments, for which I thank you.

If you could fill me in on which ambitions Amazon Handmade is having for Europe, I will be able to take some decisions. Also I need to know whether I can put by shop on non-paying hold till Amazon Handmade has grown up.

With kind regards,

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

My articles on art and art musing are at LinkedIn Pulse Paula Kuitenbrouwer.

I’ve submitted this letter to

8 thoughts on “Amazon Handmade Open Letter

  1. Paula, I have never sold my artwork on line but I am thoroughly supportive of your issue with Amazon. You mention in your comment the different between selling live art in a gallery compared to on-line art and how important it is to display one’s artwork on line to give the potential buyer the feeling and sensitivity of the piece…this is so true! I see that you have brought the issue to Amazon’s attention. It will be interesting to see what their response will be and I hope that they will take the issue to heart. Best wishes to your worthwhile cause.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Lois, I doubt whether there will be a response. Amazon Handmade is still starting up. Artists and artisans do not have to pay their monthly fee till the end of this year (they have to pay listing fees though, which is reasonable).
      I think many will find the missing art experience problematic and will opt for more specialized online selling platforms despite the fact that Amazon has so many potential customers. Selling art and selling batteries isn’t the same. Selling art requires an art experience and personal contact between a customer and the artist which Handmade is (not yet) offering. Thank you, Lois, for your support.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Judy, Ik verwacht geen antwoord meer van Amazon. Ja, het is teleurstellend maar ik had het kunnen weten. Amazon is een money-maker en zal kunst of handmade niet snel op andere dan winstgevende waarden evalueren. Geen ramp, gewoon doortekenen en doorschilderen! 🙂


  2. It’s frustrating, yet unfortunately it is a buyers marketplace, and those with the most to pay win! It is unfortunate that the best and most talented artists often don’t get a chance to shine because they do not have the financial backing and support like the wealthiest! I know so many awesomely talented individuals, who just don’t have the money, and are generally not very business oriented, so are not good at self-promotion, and finding sponsors and such, and thus they will never get the ‘top billing’! It’s just a fact of life, and it has been like this for a long time. Just keep doing what you do, and the best way you know how! 🙂


    1. I agree, Bridget. For me counts that in order to be successful I would have to do so much more self advertising and self broadcasting and I’m not okay with that. It is perhaps a bit hard to understand but the less ‘me’ and ‘my ego’, the more I feel inspired and the better my work is.
      Thank you for your kindness, Bridget. You are a creative soul with a love for bright colours!

      Liked by 1 person

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