Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Love For Etsy

The website Etsy has made finding beautiful handmade items so much easier.  It's the eBay of handmade offering handmade items, supplies, and vintage wares.  Unlike eBay, which has essentially morphed into Amazon, by allowing stores to create eBay sites that offer "New in Box" items at full prices, Etsy is still mostly stay-at-home moms and artists offering their handmade and vintage items for sale.  It is easy to find a wide-variety of craft supplies, tutorials on a wide array of crafts, patterns, and digital files for scrapbooking and crafting, on Etsy.  Special orders are simple and conversations between buyer and seller are common occurrences.  While eBay has become "Buyer Beware" with starting-bid prices often set above full-prices offered in local or large on-line stores, Etsy offers a large variety of price points.  I've purchased a few things from eBay but I always feel like I am getting screwed.  I hate that you have ot make a bid and wait and wait and await.  We all know the real action occurs right at the tned so why sellers offer items for sale 5,6,7 days I don't understand.  Things are really slow until the last hour when it gets nutty and prices go over the top selling price offered other places.  I did get a glue bottle with a skinny metal tip for like a $1 with free shipping/handling which was obviously abargain but it took almost a month to arrive from Korea.   On the other hand I have made many purchases off of Etsy and only had 2 purchases that were less than perfect.  The first was for a set of beauatul vintage pins made into hair pins I wanted to give to my sister-in-law.  They arrived with one missing a crystal.  I notified the seller immediately and she refuned the purchase price and told me she had put htme directly into the muslin bag they arrived in immediately after she took the photo used on Etsy.  I went and searched the bag a little harder adf ofund the crystal. When she refunded the money she told me to use that money to have it fixed. I was vary stisfied with the way she ammended the problem and have purchased from her again.  The other item I wasn't happy with was for an unfinshed wood item that I would use as a base for mixed media art. The little anilmal that arrived was tiny, much smaller tahn I thought, but when I looked back at the post I found the masuremens right there and I have to admit the price was appropriate so I chaulked that up t my fault. 
Etsy still deals in handmade itemsIn the past, you had to either make the item yourself, find (and drive to) a craft show or, if you were really wiling to work hard to find the good stuff, a church bazaar might a source of a cherished handmade gift.  

Target Gift Card
When I started this post, I intended to write about the pretty jewelry that my niece gave me and nothing more.  I didn't intend to speak about the larger subject of handmade, but as someone who takes gift giving very seriously, handmade gifts have always been a big part of my gifting.  I try very hard to find the best gift for the recipient; not the perfect gift because that just sets up too much pressure, but I do try very hard to find something meaningful to give to my friends and loved ones.  Perfect is difficult to define and certainly would be different for each recipient, but to me a perfect gift is one that is deeply desired, will forever be cherished, and is something that the giveee can't just run to Target and pick up for herself.  While I may never strive to find one perfect gift… when I am lucky enough to find a one it is like the heavens open and the angels sing "AHHHHHHHHHHHH" from up high.  I get a little self-satisfied feeling and I carry it around, tucked away, until the day when I can pass that gift to the intended recipient.

I get nauseated even thinking about giving someody a gift card-- not because a gift card isn't almost always a welcome gift, but because it just seems like the easy way out.  Children don't get the opportunity to make their own purchases very often so I don't mind making a special allowance in my philosophy for the kiddos in my life.  Retailers have been making gift cards that are super cute in and of themselves -though I couldn't find an image of one- making the gift that much more special for a child.

a page from the OOAK birthday book I gave to my sister
So do I make or purchase handmade gifts?   I wish I was one of the women that spend all day crafting like crazy and always give handmade items to all their family and friends.  So Martha Stewartesque!  I suffer from "craft-envy" while reading all of the  blog postings from my favorite crafters in which they post about the awesome gifts they throw together.  Not only do they get the projects completed but they find time to take gorgeous pictures of the craft and then blog about it.  Some even manage step-by-step photos accompanied by instructions!   Good grief!
DebiCreations' little socks
While I wish I could get more done, I think that being honest I must admit it will only be a wish...I just don't get that much done, handcrafted or not.  In the end, I have to face the fact that I will never be rick from selling items on Etsy.  The reasons for this are complicated but essentially my home life isn't like theirs (yes, it's  true that half of my favorite bloggers are mothers to at least 4 kids and travel frequently to teach classes or attend craft shows…but please don't rub that in as well).  My life involves determents that eat away at my  time as well as my energy.  My husband works all over the world so he is gone 1/2 the month, my Ehlers-Danlos issues, are never far from the forefront whether it is pain that distracts me or overwhelming fatigue that keeps me on the couch all day.  I would be totally honest if I didn't mention my messy work habits that wreck havoc with my time management.

wedding boxes by Altar Designs
While all of these are issues... the real issue, the issue that will keep me from ever join the ranks of mass production- for either gifts or for my Etsy store- is simple…. I cannot stand to make exact -copy multiples... of anything.  There, I said it.  I can barely stand to make two copies of an item let alone hundreds.  I love cruising Etsy looking for interesting items.  There is something for everyone, truly there is.  While I am drooling over some amazing one-of-a-kind (OOAK in Etsy-speak) items, I always find stores where OOAK is a concept they do not understand and instead there are multiples of multiples of multiples of their items.   I found a crafter at DebiCreactions who has over 500 little socks, each with bead adornments on the cuff.  That is a whole mess of beads that had to be crocheted on to a whole lot of cuffs.  I found a shop called Altar Designs which specializes in decorative boxes made to hold special little notes written by wedding guests.  There are 104 boxes for sale and while there are dozens of different designs what I see is a woman who spends a large amount of her day making wedding boxes.  
Fork Whisperer
Another high output seller is Fork Whisperer.  This artist makes amazing and very affordable jewelry in a style all her own. She lists almost 200 different pieces on Etsy alone.  I'm absolutely smitten with her beautiful yet simplistic work.

A scrunchie rears it's ugly self
Obviously I could go on forever listing Etsy sellers who are offering ridiculously large numbers of duplicates but that would get boring really fast.  I would like to showcase some of my favorite sellers in future posts because there is some really cool stuff out there.  I also plan to show some of the items I have purchased off of Etsy as well as more of my work.  And for kicks I will post some of the less than stellar items I find like the shop Handmade Crafter (isn't that name redundant?)selling hundreds of scrunchies; 312 to be exact.  Yes, you heard me correctly…. scrunchies.  Those horrendous loops of elasticized fabric are being unleashed upon unsuspecting women and girls all across America.  Lest you think anybody can offer a product but selling it is hard- she has sold over 2000 items and a quick look shows many of those to be scrunchies.  Frankly, I think scrunchies and neon are two trends that should NEVER resurface…EVER…NEVER….EVER but who asked me?



ixty years ago, a company was local, the boss knew all his employees, took care of those employees, and it was honorable to make a well-made, sturdy, and long-lasting product.  An honest days work for an honest day's pay.  Today, a company's workers are likely to be far removed from management who has no interest in taking care of the employees.  The company rarely cares to make a solid product and many employ teams to find ways to get us to buy more of their crappy products.  They don't aspire to have an appliance that lasts 50 years- they want you to buy another one in a 5 years.  

The cheap, the plastic, the throw-away junk we are inandated with day-in-and-day-out comes with a price.  Our landfills are overfilled, our oceans are full of garbage, and we are nowhere near a solution.  Our love of cheap, often, but not always, Made-in-China, products which are filled with toxic chemicals, seems to be an addiction with no cure.  He who dies with the most crap wins!  Right?  Isn't that the game we are playing?  Today, the products that fill our favorite store's shelves are overwhelmingly bright plastic, cardboard, and thin paper.  In other words… cheap.  Few toys last through even one child because one broken piece renders the toy worthless.  Unfortunately, generation this makes the concept of the hand-me-down as a quant little outdated idea from generations past.  

I bought Ryann the game Mouse Trap in which you run around the board collecting pieces to build a complex mouse trap.  Upon opening the box, I was instantly struck   aware that the 2006 version of this was not your daddy's mousetrap.  Oh, no… the game originally produced in 1963 had been updated with the latest in cheap plastic crappy construction (hmmm, sort of like my house!).  Rude Goldberg like-trap that you build throughout the game was made of very thin plastic and a piece broke after 2 or 3 times.  Unfortunatley, it was too thin to tape or glue and because alll the pieces together are needed to make the mousetrap work, the game was worthless.   speicifially Mousetrap, that I played as a child, he McDonalds toys, Dollar Store purchases,

Most of us are over run with inexpensive stuff and frankly, while it was fun when it first started, the novelty is wearing off.  I am beginning to look for items that are more meaningful.  I find myself preferring handmade items.  It would be great if more people shopped for handmade products or even better, started making gifts and home decor items themselves.  It is easier and easier to find handmade items. I've noticed that local stores often highlight their local products and more gift shops are selling items made by local artists.  Where I live the Kalamazoo Institute of Art (KIA) offers an annual holiday sale of items made by their instructors.  Craft fairs are a great source of handmade items as well and there are art fairs all over all the time.  Ann Arbor has the most famous art fair in MIchigan and is always an amazing place to get ideas, speak to artists, and buy great pieces for gifts or yourself.  Although it isn't as common as the craft fair, smaller craft "malls" can be found all over the country.  One opened right down the street from my house recently.  Within a large, single room, store are little booths build, stocked and maintained by the individual artists and crafters.  For a rental fee the store is staffed by one central which keeps the crafters from having to staff te store.    I spend hours going through Etsy looking for new cool stuff.  

I've noticed that local stores often highlight their local products and more gift shops are selling items made by local artists.  Where I live the Kalamazoo Institute of Art (KIA) offers an annual holiday sale of items made by their instructors.  Craft fairs are a great source of handmade items as well and there are art fairs all over all the time.  Ann Arbor has the most famous art fair in MIchigan and is always an amazing place to get ideas, speak to artists, and buy great pieces for gifts or yourself.  Although it isn't as common as the craft fair, smaller craft "malls" can be found all over the country.  One opened right down the street from my house recently.  Within a large, single room, store are little booths build, stocked and maintained by the individual artists and crafters.  For a rental fee the store is staffed by one central which keeps the crafters from having to staff te store.    I spend hours going through Etsy looking for new cool stuff.  

Laters...

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