Pamela Jaeger's quirky wedding-cake toppers.
Etsy is to handmade goodies as eBay is to used junk—a marketplace for the crafty, the vintage, the weird. But in a good way. Like eBay, you can find vintage kitchenware, slightly used clothes and jewelry, but you can also find handcrafted goods of all kinds, some astoundingly good. For the girl or guy who has shopping in their heart, it’s a supreme time waster, but an oft-rewarding and inspiring one. You can pick up hand-knitted sweaters from Australia, corsets hand-sewn in London or beer soap made in Portland, Ore.
But this column covers local shopping. Lucky for us, there are quite a few talented San Diegans selling their wares on Etsy. And since Etsy can be such a humongous, crazy puzzle of a place, focusing on the kids in your own backyard is kind of a perfect place to begin.
But before we start, a quick primer for the unintiated: The website is set up with “storefronts,” each with its own name. You can search those shop names, as I give them to you below, or you can search for specific items or descriptive words. You can even narrow your search to just handmade or vintage items. You’ll can get the hang of it quickly.
OK, on with the locals:
Pamela Jaegar is a San Diego artist who’s shown at galleries here and in Los Angeles (and has been featured on the cover of CityBeat). Her paintings of sad girls and lonely women are creepy and beautiful. She sells only a few of her traditional paintings in her Etsy store Dandelionland. Mostly, she custom-makes wedding toppers—yes, for matrimonial cakes or centerpieces. You choose the eyes, hair, coloring and ensembles of the happy couple and she’ll render their faces on tiny wooden statues. The results are super-weird, but in an awesome way—a one-of-a-kind gift for the newly engaged.
Etsy is full of people whose primary job is a creative one but perhaps more constraining than full-time crafter. Leslie Thompson of the storefront Sparklepaw is a full-time graphic designer who readily admits she spends most of her Etsy earnings on other people’s Etsy stuff. Her illustrated animals are so cute and happy and they spew lovely sentiments—you can get them on greeting cards, pocket mirrors or recipe cards. A unicorn card proclaims, “You’re pretty magical.” And a squirrel dreams, “You’re kinda nutty, but I still think you’re neat.” They’re simple, almost childlike, but really striking, and they make me happy.
Nuny Lee of Scenerie is also a local graphic designer by day, Etsy crafter by night. She refers to Etsy as her “design playground” because she gets to just throw things out there and see what people like. New but already a hit on the site are her downloadable cards, mostly for kids. Her finger-puppet Valentine’s Day cards sold like mad—and she didn’t have to worry about printing. You, the purchaser, can print as many as you like for the one-time fee of $4 on your home printer. A novel business model for sure.
Lest you think it’s all kid stuff, take a look at Laura Skelton’s Prix Prix. Her specialty is the “necktie wallet”— outdated menswear transformed into a useful, and stylish, accoutrement. Skelton is new to San Diego, and to Etsy. The exposure she’s gotten on Etsy is the sole reason she’s been able to do this full-time— her business has grown faster than she could have imagined in the “real world.”
Another local upcycler is Bottlehood. Owner Leslie Tiano and crew take used beer and soda bottles from neighborhood bars and restaurants, cut and tumble them and turn them into smooth and stylish drinking glasses. Besides selling on Etsy, their glassware is featured at The Grove in South Park and the restaurant Cantina Mayahuel on Adams Avenue. But it’s Etsy that has afforded them the ability to become a fulltime crafting business.
So many local crafters on Etsy, so little word count, so look for Part Two featuring accessories for the brave, bird cages and more in the next Urban Scout.
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