The local pleasures of Etsy

I suspect a good portion of the art I now own is from Etsy. The website, which started in 2005, seems to be a favorite among artists, and I can understand why. It’s a little bit like an eBay of arts and crafts, and so, if you want to sell something you’ve made, suddenly it’s very easy to set up an online gallery, take credit cards, and mail off your work.

I don’t know how much money the average artist actually makes on Etsy. The site boasts several million users, and, once enough people are on a site, it’s easy to get lost in the noise. I suspect like most online sites, the average user sells a few items here and there, and a few sellers have moments of immense popularity and do pretty well. And there are probably a few sellers who never sell anything; just browsing the site, you have a lot of “what were they thinking?” moments. In fact, there’s a site rather smartly called “Regretsy,” which boasts the equally clever motto “Where DIY Meets WTF,” that serves to showcase some of Etsy’s weirder offerings.

As fun as this is, it’s always struck me as a little mean. It’s easy enough to avoid bad art, and even great art is already at such risk of being misunderstood and ridiculed. If a piece of art triggers my WTF impulse, I usually like to give it a second chance — you’d be surprised how often this sort of art becomes a favorite. I suppose I am always more impressed by people who celebrate what might be despised rather than those who despise what could be ignored. But that doesn’t mean I don’t read Regretsy. Of course I do. We all have our own place on the web where we have given ourselves permission to be mean.

But I am here to praise Etsy today, not to bury it. One of the nicest features about the site is that it offers a “ways to buy” menu in its lower left-hand corner, and one of the ways to buy is by region, making it very easy to find art by locals. And so here is a list of what are my current favorite local offerings from Etsy artists based in and around the Twin Cities:

Bearded hat by Myohmycutiepie
Courtesy of Myohmycutiepie
Bearded hat by Myohmycutiepie

1. It’s very hard not to appreciate this hand-crocheted hat with an attached, and likewise hand-crocheted, beard from a Minneapolitan called myohmycutiepie, especially as a child is modeling it. Not only does it give us the chance to live out our Paul Bunyan fantasies (and I suspect a lot of us have them), but it looks to genuinely be effective protection against our murderous winter wind chill. There are a lot of novelty winter hats on Etsy, by the way, many from Minnesotans. Not in the mood for a beard? How about a space alien?

Robot photo by Friendlymade
Photo courtesy of Friendlymade
Robot photo by Friendlymade

2. “Nothing is more exciting than a giant robot,” seller friendlymade tells us, and I’m not about to argue the point, especially as the robot in the above print looks like the sort of fellow who might have shown up in the 1950s z-grade science-fiction film. All of friendlymade’s work has a sort of kitschy nostalgia to it — the artist has snapped pics of the Big Boy mascot, a sign for a delightful looking place called the Tiki Motel, and Minnesota’s own Cottage View Drive-In.

"Red Robot in Garden" by Kelly Newcomer
Courtesy of Kelly Newcomer
“Red Robot in Garden” by Kelly Newcomer

3. Speaking of robots, I am always delighted to check in on the Etsy page of Kelly Newcomer, whom I met years ago through an unlikely set of circumstances (an anarchist infocenter in Powderhown Park), and met later through an equally unlikely circumstance (she emailed me to ask me to show her the fundamentals of playing ukulele). Newcomer paints robots, satellites and others samples of fictional technology with a deliberately childish quality, such as the cheerful-seeming “Red Robot in Garden” pictured above. Irresistible though giant robots may be, Newcomer’s creations seem small, fragile and somewhat out-of-control; this has its own charms.

"Naked" detail by Jennifer Davis
Courtesy of Jennifer Davis
“Naked” detail by Jennifer Davis

4. There’s something I quite like about the art of Jennifer Davis, whose paintings seem to chart a line between a sort of commercial art representation and cartoon-like abstraction. “Naked,” pictured above, is pretty straightforward, albeit with a somewhat flattened perspective and a simplified, bold use of color. But “Bizzy,” which I especially like, is, what? Some sort of caribou? It’s a huge-headed, sleepy-eyed, smiling black beast of some sort with what seem to be horns atop its head, but it’s less an animal you might see in the real world than something that might show up in a dream sequence in a Hayao Miyazaki film.

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Jennifer Davis on 07/13/2011 - 10:25 am.

    Thank you for this, Max & MinnPost!
    I love Etsy.

    AND- I feel the same way about Regresty. It is mean and painful but I think the writing is what makes it so hilarious and addictive. I am just waiting for the day I find one of my own paintings there…

    The “View it in a Room” feature is The Best.

  2. Submitted by Jane Cracraft on 07/13/2011 - 01:19 pm.

    Agree about the greatness of both Etsy and Regretsy.

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