Nov 15, 2013
01:24 PMStyle & Shopping
All Hail Etsy: Holiday Gift Ideas from the Web's Most Ginormous Crafts Market
MGP Photography 2013
"Hope for the Holidays," an 8-by-12 inch fine art photograph from the Etsy shop mariegradypalcic, $28
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Founded in 2005, the e-commerce site Etsy—devoted to the sale of handmade and vintage items as well as arts and crafts supplies—has distinguished itself over time by actually becoming more fun to use: I find purchases easy, sellers (for the most part) friendly and reliable, and the increasingly professional-looking photos of items fun to peruse (especially now that you can get multiple views). It also gladdens me that only rarely, very rarely, is an item I ordered less appealing than I expected. Given that the site is expected to do $1 billion in business this year, I guess I'm not alone. And it's proven to be a great place for artisans of all kinds to develop a following, both nationally and internationally, which is why so many of the vendors treat it as an adjunct to their brick-and-mortar establishments here, there, and everywhere. One of my favorite Etsy features is the "Shop Local" function, which allows you to find site vendors from your own backyard. So, given the time of year, it seemed right to spotlight some of the Nutmeg State's Etsy artisans—especially given the site's anti-big-business ethos. Here's to the little guy with great ideas. (One cautionary note: You won't find any bridal vendors here—we have enough of those to make an article for another time.)
"Midnight Moon" Resin Earrings and Necklace, $20/"Simon" Owl Necklace, $32 by Underglass (Norwich)
The shop name is misleading—Carol-Ann Sbarbori creates mixed-media jewelry with handmade resin, not glass—but it has a critical family connection. When she was little, her grandmother had a collection of glass domes under which she kept precious items: That is, precious to her, not necessarily precious in value. Carol-Ann remembers how good it made her feel to have her grandmother tell her that one of the gifts she gave Grandma was deemed worthy of being put "under glass." Thus, she strives to make customers feel the same way about the items in her shop. I particularly covet her vivid "Midnight Moon" earrings, made of resin images that are strung on a black silicone cord that has been run through a silver-plated noodle bead, then gathered up and bound together with silver-plated wire and finished off with a silver-plated French hook. (You can choose silver-plate posts or clip-ons instead—or sterling silver hooks for $2 more.) The total hang length of the earrings is just under 3 inches, and Sbarbori offers a matching necklace in her shop for the same price. The "Simon" owl necklace features a hand-colored image in shades of dove-grey, rust and olive, layered in resin front and back and perched above a real piece of tree branch from which hang color-coordinated beads (buyers can select either an 18- or 24-inch chain.) All items come with a choice of packaging (gift or pillow box) and free first-class USPS shipping. Sbarbori—who also runs the steampunk-ier Etsy jewelry shop Resin8ingDarkness—welcomes the opportunity to create custom designs.
Assorted French Macarons (one dozen), $19.20, by SweetSarahPâtisserie (New Milford)
Sarah Moraes, owner of this shop, loves the endless possibilities of color. Her ability to think outside the standard artist's palette enhances the creative flavors of her signature petite confections—I mean, any of us can imagine lemon, strawberry, blood orange and even lavender macarons, but Hypnose (passion fruit and chamomile)? Genevieve (cardomom and vanilla)? Rogue (chocolate, hazelnut, cognac)? Annabel (strawberry, apricot, white poppy?) All we can say to those is yes, please. Moraes, who says her inspiration comes from flowers, farmers markets and even movies, has a bakery in New Milford, Sweet Sarah Artisan Confectionery & Pâtisserie (sweetsarahshop.com, 860/350-3610), where she also turns out decadent whoopie pies, chocolate crinkle and raspberry-fig sablé cookies and creamy pâtes de guimauve (French marshmallows). Most of these are readily available on Etsy, and all her sweets are made with premium ingredients and no preservatives or artificial anything. But it's the macarons that get all the press: from Martha Stewart, the Huffington Post, Pillsbury, even Sherman-Williams STIR®. So the extra good news is, on Small Business Saturday (Nov. 30), buy a dozen and get $5 off.
Children's Crochet "Newsboy"-Style Hat, $28/Children's Crochet Tank Top & Kerchief Set, $45, by SimplyMadeByErin (Branford)
A self-described stay-at-home mom since relocating from Arizona to Connecticut, Erin Hansen clearly loves crochet—she offers a shopful of made-to-order handmade hats and accessories for all sizes from newborn to adult, as well as downloadable DIY patterns (in which she does a particularly brisk business). Here are a couple of her fetching seasonal kids' designs: For chillier months, a "super-bulky" wool and acrylic cap (at left) for ages 1 to 10—pick the colors you prefer—and for spring/early summer, a festive all-acrylic tank top (with matching scarf) that can double as a swimsuit cover. It's available in extra small, small, medium and large. Most clothing items, once purchased, are shipped in 7-10 business days; crochet patterns are emailed within 24 hours. Custom requests are welcome. I love the reasonable prices, but what I really want to know is . . . which Etsy shop sells the adorable models?
Faded Blue Bowl, $130/Sand-Blasted Raku Vessel, $70, by JohnSabosPottery (Hamden)
A relative newcomer to Etsy (he opened his shop last January), John Sabo III discovered ceramics four years ago as a way to fulfill an art credit he needed for his Central Connecticut State University marketing degree. He got so hooked on the form that he's taken additional classes every semester since—and hopes, in the immediate future, to open his own studio where he can offer classes in wheel throwing and hand building. His Faded Blue Bowl, 61/2-by-14 inches, is wheel-thrown, hand carved and finished with a hgh-fire glaze; the iridescent Sand-Blasted Raku Vessel's dimensions are 10 inches by eight inches. Both creations are one of a kind. Like many vendors on this list, he accepts custom orders.