Dilemma: The holidays are right around the corner, and you need presents. You want to buy items handmade locally, but you can never seem to make it to stores or to craft fairs or, once there, you can never seem to find exactly what you want.
If you’ve never visited etsy.com, you’re missing out. It is an arts-and-crafts fair; a community of hundreds of thousands of sellers and buyers from more than 150 countries; a treasure trove of items – all for sale. Founded in June 2005, its mission is: “to enable people to make a living making things, and to reconnect makers with buyers … to build a new economy and present a better choice: Buy, Sell and Live Handmade.”
Though, like other sites, the options can seem daunting – especially when trying to purchase locally – in August 2007, Etsy began to provide a solution: a “Shop Local” button. Using this, you can go beyond their usual options – seller, vintage, handmade, supplies, categories, colors, treasury, pounce (for new sellers) and editors’ picks – and buy directly from sellers in your area. And boy, does New Orleans offer a plethora of opportunities.
For the purposes of this article, I sat down to play with the “Shop Local” option. In less than the time it took me to pour a drink I had more than 50 sellers to peruse. I focused on sellers that focused on handmade items (versus vintage or repurposed items) and found everything from jewelry to clothing to paintings to “flair for your hair” to signs and ornaments.
Here are some places to start; happy shopping!
Joe Brewton’s shop is easily named “joebrewton” (joebrewton.etsy.com), and from here the Louisiana State University School of Architecture graduate sells limited-edition signed and numbered prints primarily focused on New Orleans’ architecture at very reasonable prices. “I think that what I strive to show in my art is just the simple beauty of our environment and its history, and that it is everywhere around us here,” he says. He joined Etsy because, “It provides an inexpensive way to market my work, and to see which images draw the most attention.”
One of New Orleans’ best-known Etsy sellers is Darline Treitler, owner of The Back Porch Shoppe (thebackporchshoppe.etsy.com). Featured in Town & Country Weddings, among many other notable publications, she specializes in vintage-inspired shabby cottage signs “aged to perfection.” Treitler creates signs for any event – weddings, nurseries, initial letters and numbers – as well as smaller signs that can be used as ornaments. “I’m proud to be able to say that I’m from New Orleans. I’ve had many customers tell me how much they love New Orleans … and I just think that New Orleans is art in itself!” she says. Though Treitler has another online store (thebackporchshoppe.com) she says that since she’s right at 3,200 sales through Etsy, she hasn’t had time to use it properly.
You may have met Maria Fomich at the Freret Market or seen her work on some of New Orleans’ snazzier residents. A graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Art, Fomich started her Etsy stores while still an undergrad. “It seemed like a great starting point for an independent artist,” she says. “Etsy is a great gallery for my work where people can communicate with me and purchase my work directly, making it a personal experience for both myself and the buyer. It’s an online community supporting the handmade movement – what else could a working artist ask for?” Fomich has two Etsy stores: Adorn & Conquer (adornandconquer.etsy.com) featuring her “higher-end art jewelry” and Ya Betta’ Supa Don’t (yabettasupadont.etsy.com), which showcases her New Orleans-inspired “and funky” jewelry, pet tags and bike reflectors. “I contribute to our culture in a time when culture is ‘dying’,” she replies when asked what’s her favorite thing about being an artist in New Orleans. “I’m proud to say ours is thriving and I’m part of it. We are NOLA. (My work is) handmade with love,” she continues. “I’m thankful for people who respond to my work and appreciate it, because in a time when artists are competing with a Walmart-culture, community support is what makes the difference.”
Though also selling jewelry, sisters Marcie and Emily Lessard of Ditto-Ditto (dittoditto.etsy.com) specialize in a very different form of wearable art – pendants laser cut from wood. “We have a passion for design and creating wearable objects,” they told me. “We are inspired by the possibilities that new technology offers in this medium … Etsy seemed like it’d be a great fit for our creations because it supports home grown designers and encourages experimentation with different techniques and mediums.” While they don’t offer too many pieces as of yet, that is sure to change, “The creative people and independent spirits in New Orleans feed our desire to create,” they say, and with that inspiration, the sky’s the limit.
Lori Norvell is new to Etsy, having joined in May of this year. “I opened up an Etsy shop in an effort to broaden my customer base,” she says. “ I have a booth at the Freret Street Market and I also take orders for custom-made items. Because my business is fairly new, I am trying to cover several different venues to find my niche.” Just over a year ago Norvell relocated from Rhode Island. “There is such a great creative vibe here in the city, and such a freedom to be who you are. I love that.” Her store Material Girl NOLA (materialgirlnola.etsy.com) specializes in “upcycled” scarves, wristlets (mini-purses that fit on your wrist, perfect for a night out), clutches, handbags and even a “Crayons To Go” carrier that keeps 13 crayons in their place and can be easily thrown in a bag without getting on everything – and make sure to check out her summer items sale. “All of my work is original and unique,” she says.
“Because I repurpose materials into sustainable accessories, I rarely am able to duplicate items, which means your scarf or bag from me will be a one-of-a-kind.”
Though Marigold Pascual sells her work at local shops Miette, Oak and Fleurty Girl, she also sells on Etsy (lovemarigold.etsy.com and Dreamer76.etsy.com) for a variety of reasons, among them, its “established artist community.” “People who shop on Etsy are looking for this one-of-a-kind experience, something that no one else will have,” she says. “As a shopper and a fashionista, the last thing I want is to have on something that someone else has. So when I create my pieces – be they the zipper necklaces and hand-painted vintage purses I make, the Mardi Gras Indian Segmented bracelets, or the costume feather and flower headdresses – I am creating a piece of beauty that is unique, my artist snowflake.”
Brandi Couvillion recently decided to follow her artistic passion full-time and is using her store on Etsy as a way to bring more attention to her work and her art studio, The Waregarden (waregarden.etsy.com). It is here that she showcases her paintings and her found object art. “Most of these mixed-media and jewelry pieces are composed, quite literally, of lost fragments of the past, from weathered cypress siding rescued from a crumbling house to discarded skeleton keys and tarnished metal that litter the ground,” she says. Her skeleton key necklaces sometimes also feature her oil paintings, making these pieces of jewelry truly one-of-a-kind. “What I try to capture in my artwork is some of the sense of cities throughout the world in the process of becoming a ruin, of present fading into history,” she says. “New Orleans is continually an inspiration to me and … I hope to give back to the community in a different own way through my art work.”