Because neurotic is the new black....

Ann Nichols

Ann Nichols
East Lansing, Michigan,
December 31
I write, I read, I clean up after people and I worry about things. I have a chronic insufficiency of ironic detachment. My birthday isn't really December 31; it's March 22 but it won't let me change it.


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JANUARY 12, 2012 9:42AM

The Etsy Girl

Rate: 35 Flag

I have, of late, been living in the Land of Etsy. I buy things that strike my fancy, usually small things, sometimes odd things. I bought most of my Christmas gifts there, and the vast majority of my own wish list came from my Etsy “favorites.” As I write, I am wearing a necklace that is the most simple, elegant and lyrical of silver crescent moons. I coveted it for months, and was as thrilled to receive it from my husband as any woman has ever been in one of those ridiculous, jewelry store ads. Keep your cheesy diamonds; I am in love with my hand crafted moon, just the right size to fit around my index finger when I’m feeling fidgety. (Every kiss really begins with “E”).

 moon necklace

I have, for quite a long time, been deeply disenchanted with mass merchandising and retail in general. There was a time when I got excited because Liberty of London was launching a line at Target, but the older I got, the more I felt drawn to things made by hand, be they technically “art” or “craft.” I also grew exhausted by the bright falseness of the stores that used to offer “retail therapy.” I am no longer exhilarated by the rows of merchandise that speak of easy bounty; I find them macabre in this economy. These days, I am drawn to the repurposed, the upcycled, the handcrafted and the fair trade. Even more, I want a connection to a person who has put a bit of herself into the creation of my mug, scarf or notecard. I liked it that no one else has one just like mine, and I am thrilled to support working craftspeople, and do it without burning a drop of fossil fuel.

There is also a delicious three-part adventure involved in an Etsy purchase. There is the hunt, as delicious, tentative and heady as falling in love. Sometimes it's a coup de foudre – I saw a watercolor of a cat, fork in hand, looking balefully at a plate of peas and I wanted it. The artist’s work evoked Beatrix Potter, Tasha Tudor, and made me smile every time I looked at it. Other times I fall in love after a long hunt, searching by keyword, narrowing my choices like a dating service, and then realizing that I keep returning to look at that mug, which is apparently my soul mate among drinking vessels. The second part is the purchase and anticipation, during which I know that something lovely is coming in the mail, and finally, there is the day when the purchase arrives swathed in bubble wrap or newspaper. I receive things in tiny, adorable drawstring bags, Kraft brown boxes tied with snips of twine and tiny charms, and wrapped in remnants of quilt fabric. Often, there is a bit of lagniappe included, maybe a few sample vials of perfume oil or a translucent sliver of obsidian. Although I paid for them, and even if I bought them to give to someone else, each Etsy packages is like a gift prepared for me with care and love.

Now that I’m warmed up a little, I will admit the true, beating heart of my Etsy obsession: I have rich fantasies in which I am The Etsy Girl. When the world presses down hard, I retreat to the alternate universe in which I live in an apartment in Brooklyn. It has exposed brick, and is located over a shop selling artisanal cheeses. Above me is a flat rooftop where we garden in the summer, and my apartment includes a large studio space with long tables made from salvaged doors on sawhorses. When I am not at my job creating window displays, I am making something beautiful in my studio. I look very much like Zooey Deschanel (with brown eyes), wearing fingerless gloves and holding a handmade mug with its own Fair Isle mug cozy. Some guy with hair falling into his eyes and the perfect amount of stubble is sitting in a sprung armchair in the corner playing his guitar and singing. Before we make ourselves some vegan enchiladas for dinner, I will pack up my orders to send out the following morning. I do not own a television set, my clothes are all vintage (except the Doc Martens my parents got me for Christmas), and I am sweet and totally post-ironic.

When I browse Etsy, and something stops me cold, I ask myself “what would the Etsy Girl think?” The answer is that she would think it was quirky, and interesting, maybe not her “thing,” but the expression of someone’s creativity and therefore valid and worthy of respect. I do not love everything I see, and I am well aware of Regretsy, but I find that Etsy is actually a very interesting window into other worlds, particularly in the context of items that make me scratch my head and wonder why anyone would create or buy them. I am not, of course, The Etsy Girl. Well, mostly I’m not. I can look at an offering from my point of view as a middle-aged, Midwestern wife and mother and think that I would never buy or use certain things…but someone would, and someone else imagined and created them, and the mental exploration of those sellers and buyers is a rich vein of creative gold.

Best of all, for me, anyway, I have been inspired to create again. I am about to learn needle felting, and I can’t wait to look through piles of candy colored wool roving and take it home to follow its lead. I recently ordered a set of ridiculously cheap chandelier prisms and created a funky sort of make-do sun catcher by suspending them from ribbons tied to a piece of wood I found on a walk. I am not The Etsy Girl, but there is something in that virtual world that moves me and brings to life that long-haired vegan girl in a vintage sweater and a ring with a raven on it. I kind of love her.


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you personalize this new economy very well r.
Dang! I wanna be an Etsy girl too!
I kinda love her too. She is almost a shaman like vision to me and keeps me focused on what is important. Thanks for reminding me of this quality. Peace and Art go together.
What a wonderful character you've created. I think I'd like the Etsy girl. I've looked wistfully at the site from time to time, but haven't bought. I need to visit more regularaly. Maybe now that Suzi has a store...
Being hopelessly un-artsy and un-crafty, I can never hope to be an Etsy girl. But, from my Moop bags to my Daisycakes soap, I am a huge supporter of other Etsy girls!
Nice goods! I am not an etsy girl, because working in an art school, I reap too many rewards already. There's not a single piece of factory china or glass in my kitchen, all emerged from student hands. If they break, there's more where it came from.

BTW, if you want to cast your net for handmade goodies even wider, many art colleges now have their own stores, where they sell student and facuty work, and part of the proceeds go to scholarship funds, etc. RISD has one of the best, although ours runs close :-)

Sometime when you're cruising: http://www.risdstore.com/
and of course: http://www.massartmade.com/
i've been a fan of etsy for years. where else can you buy handmade felted wool slippers from some amazing woman in (i think it was) the netherlands or my granddaughter's hedwig feather mask for halloween?

but etsy and products aside, i felt a tear in my eyes when i read 'post-ironic.' on one hand, i'd hate to be as vulnerable as i was when i was so young that i could be called pre-ironic, innocent of how painful the world can be, but there is still that longing for the wide-eyed girl whose expectations were simple. sigh. lovely piece, ann.
Like you I am past wanting those things the rest of the world(?) seems to want...status be damned. It is why I turned to art...it is mine, unique little slices of my brain. I had better revisit Etsyville!

Great piece of writing.
Before you even said something about your own heart beating, mine had ALREADY started by the first paragraph! I look for everything first on etsy and love how I make personal connections to every artisan I have purchased things from. I am about to meet my FAVORITE painter who has become a "friend."

There is NOTHING like waiting for that "beautiful thing" to arrive with a handwritten note. I so love the way you have written this, Miss Etsy Girl and will be sharing with everyone on facebook.
I love Etsy and could cruise their site endlessly lusting after things made by people who aren't trapped in some horrid factory. You're right about them putting something of themselves into the pieces they craft. I spent 6 years as a fashion jewelry designer in the wholesale industry. I despised many of the pieces I had to create to fit fashion.

The times I was able to let myself drift on a "better piece" with antique silver, or porcelain, I put a lot of love and care into making it special. My hope was that someone special would acquire it and appreciate it's beauty, unlike the generic pieces I miserably churned out to accessorize the millions of generic "outfits" for millions of generic people.

The Etsy Girl doesn't need to live in Brooklyn and eat vegan with her long-haired boyfriend serenading her. The Etsy girl sees what is special and appreciates it being just right for her or someone else. As you twirl your finger in the lovely moon realize you're already her picking up that special piece of wood on a walk. Great sun-catcher, it reminds me of notes on sheet music.
I forgot to mention my delight in anticipating the Liberty of London line at Target. I actually went to Liberty many years ago and actually WEPT in the wedding dress department. I never ended up buying anything. Like you, I don't want what the masses have. I wear and use everything I've ever gotten from the site with great pride.
How funny that you basically described my life in Brooklyn! I even went as Doughy Deschanel, Zooey's fat sister, for Halloween. Oh, except that I friggin' love TV.

(Saw this when Gayle posted it to Facebook!)
Once I fell in love with a pair of hand crafted earrings made into the shape of Oriental fans from tiny bits of Christmas wrapping paper. I feel this post.
Esty girl. I adore Esty. I have a long wish list, but I haven't bought anything. I'll go back. I'm in Germany and today I wore my handcrafted glass bead necklace- my favorite that I got in an Autumn Fair. I love your sun catcher. Great piece.
I don't think I've gotten the "hang" of Etsy. I just seem to find crap, people who price things like $500 for a pie, or resellers. Then I just go to Regretsy and laugh away the shame that apparently I'm so not Etsy girl that I can't even find anything to buy.

You've inspired me to give it another try. Any tips for avoiding the potholes?
I love that necklace! And I love etsy.
I like your spirit and the dream, even if I don't have a clue as to what Etsy is.
Don't think I'd manage the Vegan part well, and I might like a handsome pianist who can crank out some good Chopin instead, but Etsy Girl's life sounds pretty good, to me, otherwise. And I covet that Moon Pendant!

I get lost in Etsy, and this piece reminds me why!!!
Loved this piece. Even better, I now have a new site to check out and discover. Before this piece, I'd never heard of Etsy. I'll be sure to give it a look-see. Who knows, maybe someday, I'll be an Etsy Guy, eating steak and potatos, swilling gourmet coffee like the Evil Genius I am and making all sorts of cool craftsy things.

Saying craftsy just sounds so Gollum, y'know? Preciouss, Etsy is, yesss, my precioussss. Gollum!

I kinda love the Etsy girl, too. I get lost in Etsy for hours, wantingwantingwanting everything. Thank you for this article. Imma go look for anything pearl gray or a hand wrought silver ring...
The creative in me loves that place too.
Great post!

My husband's wedding ring came from Etsy, certainly one of the biggest purchases one makes, emotionally. We wanted: silver, handmade, personal, unusual, something that would look great on his hand. He's Hispanic, so silver means something to him from where he grew up (NM) and it looks terrific on his skin tone. The ring came from some godforsaken place in very rural Michigan. He loves it and I love that a real person (not a factory slave) made it for him. We live near NYC so we hardly lacked for choice...

I plan to open an Etsy site later this year to sell vintage items and perhaps some of my own drawings and photographs. I find all sorts of lovely things in there.
I am SO glad you wrote about this. I love my Etsy experience. It feels right, especially in this economy. And they run so smoothly and its just pretty, like walking around a gingerbread house or something. Just bought earrings for a friend and the whole process was just perfect. You go, Etsy girl!
I think Etsy is brilliant, too. Several of my artisan friends sell there; it seems to work well from their side, too. Sure beats the crap out of selling at farmers markets and arts-n-crafts sales. Enjoy the needle felting. As a knitter who loves all fiber crafts, I am j-e-a-l-o-u-s!
I love your POV and keep up the good purchasing rule....
I'd buy your imagination. It's something I'm sorely lacking in apparently. I love your Etsy Girl (and Regretsy Girl too~funny), except for the began enchiladas. I mean, why bother? (says my bland internalized Whah-Whah Girl)
Oh! BTW, Susan Creamer Joy is an Etsy Girl for real and I have bejeweled myself with a few of her joy-making things that bring on 'Wow, how did you find this? It's wonderful!' comments from friends and strangers. (actually, most of my friends are strange-rs)

(PS-love your crystals, their rainbows in winter sun always make me smile)
OH NO! that would be VEGAN, yeah. oops.
I am another inhabitant in the land of Etsy. We should develop a signature handshake, or cocktail, or both!
(sigh) Now I have the urge to go to Etsy & find that special mug.
I love, love, love this story and am drawn to this fictional Etsy Girl. I think I might have a bit of her inside me as well. I have been curious about Etsy for some time now and will be checking it out after posting this comment. You've sold me! Thank you for this delightful piece of writing. R
I know quite a few "Etsy Girls" and some guys who buy and sell their own creations here and I've been longing to take the plunge myself, not only w/ my photography but the dozens of other crafts that are overflowing my back bedroom...sigh....maybe this year?
I love Etsy people. I'm not only addicted to Etsy, spending hours weekly and nearly daily absorbed in hundreds of pages, storing scores of items in my cart, so I can find them later when I have a little money to spend (if they are still available), but I was an early seller - joining in the 2nd year after they opened the site. Unfortunately, as my business became better defined with products chosen by their popularity both online and at local farmer's markets, the size of Etsy grew until it was like a lovely monster. Due to some cognitive disability I can't keep up and can't figure out how to get my products seen on the front page or promoted much more than the occasional blogger who becomes a fan and owner of one of my baskets. So, it is with little shame that I close with this: basketrybotanicadotetsydotcom has the best onion and garlic storage baskets you'll find anywhere. Oh and Athenssbohotiquedotetsydotcom is where I sell handknits, crochet and handwoven items. If you want the address to my etsy bookstore, just convo....
I hear you, but omigod I have to ration my visits there or I'm Alice down the rabbit hole.

Happy to hear the Etsy muse put you in -another- creative groove. I wear fingerless gloves, but I don't look like the Etsy girl . I look like an an aged and wizened little match girl - with warm hands.
At the risk of becoming that person that uses the comments section to advertise, check out this site: http://shop.miupperhand.com/
Like Etsy, but UP oriented. There are some photos of Lake Superior that I really want. I saw it mentioned on an NMU blog, and now I'm hooked.
What a wonderful arrangement you've created. I think I'd like the Etsy girl. I've looked wistfully at the premises from time to time, but haven't bought. I poverty to visit more regularaly. Maybe now that Suzi has a store...