If you’re hunting for holiday gifts with heart, nothing beats handmade.
Creative pursuit of craft — everything from aprons to zippered bracelets — is on the rise, making all things handmade ho, ho, ho-t. The popularity is partly a product of our economic times, with folks trying to make the most out of materials on hand to earn some extra cash.
Factoring huge into this handmade renaissance is Etsy.com, where artisans can affordably open e-commerce shops without hassle, and buyers can skip the lines at stores.
For proof, check out Etsy’s growth: Sales this year through September were $357.6 million, compared to $314.3 million for all of 2010.
Yes, Etsy is a sweet source for all things handmade — and local, if you know how to search. Buying local, handmade items is similar to buying local food: It keeps money in the place where you live, it’s better for the environment, and it solidifies a sense of community pride.
For your convenience, Ink studied page upon page of crafts on Etsy, sifting through the silly (a Star Wars-inspired glowing light-saber hair clip/lip gloss combo) and stumbling upon the stellar (affordable art).
Our annual gift guide offers insider Etsy tips, a list of stores that sell handmade items and the back stories of interesting artists behind the wares. They’re all creatives with a calling and a Kansas City connection. Their passion is contagious.*
They’re crafty, and they’re just our type.
Here’s a look at five local crafters and artisans featured in this year’s Gift Guide:
Kristen Paulson, embroiderer
This 29-year-old medical social worker wanted a creative outlet, so she learned embroidery — on YouTube. Her profession definitely inspires her. One of her embroidery projects is the anatomy of a uterus with cute little buttons or stitches for the ovaries.
“A few doctors’ offices have bought them to lighten the mood,” says Paulson, a roller derby player who goes by Stitch Reaper (No. 8.6 yds) in the Dead Girl Derby league.
Paulson looks up to embroiderer Kate Burke, who runs Honeytree Gallery on 18th Street in Kansas City.
“She’s amazing with her detailed stitches,” Paulson says.
Paulson’s Etsy shop: etsy.com/shop/heypaul
Her favorite Etsy shops: Dumb Kid Designs of Kansas City ( etsy.com/shop/DumbKidDesigns), which makes wallets from decorative papers. Pilot Valve, also of Kansas City, ( etsy.com/shop/pilotvalve) repurposes items such as records to make clocks. Tattoo Socks of Tel Aviv, Israel, makes alluring hosiery with ornate patterns and words ( etsy.com/shop/tattoosocks)
Meredith Host, ceramicist
To say the Kansas City ceramics artist has an Etsy following is like saying the sky is blue. 2,892 sales are posted on her profile, and she has 6,276 admirers.
Host’s shop, Folded Pigs (a reference to a hairstyle, not her work), sells repurposed restaurantware featuring realistic-looking hearts, skulls, bugs and zombies. Yes, she has a fondness for horror movies.
We like how she gives instructions for how to make folded pigs on her profile page, using her red hair as an example in her avatar pic.
Host’s Etsy shop: etsy.com/shop/foldedpigs
Her favorite Etsy shops: Agnes Barton-Surbo of Portland makes comic-book-style art inspired by desserts, moustaches and muscles ( etsy.com/shop/BettyTurbo) and Beantown Handmade of Nebraska makes hats and sweaters for our furry friends ( etsy.com/shop/beantownhandmade).
Brent Wear, painter
The 38-year-old artist is from Independence and attended Parsons in New York as well as University of Kansas. For more than a decade, he’s lived in Portland.
“Etsy is a great way to reach people outside of here,” Wear says. “It’s user-friendly for both the buyer and seller.”
He also likes Etsy for its affordability. To list an item costs 30 cents. When he has shows at commercial galleries, they keep half of the sale.
You could say Wear has a thing for birds. He knows birds have become cliche in art, especially in Portland. They even earned a mention in the TV series “Portlandia,” where someone says “Put a bird on it.”
But Wear will stick to birds. He likes them. It started when he painted birds on a wire 12 years ago. “They’ve evolved into toy-like birds,” he says. “Sometimes they turn into helicopters.”
Wear also creates abstract work and illustrates.
Wear’s Etsy shop: etsy.com/shop/brentwear
His favorite Etsy shops: Trixiedelicious of New Zealand takes Grandma’s fussy china and paints irreverencies on them, including “douchebag” ( etsy.com/shop/trixiedelicious). Locomotive of Vancouver, British Columbia, makes streetwear featuring trains ( etsy.com/shop/locomotive).
Flora Chang, illustrator
By day, the 36-year-old designs for the kid division of Hallmark. By night, she works on her Etsy shop, Happy Doodle Land, where she illustrates jewelry, prints and badges.
“I like that it’s another creative outlet,” says Chang, who was born in and grew up in Taiwan. “It’s not my source of income, so there’s no pressure.”
Chang’s work made us smile at the second annual Hallmarket, a day-long fair last month of Hallmark artists’ creative work. The event is further proof handmade is hot.
Chang’s Etsy shop: etsy.com/shop/happydoodleland
Her favorite Etsy buy: A suitcase decoupaged with children’s book illustrations for $90. “It must have taken her hours and hours,” Chang says. “It was a real bargain considering that. Everyone stops me when they see it to ask where I got it. I say, ‘It’s one of a kind.’ ”
Lacey and Clint Loumaster, glass fuser and wood turner
Turns out a couple who learns complicated math together crafts together.
The two met in an advanced calculus class. Clint works with wood, especially exotic varieties such as zebrawood, with its dramatic stripes reminiscent of the hide of its namesake animal. Using a lathe and other tools, he turns knotty raw-wood-looking bowls as well as writing pens, bottle stoppers and even baby rattles. Lacey fuses glass to create platters, jewelry pendants and night lights. She also hand-draws rock ‘n’ roll instruments for the glass swizzle sticks she crafts.
Together, the couple made decorative boxes that combined his wood skills and her colorful stained glass as gifts for their parents. Their family treasures the boxes, and friends are constantly encouraging them to make things.
The Loumasters’ Etsy shop: etsy.com/shop/WoodandGlass
Their favorite Etsy shops: MyCook, an Overland Park woman makes home-cooked meals and delivers them to your door ( etsy.com/shop/MyCook). Monogram Mania ( etsy.com/shop/MonogramMania) makes personalized embroidered shirts for kids. “We’ve bought personalized first birthday shirts for both William and Sam (their sons),” Lacey says. Maid of Clay ( etsy.com/shop/MaidOfClay) makes beautiful Art Nouveau vases. “Clint bought one for me for Christmas last year and I just love it.”