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Ink Gift Guide: Handmade, local gifts we found on Etsy

Our custom-embroidered Gift Guide cover was made by local crafter Kristen Paulson. Find her work on etsy.com/shops/heypaul

Most popular Etsy searches

  1. Christmas cards

  2. Christmas

  3. Yarn wreaths

  4. Owl

  5. Yarmulke

  6. Steampunk

Etsy 101

Founded in 2005: It was conceived by Rob Kalin. A painter, carpenter, and photographer, Kalin wanted a more viable marketplace to exhibit and sell his creations online, one that hasn’t wouldn’t be inundated with overstock electronics and broken appliances. He and others designed the site, wrote the code, assembled the servers, spliced the cables and launched Etsy on June 18, 2005, after “only three sleepless months.”

Handmade is growing: Sales in 2011 through September were $357.6 million compared to $314.3 million for all of 2010.

How to shop: Go to etsy.com. There are some gift guides already assembled, but to shop in Kansas City, scroll down to the bottom and click on “Shop Local.” Type the city and state for a more refined search. It can be tricky to find specific local items such as “owls in Kansas City.” It will bring up items that aren’t owls in places other than Kansas City. There are also more than 20 different categories to shop, such as needlecraft and knitting. And you can shop by color, which is fun but more of a hit-and-miss novelty. You scroll randomly over color bars and it selects a few items.

Just ask: Have online conversations with crafters. Most are fine with custom work. Ask what the deadline is for personalization before the holidays. Just click on “contact” near the seller’s profile and it will automatically reference the item you have a question about on the Etsy message.

Watch for vintage: Some Etsy sellers don’t make stuff, they sell vintage items. Ask if you can’t tell the difference.

What’s an Etsy circle? When you add someone to your circle, you can see their favorites and what they buy on your activity feed. You may want to add friends, family, Etsy shops you like and Etsians whose style you admire.

Drop-down menu: It’s discreet, up at the top starting with “handmade.” It allows you to search by shop.

First and last names: Search buyers and sellers by name by typing a name, using the drop-down menu to select “people,” then hitting the search button. A search for “Stacy Downs” came up with two names. Some buyers and sellers don’t like this new feature because of privacy concerns.


These stores specialize in local handmade home décor and gifts, because sometimes you want to see the handiwork up close.

  1. Bon Bon Atelier, 314 Westport Road, 816.756.0855, bonbonatelier.com

  2. Eclectics Gallery, 7015 Oak St., 816.361.6643, oureclecticlives.blogspot.com

  3. Leedy-Voulkos Art Center Shop, 2012 Baltimore Ave., 816.474.1919, leedy-voulkos.com

  4. Mash Handmade, 3900-A Pennsylvania, 816.960.7000, mashhandmade.com

  5. Stuff, 316 W. 63rd St., 816.361.8222, pursuegoodstuff.com

special to ink

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.”


  1. 3 years, 10 months ago

    Wonderful article. Thank you so much for including me and for reminding Kansas City to SHOP LOCAL! :)

  2. 3 years, 10 months ago

    Great article! If you are looking for more locally made items, find shops via the Kansas City Artisans Team or the KC Etsy Team. :)

  3. 3 years, 10 months ago

    don’t forget my handspun yarn on etsy I’m a local with a shop


  4. 3 years, 10 months ago

    Great to get some exposure for ETSY here in KC! Thank you, KC Star. Me and my banks: http://www.etsy.com/shop/rpfeikgraphics?ref=si_shop

  5. 3 years, 10 months ago

    Nice feature on shopping local - great support for those of us on Etsy!

    You can also check out my shop:


    Thanks for supporting local artisans.

  6. 3 years, 10 months ago

    Why give more money and attention to Etsy (which takes a cut of all sales). Why not put the focus on local stores that sell merchandise from local artists, rather than making them just a side bar. Good sentiment, poor execution.

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