Saturday, December 1, 2012

Building a Collection: Papernstitch

I don’t know what you talked about during Thanksgiving dinner.  But once we had exhausted family news and neighborhood gossip, the conversation turned to Etsy.  Yes, much to the chagrin and confusion of the fellas present, we discussed Etsy.  More to the point: we discussed how to find decent stuff on Etsy.

Etsy has grown into the largest marketplace for crafty things.  A behemoth, really.  Not unlike Ebay or Mall of America in scope and variety.  And since Etsy embraces thousands of vendors, literally, all describing their own creations, it can be extremely difficult to navigate.  For example, yesterday, a search for “Christmas pug” unearthed 802 items.  “Butterfly mobile” brought up 1,194 examples.  And “photographs of Paris” discovered an overwhelming 3,933 options for sale.
Happiness is Homemade by Alyssa Nassner
Plus, the idea of homemade or handmade is really diverse.  And expectations of quality are highly personal.  The beauty or cleverness of an object may be easy to spot at your farmer’s market, but it’s a little trickier to judge via your computer monitor or smart phone.  So what to do?  If you already have a favorite artist on Etsy, you could constantly check out what he or she loves.  Just follow the hearts.
But most of us involved in the Thanksgiving discussion trust blogs – blogs of friends, designers, reviewers, and even Etsy’s own blog – to sift through the huge selection and find what we actually want and like.

Papernstitch is a blog I trust.

Papernstitch is both an online exhibition space for artists and makers of handmade goods, many culled from the best of Etsy, and a blog about design and DIY craft.  Founder Brittni Mehlhoff takes curating the site seriously.  Exhibitions change at least monthly.  Jeff, her partner in life and work, keeps the dual endeavors running smoothly, both technically and visually.  Papernstitch regularly receives accolades from media, such as, Country Living, The Huffington Post and other well-known blogs like Apartment Therapy.

Papernstitch has featured my sister’s prints and photographs by Irene Suchocki.  Plus it’s introduced me to the following artists:

Sally Harless;
Stacie Bloomfield;
Lisa Zador;
Alyssa Nassner;
Derek Sullivan;
and Melissa Lund.

Sally Harless, also known as Sadly Harmless, is based in Bloomington, Indiana, and attends major craft fairs throughout the Midwest.  On Papernstitch and Etsy, she offers prints of her original drawings and watercolors, plus these clever shadow boxes.
Snow Drifter by Sally Harless
I like the somewhat Eeyore-feel to her images.  Life is an adventure… a little tragic and humorous and perpetually in motion, whether we recognize it or not!
Sally Harless' A Crawling Garden

and In My Own Way
Stacie Bloomfield, aka Gingiber, grew up in the Midwest and currently lives in Arkansas with her young family.  She has always been obsessed with animals, and her illustrations manage to capture the individual and the archetype in a minimal but charming style.  Pattern plays a big part.  Gemma Giraffe looks like Kente cloth.
Gemma Giraffe by Stacie Bloomfield
The stripes on Leo Lion mimic handprinted Adrinka cotton.
Leo Lion, also by Stacie Bloomfield
In addition to prints, Stacie sells greeting cards, wall decals and pillows based on her original illustrations.
and her Black Sheep pillow
Lisa Zador is one of the most established artists featured on Papernstitch.  An animal lover and avid collector of retro kitsch, Lisa has been designing textiles and packaging for over twenty years now.  But she may be best known for her Curious Portraits: exquisite paintings and surprisingly poignant portrayals of antique toys;
Steiff Kitten by Lisa Zador
vintage knick knacks;
Salt and Pepper Still Life by Lisa Zador
and rather dapper fauna.
and her Goose Gentleman
Once again, Lisa offers affordable reproductions of her paintings through Etsy and Papernstitch and sells her original pieces, including custom pet portraits, through more traditional venues.

There is no doubt that Etsy empowers crafters around the world and provides artists with a genuinely huge audience – much larger than any single gallery, craft show or wholesale market could supply.  And despite its clunkiness, it broadens our “local” shopping experience by introducing us to new work and helping us connect to craftspeople we hope to support.

Alyssa Nassner is an illustrator who successfully uses Etsy as a storefront and marketing tool.  Alyssa spends her regular workday in design and also freelances as Small Talk Studio.  You may recognize her drawings from Real Simple and Gemma Correll’s blog: What I Wore Today.

Alyssa’s prints, often developed from these extra projects, exude a can-do attitude and pretty nostalgia.
Fortune Favors the Brave by Alyssa Nassner
Let Yourself Be Free by Alyssa Nassner
Even her Mushroom Identification Chart is bright and cheerful compared to the old-fashioned lithographs that inspired it.
Etsy shines as the realm of women, especially young women, in tune to nature, fantasy, wit and the joy of crafting lovely, slightly ephemeral things.  And fellas like Derek Sullivan are significantly outnumbered.  Based in Seattle, Derek is another professional designer who utilizes Etsy as a creative outlet.  I absolutely love his alphabet flashcard prints, which seem influenced by pulp fiction covers and product advertisements from the 40s and 50s.
F is for Film Noir,

U is for Upside Down

and N is for Narwhal... all by Derek Sullivan
Cuteness-overload is an ailment that strikes me from time to time when searching through Etsy.  I become immune to the pleasures of felt and pale pink and almost miss something great like Melissa Lund’s photographs.
Taffy Six by Melissa Lund
Melissa’s whimsical little scenes are beautiful and beautifully crafted.  Sugary treats for the eyes.  But more than that, they draw us in.  The encourage us to look closer.  To pay attention.  And I think that’s what we should expect from art, whether it costs $25 or $25,000.
Pins by Melissa Lund

Cupcake Love by Melissa Lund
I don’t think I’m overstating things when I say these six artists remind us that life is a noble quest…
Sally Harless' Sail Close to the Wind
Stacie Bloomfield's Confetti Cat
meant to be cherished…
Lisa Zador's Steiff Bunny Sleeping
full of possibility…
Alyssa Nassner's Be in Love
wicked fun…
Derek Sullivan's Y is for Yeti
and transient.
Melissa Lund's Berry Baskets
So, this holiday season, I hope you will shop Etsy for some of your gift purchases.  And employ Papernstitch as your handy filter and guide.

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