The players in this handmade revolution aren’t just knitting afghans or churning out papier-mâché angels. They’re sewing iPod cozies and laptop cases and making their own jewelry, clothing, paper goods, reusable grocery bags, toys and more.

But they don’t sell most of their creations face-to-face. Founded in 2005, the online marketplace Etsy acts as sort of an eBay for handmade goods—without all that bidding stuff.

“If you’re on eBay, you put in the word ‘necklace,’ and you get thousands of irrelevant results and crap to sift through,” explains Adam Brown, spokesman for Etsy. “People who are coming [to Etsy] are specifically looking for something handmade and are typically willing to pay for something that has a story and meaning,”

Tamara Dutton of CrayonFawn and CarnivoreCockatiel
Jennie Warren
Tamara Dutton of CrayonFawn and CarnivoreCockatiel
Kelso Cooper of Kelso Doesn't Dance
Jennie Warren
Kelso Cooper of Kelso Doesn't Dance

“Etsy, to me, was really a deciding factor,” says Cooper, who sells her floral and mixed-patterned purses, totes, cosmetic bags and wallets in her Etsy store, Kelso Doesn’t Dance. “I love the way they operate, and they have so many resources for sellers. It seems they really want us to succeed.”

In a survey conducted by Etsy at the beginning of 2008, the average Etsy buyer is 32 years old—just three years younger than the average Etsy seller. Sixty-three percent of buyers and 58 percent of sellers are college graduates. And the majority of both are from California, New York and Texas.

“It’s a new thing: People want to get away from the image of the grandma and the crocheting,” Brown says. “It’s passé. It’s just the next generation of crafters and I think that image is rapidly changing.”

Calvert even favors her Etsy storefront to her personal website. “In the past year, I’ve sold maybe six or seven things off my personal website, and I’ve sold, like, a hundred on Etsy,” she says, There are so many ways for your stuff to get seen on Etsy that it ends up being a much better option, visibility-wise.”

But even more important to Brown, the Long Beach Craft Mafia and many others is the belief that Etsy and the handmade trend help one to escape the grasp of corporate America, all the while helping out the environment—think of it as a collective giant middle finger to throwaway consumer culture.

“Our numbers are going up every week,” Brown says. “There’s been a resurgence lately of the DIY movement. It’s a backlash to the big-box culture that took over the United States in the ’90s and currently still is. People are tired of it.”

“It’s really a representation of a new way of our economy,” says Delilah Snell, owner of the eco-friendly boutique Road Less Traveled and co-founder of Santa Ana’s Patchwork Indie Arts & Crafts Festival (and who, it must be noted, is dating Weekly staff writer Gustavo Arellano). “Everyone’s talking about how our economy is down—I think it’s showing a shift in what consumers want.”

Maritza Arrua owns Belmont Heights’ the Kids Are Alright. In addition to carrying small-label women’s, men’s and children’s clothing, Arrua also stocks the store with handmade items from artisans—both local and countrywide, including items from Calvert’s line—and is hosting her latest art exhibition.

“It’s really exciting to meet people like Steph,” Arrua says. “That’s the most fun: When you find someone that has an artistic, creative point of view, and they’re making it themselves.

“As a store owner, with everything that’s going on in our economy,” she continues, “I feel it’s important to support the artists and designers who are from this country who are making an effort to have their products made.”

 

THE GIRAFFE
crayonfawn.etsy.com; carnivorecockatiel.etsy.com
Tamara Dutton’s house smells like kindergarten.

Dutton, 25, maintains two Etsy storefronts. For CrayonFawn, she handcrafts silicon molds of figurines in a weeklong layering process. She then melts down crayons—some donated, some used, some bullied from kids, some plucked from restaurants by waitress friends—in a hot-plate-like device called the Melting Pot, stirring the crayons into a bright puddle. She funnels layers one at a time into the mold using a wide boba straw.

“I used to melt crayons when I was younger in the microwave with wax paper. In my room growing up, I’d have all these candles on my windowsill, melted into wax icicles all the way to the floor,” she recalls.

Her original figurine is the fawn itself, followed by a pair of roller skates inspired by a roller-derby friend named Estrogen. She says a bust of Abraham Lincoln is on its way. She also crafted the infamous cupcake hat—basically a giant felt cupcake secured on the side of your head with ribbon, reminiscent of the Japanese Gothic Lolita style.

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