Nov 15, 2013
01:24 PM
Style & Shopping

All Hail Etsy: Holiday Gift Ideas from the Web's Most Ginormous Crafts Market

Founded in 2005, the e-commerce site Etsy—devoted to the sale of handmade and vintage items as well as arts and crafts supplies—has distinguished itself over time by actually becoming more fun to use: I find purchases easy, sellers (for the most part) friendly and reliable, and the increasingly professional-looking photos of items fun to peruse (especially now that you can get multiple views). It also gladdens me that only rarely, very rarely, is an item I ordered less appealing than I expected. Given that the site is expected to do $1 billion in business this year, I guess I'm not alone. And it's proven to be a great place for artisans of all kinds to develop a following, both nationally and internationally, which is why so many of the vendors treat it as an adjunct to their brick-and-mortar establishments here, there, and everywhere. One of my favorite Etsy features is the "Shop Local" function, which allows you to find site vendors from your own backyard. So, given the time of year, it seemed right to spotlight some of the Nutmeg State's Etsy artisans—especially given the site's anti-big-business ethos. Here's to the little guy with great ideas. (One cautionary note: You won't find any bridal vendors here—we have enough of those to make an article for another time.)


"Midnight Moon" Resin Earrings and Necklace, $20/"Simon" Owl Necklace, $32 by Underglass (Norwich)

The shop name is misleading—Carol-Ann Sbarbori creates mixed-media jewelry with handmade resin, not glass—but it has a critical family connection. When she was little, her grandmother had a collection of glass domes under which she kept precious items: That is, precious to her, not necessarily precious in value. Carol-Ann remembers how good it made her feel to have her grandmother tell her that one of the gifts she gave Grandma was deemed worthy of being put "under glass." Thus, she strives to make customers feel the same way about the items in her shop. I particularly covet her vivid "Midnight Moon" earrings, made of resin images that are strung on a black silicone cord that has been run through a silver-plated noodle bead, then gathered up and bound together with silver-plated wire and finished off with a silver-plated French hook. (You can choose silver-plate posts or clip-ons instead—or sterling silver hooks for $2 more.) The total hang length of the earrings is just under 3 inches, and Sbarbori offers a matching necklace in her shop for the same price. The "Simon" owl necklace features a hand-colored image in shades of dove-grey, rust and olive, layered in resin front and back and perched above a real piece of tree branch from which hang color-coordinated beads (buyers can select either an 18- or 24-inch chain.) All items come with a choice of packaging (gift or pillow box) and free first-class USPS shipping. Sbarbori—who also runs the steampunk-ier Etsy jewelry shop Resin8ingDarkness—welcomes the opportunity to create custom designs.




Assorted French Macarons (one dozen), $19.20, by SweetSarahPâtisserie (New Milford)

Sarah Moraes, owner of this shop, loves the endless possibilities of color. Her ability to think outside the standard artist's palette enhances the creative flavors of her signature petite confections—I mean, any of us can imagine lemon, strawberry, blood orange and even lavender macarons, but Hypnose (passion fruit and chamomile)? Genevieve (cardomom and vanilla)? Rogue (chocolate, hazelnut, cognac)? Annabel (strawberry, apricot, white poppy?) All we can say to those is yes, please. Moraes, who says her inspiration comes from flowers, farmers markets and even movies, has a bakery in New Milford, Sweet Sarah Artisan Confectionery & Pâtisserie (, 860/350-3610), where she also turns out decadent whoopie pies, chocolate crinkle and raspberry-fig sablé cookies and creamy pâtes de guimauve (French marshmallows). Most of these are readily available on Etsy, and all her sweets are made with premium ingredients and no preservatives or artificial anything. But it's the macarons that get all the press: from Martha Stewart, the Huffington Post, Pillsbury, even Sherman-Williams STIR®. So the extra good news is, on Small Business Saturday (Nov. 30), buy a dozen and get $5 off.


Children's Crochet "Newsboy"-Style Hat, $28/Children's Crochet Tank Top & Kerchief Set, $45, by SimplyMadeByErin (Branford)

A self-described stay-at-home mom since relocating from Arizona to Connecticut, Erin Hansen clearly loves crochet—she offers a shopful of made-to-order handmade hats and accessories for all sizes from newborn to adult, as well as downloadable DIY patterns (in which she does a particularly brisk business). Here are a couple of her fetching seasonal kids' designs: For chillier months, a "super-bulky" wool and acrylic cap (at left) for ages 1 to 10—pick the colors you prefer—and for spring/early summer, a festive all-acrylic tank top (with matching scarf) that can double as a swimsuit cover. It's available in extra small, small, medium and large. Most clothing items, once purchased, are shipped in 7-10 business days; crochet patterns are emailed within 24 hours. Custom requests are welcome. I love the reasonable prices, but what I really want to know is . . . which Etsy shop sells the adorable models?



Faded Blue Bowl, $130/Sand-Blasted Raku Vessel, $70, by JohnSabosPottery (Hamden)

A relative newcomer to Etsy (he opened his shop last January), John Sabo III discovered ceramics four years ago as a way to fulfill an art credit he needed for his Central Connecticut State University marketing degree. He got so hooked on the form that he's taken additional classes every semester since—and hopes, in the immediate future, to open his own studio where he can offer classes in wheel throwing and hand building. His Faded Blue Bowl, 61/2-by-14 inches, is wheel-thrown, hand carved and finished with a hgh-fire glaze; the iridescent Sand-Blasted Raku Vessel's dimensions are 10 inches by eight inches. Both creations are one of a kind. Like many vendors on this list, he accepts custom orders.     


"Snow Dusting" Fine Art Photograph, $28/2014 Kitty Angels Calendar, $24, by mariegradypalcic (Enfield)

When Marie Grady Palcic says she takes photos of "everything around her," you can take her at her word. Her Etsy collection includes still lifes, landscapes, animal portraits, flowers and urban environments, some focusing on the tiniest of details (like a single bleeding heart blossom) and others incorporating broader, deeper perspectives, such as "Snow Dusting." Taken along the Connecticut River, this shot—printed on Fujicolor Crystal Archive Paper with a lustre finish, has the look of one of those handtinted postcards from the early 20th century (Palcic notes that she shoots with digital equipment and sometimes enhances her photos with certain textures to "provide a timeless quality or artistic feel.") Her 2014 Kitty Angels Calendar, a project shot to benefit the Coventry rescue Kitty Angels of Connecticut, features 12 images photographed at the shelter itself (a detail is at right). All photos available can be ordered at a size different from those listed in the shop, and custom work is welcome.


Sterling Silver Gas-Pump Nozzle Earrings, $136/Fine Silver Molotov Cocktail Pendant, $155, by PartsbyNC (New Haven)

   Of the million or so vendors on Etsy, sometimes it seems about a half-million sell "novelty" jewelry—items like clay earrings fashioned to look like food (pizzas, sandwiches, etc.) or necklaces with nontraditional charms (typewrriters, telephone booths, you name it). Then, of course there are the fine jewelers and artisans: dealers of valuable gemstones and silversmiths who turn out traditional handcrafted pieces in classic forms such as hearts, flowers and geometric shapes. It's much more rare to find a shop-owner who marries fine artisan skills and material with "novelty" concepts. Say hello to Amy DeLorenzo, who sells "Jewelry That Plays by its Own Rules": power-line necklaces and piston-rod earrings made of fine .999 silver, sterling silver gas-pump nozzle jewelry (above), hearts made of a string of mini copper pipes. Whole sections of her shop are devoted to chainmaille jewelry and explosives and weapons (like wee blasting box and Molotov cocktail pendants,at left, in fine silver). Odd, yes, disturbing, perhaps; but there's no doubting their conversation-piece value or the skill that went into making them. DeLorenzo (who took the photos here) assures buyers that her pieces are built to last, even though most of them are made of fine 99.9-percent-pure silver, the substance that results when you kiln-fire silver metal clay (reclaimed silver particles held together by an organic binder). "I've been known to abuse my accessories, so I would never put my name on, or sell, anything that couldn't take my punishment and still look like the day it was made," she says. All items are shipped first-class insured, usually within 24 hours. DeLorenzo is also happy to accept custom orders.


"Candy Land" Hand-Spun Two-Ply Thick 'n' Thin Bulky Art Yarn, $24, by NewTwist (Sherman)

Tal Hadani specializes in hand-picked, hand-dyed, hand-blended and hand-spun (on her Lendrum DT spinning wheel) yarns, available in a dizzying array of color combinations, styles and textures. She works with Merino, mohair, Border Leicester, Cormo, cotted and Angora wools—to name a few—blending in other elements like bamboo, colored thread and Tussah silk yarn. (Her "Candy Land" blend, below, is 70 yards of oh-so-soft, 21.5-micron Merino.) She also sells supplies—available right now is a selection of picked mohair in a rainbow of hues—and offers all comers (particularly those who don't do needlework) her services in creating-to-order the knitted, crocheted or woven apparel of their choice. The shop is currently offering a pre-holiday 10-percent-off sale to those using the coupon code LOTSOYARN. She's also set up her own website/blog,, which offers video tutorials on hand-spinning your own yarns.





African Rosewood with Bird's-Eye Maple Jewelry Box, $299, by Exotichardwoods (West Haven)

Because he likes to show off the natural beauty of the hardwoods he works with—which include lacewood, white ash, black walnut, curly maple, red oak and cherry—Vincent Russello uses no stain, dye or paint on his handcrafted lazy susans, cutting boards and jewelry boxes. The beauty shown here contrasts African rosewood, a dark, rich wood with dramatic grain patterns, against blonde bird's eye maple, which gets its name from its eyelike markings. The box is coated with three applications of Danish oil and a coat of buffed hard wax; Russello hand-carved the handle and biscuit joints and molded the feet. Inside, the box is lined with suede and features a removable sliding tray with ring/cufflink holders. The bottom of the box also has removable dividers. It's finished off with brass hardware: stop hinges that hold the lid in place when the box is open and, of course, a lock and key for privacy (it's hard to imagine just your everyday jewelry being kept here).  


Mineral Eyeshadow Set (Vegan)-10 5-Gram Jars, $47.60, by Etherealle (Willimantic)

 All-natural, cruelty-free, vegan handmade cosmetics and skincare products equals a selection of colors and textures unique to Cynthia C's shop—she refuses to use premade base powders or fillers from other companies, instead opting for organic and fair-trade ingredients whenever possible. There are blushes, bronzers, primers and foundations aplenty here, along with a fab selection of mineral lipstick colors (many now on sale) and eyeshadow/liner formulations, all blessedly free of parabens, talc and bismuth oxychloride. The shop offers sets of cosmetics as well—the 10-shade eyeshadow kit is available in both 5-and 10-gram jars (you pick the colors, from delicate Meringue to shimmery, deep sapphire Oceans)—but if you prefer to sample the products carefully before diving in, there's more than 150 samples available in sizes smaller than a gram for prices that are easy to spare.


Snowflake Soap with Peppermint Fragrance (3), $15/Sleeping Baby in Angel Wings Soap (10), $45, by MySweetWeeSoaps (Marlborough)

Available in scents like peppermint, white tea and ginger, coconut cream, orange creamsicle, moonlight pomegranate and French vanilla (20 in all), the glycerin soaps in this shop sound good enough to eat, let alone bathe with. SweetWee shop owner and soap designer/creator Linda finds it "so comforting to be around the different fragrances during the day . . . every soap I make is precious to me and I enjoy receiving appreciative notes from buyers about their beauty and uniqueness." The top of her line for both those qualities is the pink or blue, baby-powder-scented Sleeping Baby soap, which is actually a twofer: the wings are a separate soap from the baby, and also serve as a handy if temporary soapdish. It's hard to think of a cuter favor for a baby shower, thus, you can order the soaps in lots from 10 to 80. Most other soaps, like the seasonal snowflake, are sold in sets of three—and you can custom-order them in any scent and your preferred choice among 10 available colors. All soaps are made with natural essential and fragrance oils, and are detergent- and sulfate-free.



White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Toffee Butter Cracker Candy (1/2 pound), $6.45, by TorteAndSweet (Waterbury)

Matilda Perugini's menu is small, but a sure thing: Create any treat with a foundation of buttery caramel toffee and you can addict the world. Available variations of her signature treat include white chocolate cranberry pistachio (pictured), white chocolate apricot cashew, chocolate peanut butter  and semisweet/milk chocolate with cranberries and walnuts (there's also a holiday variation with crushed peppermint). Perugini also sells coconut macaroons, banana bread and muffins and orange-flavored anginetti cookies—a family tradition—that she's willing to deliver locally. Her sweets are winning raves from Etsy customers, and why not—desserts that taste like they just came out of your kitchen are a lot more satisfying when you don't have to make them.


Set of Six Hand-Painted White-Wine Glasses-Village Provençal Collection, $170, by CréationsdeFlorence (Fairfield)

Highly detailed, richly colored hand-painted glassware and ceramics are the bailiwick of Parisian native Florence Pindrys, who creates her designs on wine glasses, vases, pitchers, plates and bowls, soap dispensers and salt and pepper shakers. Her most popular design is her Village Provençal series, incorporating the homes, cypress trees and rolling hills of that beautiful Mediterranean region in France. Taken together, the glasses pictured here give an expansive view of one of Pindrys' favorite locales, as no two are alike (although they all share glossy orange bases that match the roofs on the homes). They're also painted freehand and made to order, so your set may look somewhat different from the glasses pictured here—depending on the artist's inspiration. All Pindrys' creations are painted with non-toxic glass paint and heated in an oven to make the design durable. If you have a custom idea for her to paint, pass it along.  Says she, "My best designs were actually sprouted by my clients!"


Mint Hot Chocolate Mix in Mason Jar Mug, $18.50/Seed Bottle Necklace, $18, by trio3 (Westport)

 Trio3 is one of Etsy's multifarious shops whose owners take pride in offering much more than one specialty; in Sally Ahearn Effman's case, the focus is "handmade essentials for gardening, weddings and parties; home decor and great gifts." Translation: everything from flavored sugar, designer sugar cubes and sea salts to ornaments, seed tape and the gift items seen here. Her 16-ounce hot chocolate mixes—in addition to mint, available flavors are pumpkin, cinnamon (with candy hearts instead of peppermint sticks) and Mexican—are major sellers. Just add milk to everything layered in the jar and you've got a sweet treat that serves five. The 24-inch long, micro-mini apothecary bottle necklaces come in a variety of themes and are all cute as the dickens, but what makes the seed bottle necklaces special is that the seeds can be planted—and you have a choice of  flowers or herbs: poppies, forget-me-nots, chamomile, oregano, basil, St. John's Wort (planting instructions are provided). Effman is happy to fill custom orders, but provides a warning concerning domestic holiday delivery: those orders must be received by Dec. 15.    

All Hail Etsy: Holiday Gift Ideas from the Web's Most Ginormous Crafts Market

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