Maybe your sister would appreciate a miniature handmade ceramic owl for Christmas, a whimsical little creature that would fit in her palm. Your best friend might like a messenger bag in a wild floral print, displaying a riot of colors guaranteed to brighten even the darkest winter’s day. A striking photograph taken in a South Carolina cemetery might be just the thing for Uncle Larry, and an elegant knit cowl in her favorite colors could be treasured by Aunt Judy.
All of the above are handmade in the Miami Valley.
This holiday season, consider shopping local, from your laptop. The well-known arts and crafts online shopping site Etsy makes it easy to find artists at work in your community. Simply enter the site through the address www.etsy.com/local and type in your location. For example, on a recent weekday morning, entering “Dayton, Ohio” brought up 12,674 items for sale, “Lebanon, Ohio” brought up 1,485 items and “Springfield, Ohio,” 1,062.
Peggy Hamlin, 51, of Lebanon, was responsible for 161 of the Lebanon items. She’s one of many area artists who have found a welcome creative outlet through Etsy. She sculpts miniature animals, including owls, from her home studio, set up in her daughter’s old bedroom. When she first started selling her art, she sold only through art shows, but she found the whole process to be difficult and stressful. When a friend suggested she check out Etsy, she decided to open her own store on the site, Flower and Pearl Studio.
Hamlin’s miniature animals proved a good fit. “The price range for many buyers on Etsy is maybe between $15 to $35. That’s how I started making little things. They’re more affordable, and you can ship it easier,” she said. Hamlin has since accumulated clients from as far away as New Zealand, Russia and Brazil.
A self-taught artist, she says Etsy has given her much more than just monetary benefits. “I’ve always had a lot of ideas in my head, but because I had children and was working and everything, I never had the time to be as creative as I wanted to be,” Hamlin said. “When my kids were out of the house, I thought it was time to try something just for me. I feel like I’ve accomplished something when people buy something from me and give me nice feedback.”
Shelbi Nikol, 21, of Springfield, admires Etsy’s commitment to handmade, noncorporate goods. She decided to try it for herself in July. A photography student at Clark State, she’s using the site to sell her photographs, including images captured in Southern cemeteries and in European cities. She also uses the site to sell vintage clothing that she’s altered.
“This is the first time I’ve tried to sell my photos,” she said. “It’s hard to get your work out there. I don’t know where I would sell it otherwise.”
So far, she’s only sold one photograph, but it’s given her a real boost. “I’m constantly learning and getting better, and it’s exciting to get to share that work with everyone,” she said.
P.J. Golden, 34, of Dayton, recently celebrated her 150th Etsy sale. Her shop, Tiarellas Clutch, sells distinctive messenger bags and purses, including bags made from ties and from hardback books. Golden began selling her bags in 2006 and opened her Etsy shop in 2010.
“I should have done it long before that,” she said. She continues to sell at shows and festivals and credits her Etsy store with helping ease her entry into several consignment shops. Etsy also helped her connect with other Dayton-area artists, through an Etsy-organized group called Handmade Dayton. The group meets monthly to talk shop and socialize in-person.
Amy and Greg Neal, a Lebanon couple, both have Etsy shops. Amy, 53, sells handknit goods such as cowls and neck warmers at Tangled Up Knits, and Greg, 55, sells functional handmade pottery (serving platters, bread crocks and so forth) at Neal Pottery.
Tangled Up Knits is a hobby. “I don’t sell a lot from there, but I’m happy with that because it’s my mad money,” Amy said. Her husband, however, is a full-time potter, and Etsy is an important part of his business, which also includes sales at art shows and local galleries.
Many Etsy clients are far away, but Amy said they also get orders from just around the corner. “I’ve sent packages to Cincinnati and Wilmington. Especially around the holidays, it’s nice for people to order it and get it in two days,” she said.
Amy Neal plans to do most of her holiday shopping on Etsy. “I don’t plan on setting foot in a mall,” she said. “There’s a high quality to the products on Etsy. There’s some really beautiful artwork to be found.”
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