This month Etsy celebrates 10 years as a global community of makers, inventors, and collectors. In the past decade, talented Etsy shop owners have crafted careers from cupcakes and crochet, decoupage and deer heads. While many of these curiosities could certainly be called trends, they also represent deep passions for quite a few makers, and many of these motifs have taken on long-lasting lives of their own. Today, we’re turning our attention to five memorable Etsy trends that have made a particularly enduring mark over the course of a decade, and asking some of our most dedicated sellers for insight on what makes them special — and what gives them staying power.
With a history dating back over 150 years, doughnuts have long been a part of our culture’s confectionary landscape. Over the past decade on Etsy, however, they’ve found new life — and scores of sweet-toothed fans — as socks, stickers, even desk supplies. Why the fried fixation, you might wonder? The answer’s short and sweet.
“A doughnut day is a good day,” says April Waters of San Francisco-based shop Donut Galleria, which stocks a cheerful selection of glazed, jam-filled, and chocolate-covered treats, all rendered in dreamlike watercolour. “They’re simple and satisfying — and they’re really pretty. On a philosophical level,” she adds, “I think doughnuts lighten the burden of existence.”
Denise Mancuso of AJSweetSoap, creator of handmade, doughnut-shaped soaps could easily be mistaken for the real deal, agrees. “They’re sweet, colourful, and one of those comfort foods that just makes everything better. I’ve been told that some customers play tricks on their friends by mixing soap donuts in with real ones — I think there’s just something about fake food that makes people happy,” she says.
Ask three top moustache-centric shop owners for their opinions on why this motif is such a hit, and they’ll all mention the same word in response. “They’re just silly!” say Sean and Amanda Siska, whose Portland-based shop, Bread and Badger, offers a varied selection of moustache-emblazoned glassware. “We’ve loved hearing about people using our glasses at weddings or as prizes at charity events. It’s great that people have used them to make otherwise serious occasions feel more relaxed.”
“Moustaches have really made a comeback,” adds Amber Babcock of Whisker Works, a one-stop shop for photo booth props — including moulded plastic moustaches mounted on sticks. “They’re something you normally associate with a charming bygone era, and people are really having fun with it. In a world that often seems to move too fast, moustaches are a reminder of a more stable time — there’s that, and they’re silly, too.”
Rich and Jackie Rottman of Spare Time Wood Designs, whose wooden coat racks and guitar hangers come in a variety of cheeky shapes, concur. “People latch onto items that lighten their mood. Adding a little silliness to a home by hanging a moustache on the wall is an easy way to say, ‘Hey, I don’t take myself too seriously.’”
Much has been said (and written, and sung) about the mystery, magic, and mythology of owls. According to painter Jeannine Chappell of Wild Dreams, it’s this association with the unknown that lends them their everlasting allure. “Since most owls are active at night, they have a mysterious quality that we associate with the elusive,” she says. “I love painting them because they’re both beautiful and powerful — it’s a wonderful challenge to portray both sides without sacrificing either.”
Dan Sattler-Reimer, the needle felter behind Saint Paul’s Scratch Craft, credits his affinity for owls in part to Harry Potter, and his lively creations, just inches high, portray a lighter side of what’s often recognised as a stern-faced bird. “Owls can be stylised in many different ways and still be recognisable as owls, so there’s plenty of room for uniqueness,” he explains. His woollen creatures are often engaged in such gleeful activities as knitting, reading, and eating bacon; however, their talented creator readily acknowledges his subject’s enigmatic and dignified spirit. “Owls have always held a magical spot in my mind,” he says.
Trend: Faux Taxidermy
Recent years have seen the emergence of a light-hearted twist on traditional taxidermy — one that replaces a real-deal animal specimen with a knit or felt creation in its likeness (sometimes referred to as “feltidermy”). It’s a far more warm-and-fuzzy take on a craft that has often brought out the worst in a beast: “Instead of seeing a snarling, scared animal, you can see a wool version with a curious or devious expression,” says wool artist Caleb Groh, who runs Groh Artifact out of Nashville, Tennessee.
“Felt is excellent for making furry creatures,” says Celina Debowska, who has been stocking animal-inspired accessories — including a best-selling collection of wool stoles — out of her shop, Celapiu, for 10 years. “The layering and blending allows for a reflection of all the subtleties of nature’s miraculous creations. We now ‘breed’ wolves, deer, horses, and Bjork-inspired swans.” What’s made the line so popular? “People love animals,” she says. “They’re the ultimate masterpieces. But they also love the idea they embody, and that’s freedom.”
Emily Stoneking, the self-described “knitting mad scientist” behind aKNITomy, puts her own spin on a very different side of animal preservation, creating knitted dissections of lab rats, frogs, bats, and foetal pigs. “I really love the space where art and science overlap,” she says. “I love creating things that people are often squeamish about out of materials that they’d normally associate with comfort and cosiness — like a favourite sweater.”
Steampunk is a science fiction genre that quite a few Etsy sellers seem to have stumbled on by chance; what unites them is a passion for fantasy and a steadfast appreciation of the movement’s creative versatility. “I quickly fell in love with steampunk, first for its aesthetics, but then because it’s limitless,” says Daniel Proulx of steampunk jewellery shop Catherinette Rings. “You can do almost anything with it — make a steampunk Batman costume, write a story about steam-powered vampires, invent a gadget to keep invaders from outer space at bay, make a steampunk wedding cake, or even redecorate your entire home. Steampunk is popular because it’s so accessible. Whether you’re young or old, a professional or a beginner, everyone can find something they like about it.”
Kaitlyn McClain and her mother Sheridyn run a Minnesota-based alternative clothing shop called KMKDesigns, which has sent custom steampunk clothing to eager customers across the globe. “Steampunk is a fantastic outlet for creativity,” Kaitlyn says. “There are so many elements for artists to explore — it isn’t just for jewellery or fashion designers. There isn’t just one way to interpret it, and I think that’s part of the reason it resonates with so many different people. No one feels left out.”
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Shoko Wanger is a writer living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. She is the author of the blog Sho & Tell, which features a mix of quirky art, thoughtful writing, and a carefully-curated assortment of unique Internet finds. She loves books, cheese, and her friends; has an incurable case of wanderlust; and hopes to one day live in a treehouse.