Of all the 160 finalists in the first ever global ‘Etsies’, everyone is very proud that 25 are based in the UK. All showcasing the best in quality, creativity, utility, personal story and branding, these are the distinctive indie businesses selling on Etsy right now with extra wow. “Judging the Etsies this year, I have been blown away by the high standard of talent and innovation but also the wide breath of design,” says interiors stylist, designer and journalist, Sophie Robinson, of The Great Interior Design Challenge. “There are so many exciting and new products out there and it was a privilege to discover them.”
Want to discover them, too? Drum roll please…
In the Earth-Friendly category, the judges were impressed by inventive sustainability. Pets and Pods’ ‘Pento’ cat house went through to the finals due to its clever origami-style design and use of recycled materials including PET bottles and eco-friendly fibre board. Not only is it good for the environment, it’s good for your home style, too. It sits stylishly as part of the furniture. If you’re after a striking centrepiece though, look to Ayus Design’s Hive H20 Pendant Lampshade, a combination of biodegradable materials and building know-how from the natural world. Cornstarch, sugarcane, sugar beet and cassava are materials used in its construction – it’s a true eco-friendly beacon.
Going out into the garden, Jam Furniture Design’s milk carton-inspired nestboxes reached the final for their clean, modern look using recycled birch ply (off-cuts from local businesses) and steel from discarded washing machines and dishwashers. Wuddl’s bee hotels, too, are created with sustainably sourced timber. Designed to give our buzzy buddies a helping hand, they’re made specifically for solitary bees looking to nest. Bright and small, and priced for the gift market, they’re a delight for gardeners and environmentalists everywhere. Our final UK maker in this category is TWOME, for its hand-dyed, hand-made linen Japanese aprons. Designer Isabella Strambio outsources the sewing to two local seamstresses, then dyes her aprons with vegan food scraps from her own kitchen (think avocado stones and pomegranate skins), for the prettiest, muted, natural shades.
On that note: “We have finally reached a point of fatigue with the ‘pile them high, sell them cheap’ factory fashion,” says Sophie. “We know that morally and environmentally this throw-away culture has to stop but we still want affordable options.” Etsy is enabling small businesses to sell premium products at a price that people can invest in, she says. “I’d encourage people to buy less, and buy better and when you make a considered purchase from a designer-maker you can enjoy an interaction in the purchasing process which only adds to the whole feel good experience.”
In the Signature Style category, this is exactly the quality service you’ll get. Baked by Lou, Kles Official, Asikara by Laura Jane, Tiny Scenic and Vitro Atelier are all standing for something special with their statement pieces. Cardiff-based Louisa Mallett of Baked by Lou makes oversized polymer clay earrings that are fun and funky – wearable art. The ink-brushed Oana mini cross-body bag by Kles Official has a similar vibe. Jessica Gomez Rubinos’ boldly painted tan leather is instantly stylish and cleverly constructed from just one piece of riveted fabric. Vitro Atelier’s acrylic clutches too, could be displayed as well as worn. Strikingly modern, the Pheobe design is inspired by Pantheon’s dome. Its maker, Loukia Iliopoulou merges digital fabrication, architectural design and fashion for investment pieces to treasure. Tiny Scenic takes architecture even further – a mini town of handcrafted statement jewellery. Owner Jo Strange put forward her swimming pool necklace because her customers describe it having a magical quality; a tiny masterpiece. From accessories to clothing: the Zendama fit and flare Ankara skirt with asymmetric hem makes the finals for its beautiful shape and use of fabric. Designer Laura Jeffers is Preston-based, reimagining traditional African clothing and accessories for a contemporary audience.
“The Etsies submissions have reflected the trend and desire for unique and one-off pieces,” says Sophie. “The trend in interiors right now is to fully express your own sense of style and create spaces that feel unique and personal to you. There is no better place to source original pieces than Etsy.” So, let’s take a closer look at the Inventive Décor category shall we? Finalists Another Studio bring tons of personality with their Plant Animal decorations. Clip little metal sloths, flying squirrels and busy babies amongst a zoo of other cute creatures to your plants in or outdoors. Sian Zeng on the other hand is decorating walls – her ingenious magnetic wallpaper encourages play in children and adults alike, with a host of little characters and props to explore storytelling in spaces otherwise often left blank. If you lose yourself in activities like this, you may appreciate Glass Wall Clocks’ giant timepiece. Embracing natural chaos, maker Craig Anthony Mills uses a fluid paint pouring technique to create the abstract art bases for his clocks, which also include multiple lighting options to get the ambience just right. Maisie Parkes Design studies the house itself – a row, in fact, in clay. Maisie’s hand illustrated terrace captures the feeling of home: cosy, one-off and so loved.
“I have adored being a judge for the Etsies,” says Sophie. “I’m passionate about championing small businesses and designers. Etsy has truly democratised the design industry and has given a platform to thousands of talented designer makers to reach their audience.” And the stage widens even further through collaboration. When Etsy sellers work on something bespoke with their customers, artistic sparks fly! In the Creative Collaboration category, Swag and Tassel’s personalised leather bookmarks are the beautifully finished product that enabled owner Sophie Wordsworth to go full-time with her creative business. Another finalist, Too Many PJs Shop, was born after former fashion textiles designer Erin Plant had her first baby. Her personalised mustard yellow sensory blocks are the gender-neutral, (biodegradable) crinkly film crunching, recycled fabric learning toys that are making her customers happy. Bryony Fripp’s Love Story illustrated maps bring oodles of happiness, too. Her artwork commemorating all your special places is such a personal, beautiful way to look back on relationship-defining times together. Sticking with love tokens, Bonbi Forest’s arrow heart enamel pins come with your chosen initials – a simple motif with such a strong meaning, and a universal symbol that its creator, Lee Foster-Wilson has seen included in wedding bouquets, given as Valentine’s gifts, and sewn into journal covers. Next in this category, The Paper Roses Co’s personalised, framed wedding venue papercuts are the ideal option as a first anniversary gift, or any other occasion for that matter. And lastly, Jay Monique puts forward simple and elegant origami inspired wedding invitations, a beautiful touch for anyone’s big day.
So to the final section, the Festive Celebrations category. It is all about “transforming a space and setting a mood,” says Sophie. “I love to champion people being playful with colour and discovering their creativity,” she adds, and we have plenty of that right here. Mishiu Ferris owners Jonatan and Simon love the outlet Etsy gives for their creativity. Laser cutting and engraving wood started as a hobby for the pair, and is now a full-time concern alongside leather goods and ceramics. Their personalised wooden acorn baubles have made the final cut in this year’s awards, evoking the warmth and natural beauty of winter celebrations. If it’s Autumn glory you’re after, head to Rosehip and Wren’s corner of Etsy. Their dried flower crown is a dedication to crisp fallen leaves and rustic, subtle grandeur.
The colour in this category is represented by Pearl Vine Print Shop’s wax seal name place cards – available in a range of shades for the wax and the card colour to match your scheme perfectly – while Rosie Plus the Boys brings the fun, with the Jungle Party Package of paper and bamboo cake toppers, banners and confetti for kids’ (and grown up kids’) parties. With not a plastic element in sight, it’s good for the planet, as well as your parent points. Finally, the gender-neutral stylings of Blush and Gold Invites’ You & Me wedding planner was selected for its inclusivity. Its entirely open approach means customers can interpret its prompts in whichever way they like, whether they’re a same sex couple or not.
“It’s the small brands, designers and makers who keep our industry fresh and interesting,” concludes Sophie. “The Etsies is a celebration of creativity, entrepreneurship and human connection and I’m honoured to be part of the esteemed judging panel this year. And wow, what talent!”
Discover more from the finalists here.