Etsy Schmetsy

by Kohleun

I wish I were crafty. No, not a conniving, scheming, mischievous charmer (actually, I wish I could be that too sometimes). I bet you’ve got a crafty friend, or maybe five, who fills your Facebook newsfeed with photos of her latest earring creations or trendy knitted headbands that are all the rage amongst wavy-haired hipsters. $7 on Etsy (plus $2.50 for shipping and handling. “Handling”?) Maybe you ARE the crafty friend trying to pick up a little coin for school or your ravenous book habit. Wherever you fall on the spectrum between Martha Stewart and Martha Plimpton, I respect your ingenuity.

But, moment of truth? Who really needs to dangle laminated coupons from their earlobes? Being from last week’s Penny Saver does not make them vintage.

My housemate, who is a formally trained artist, and yes, has an Etsy account, recently directed me to the site where bloggers field submissions of strange and sometimes gross junk available for purchase on Etsy. Their tagline: Where DIY Meets WTF. Yeah. I’m really liking when people tie fugly string to sticks and sell it for more than I spend on groceries each month. Because if I get hungry I’d much rather gnaw on moldy tree debris from Alabama and polyester grosgrain. Even better are the pot holders people weave out of THEIR OWN HAIR, or the knitted skeleton decór (not kidding, see image below). I already have one of those in my closet. But I digress.

Move over, Sally Field. Bone density meds just got a new poster child.

What’s up with this predominately 20-something and female phenomenon? I’m no art historian or sociologist, but here’s my take.

Women in the U.S. are taught, via many avenues, to want and to embody certain things. The current recession seems like added incentive to turn these lessons into some green and to boost morale through the distribution of our handiwork. Here is a list of just a few of our little life lessons:

Lesson 1) Make cute shit. Not like contemplative art, because that won’t make you money anyway right?, but kitschy stuff. It’s an expression of how cute you are.

Lesson 2) Be cute. If you aren’t naturally cute, Work. At. It. Fake it till you make it, or make it to fake it. See Lesson 1. It’s all circular reasoning anyway.

Lesson 3) Women are naturally drawn to beautiful things . . . especially if there’s glitter involved. Use glitter liberally in everything.

Lesson 4) Marry rich, so you can have a glitter supplier, and so you can hire someone to perpetually mop while you throw glitter around.

Lesson 5) Glitter.

Lesson 6) You are a princess. You don’t need a job or to take care of your own place. Jobs are for feminazis–you know, women who want to invade Poland one rescued child bride at a time. Besides, if my recollection of almost every romantic comedy I have ever seen is accurate, your job would be unfulfilling anyway. Especially compared to glitter and a hot man to buy it.

Lesson 7) That said, express your uniquely-you self. Start your own business (not “company,” because that’s uppity). Find your voice. Because we never get mixed messages in society.

Lesson 8) If you can do something semi-well, everyone you know will treat you like an ingenue  (because you are, duh) and praise your work as true talent. Of course this means you should try to make a living off of anything your grandma likes; she’s the most objective critic out there. So is your best friend (actually, my best friend tells me when I suck at something). And your four-year-old niece.

Lesson 9) You are a special snowflake. Nuff said.

Lesson 10) We’re trying, as a culture and society to affirm the artistic endeavors of women, but we’re not quite sure what that looks like yet, much like our difficulty in affirming women in general (see Women’s History Month musings). So bear with us? Push the envelope? We don’t know.

Unfortunately, these cultural lessons don’t answer some of the questions women in the arts face: Does “women’s art” have to somehow dialogue with historically feminine experiences? Does it have to be culturally “feminine”? To prove that we are not glitter-addicts must “women’s art” reject so-called femininity altogether? Is there such a thing as “women’s art”? And to be women with our own creativity do we have to be crafty?

I don’t have the answers. So, to distract myself from tough questions I’m going to the bead store. Not really (. . . they’re not open on Saturday).


*I am fully aware that a blog is the writer’s version of Etsy.