Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Etsy Featured Buyer

I thought I'd bring you a new feature while I'm tied up printing. I see features about Etsy sellers everywhere, and it occurred to me one day that individuals who buy handmade, who see the value in it, are every bit as interesting as makers/sellers.

When I write their name and addresses out on the envelopes I wonder what their lives are like and where they're going to stick the little prints I send them. I wonder what part of them connects to the part of me that I printed on the piece of paper inside the envelope I wrote their name on. I think about what the trees might be like where they live-- because that's the thing I seem to marvel the most at when I travel.

Anyway, I've arranged to have a lovely repeat customer of mine agree to be the very first Etsy Featured Buyer. Her name is Gabriella and she's from Geneva, Switzerland and quite possibly one of the kindest people on Earth.

Here's the questions I asked her, if you have any you'd like to ask in the comments, feel free to do so. If you'd like to become the next Etsy featured buyer you can leave a comment for me on this post!

Tell us a little about yourself.

Hmm - I am an Australian-Italian working in Geneva for an international organization. A former roustabout female, finding her way to cool detachment in her 40s. Hubby, 2 constantly surprising little ones, and a long and colourful past working in various corners of the world from Canberra to Cox's Bazaar, London to the Liberian border.

What compels you to buy handmade?

Family tradition. Both parents were pragmatic, hands-on people: father - could construct most things; mother - could create most other things. Trawling school and church fetes was a big family pasttime, and because we were a big(ish) family, a lot of our clothes and things came from second-hand sources - handmade or vintage (before it was endowed with a capital V). Now, after years of an itinerant lifestyle in locations of varying sophistication, yet all with their own cultural and handcrafted identities, I find myself in the one house with a burning desire to populate the walls, our wardrobes, and our garden with the fruit of the world's expression. When I first visited my father's village in Italy, I was overwhelmed by the honour associated with tatting, weaving or embroidering. This doesn't weigh so much on me now as I know I am not only more than capable of creating things beyond the finer details: theatre costumes, re-vamping old clothes, recycling & renovating furniture. Just as much pleasure comes from collecting and appreciating the work of others.

Tell us about some of your favorite handmade items.

Items made, or even more poignant, started and left unfinished, by my mother, for future grandchildren and left in a bag in her bedroom before she died and before any of us siblings had intentions to start families. A sari from Bangladesh presented to me by my team before moving on; breathtakingly simple and refreshing woodcuts and prints that parse the detail from day-to-day existence and take you back to appreciating the barest essentials: an unfurling fern, leaves, honeycomb, branches of trees

Do you make anything? Dinner counts!

I was actually brought up to understand that anything could be made: i once made a big biscuit for my primary school play about a boy who ate so many biscuits he turned into one (made from cardboard boxes from the supermarket and papermache - half the fun was begging mum to buy the choco-chip biscuits as a 'prototype'!). A friend and I wrote the play, so i suppose in a way it was handmade as well. Bread - I love the basicness of kneading and the pleasure gained from waiting for the dough to rise fullsomely. Marmalade, cakes, scones, pavlova, pies. Labels - crazy, ironic ones. I make-up little stories with continuing themes too as bed-time tales for my little hobgoblins. Laughingly, some of the clothes I buy for myself on Etsy, I end up re-working for my daughter, who unwraps them and covets them away before i even have a chance to try them on.
The philosophy of Etsy is essentially a good, pure thing - I hope this does not get tainted by commercialism over the coming years. It is also such a wonderful didactic experience - enter into an Etsy transaction, and a whole new world of learning and appreciation opens up: I personally try to correspond with sellers as I would if I had physically walked into their shop - it has provided many wonderful journeys of discovery.

Thanks to Gabriella for the riveting peek into her world.