Etsy IRL

Online Manitoba makers create craft community

Online sellers are united with each other and with customers in the real world, thanks to Winnipeg Etsy Street Team (W.E.S.T). 

The group is hosting its eighth Handmade and Vintage Sale on Nov. 7, where more than 45 local Etsy makers and vintage curators will assemble and sell a variety of goods.

“I hugely look forward to this sale,” Caitlin Schlamb-Sikora says. She is a member of W.E.S.T and founder of Real Swanky, an Etsy shop that sells sassy hand stitched sayings.

Real Swanky stems from Schlamb-Sikora’s desire to provide top-notch embroidery while also giving customers something to horrify house guests. With phrases like “Please don’t do coke in the bathroom,” there is bound to be a reaction.

“You’d be surprised at the amount of people who excitedly point at this piece in particular and yelp out tall tales of the weekend,” Schlamb-Sikora says. “They always have a good chuckle with their friends.”

Schlamb-Sikora doesn’t only enjoy the company of customers at the sales. She also gets the opportunity to meet up with other members of W.E.S.T.

“It’s always rad seeing a new or remembered face race down to my bright red table to see what’s new,” Schlamb-Sikora says. “Or meeting someone for the first time looking for ‘That thing I saw on your Instagram.’”

Schlamb-Sikora says the group provides a great atmosphere for local vintage and handmade sellers to discuss highs and lows, share wisdom and the odd frustration that comes with the craft.

Nancy Blokland Pottery’s shaving mug will be available at the sale. Supplied photo

While Etsy products are virtually only seen on apps or online, W.E.S.T. offers the IRL (in real life) version of browsing. For only a toonie, buyers get the chance to enter 290 Dubuc St. where they can spend face time with different shops’ items and meet the people behind them.

“The face-to-face nature of in-person markets allows for a much more candid conversation,” Jennifer Cloutier says. She has been a W.E.S.T. team leader since 2011 and is the owner of Etsy shop Blue Camel Baby, which sells baby accessories.

“Sellers get to meet new sellers and often collaborations between sellers happen after meeting face-to-face,” Cloutier says.

Going solo to sell handmade items online can be challenging. W.E.S.T. brings like-minded sellers together and garners a lot of support in the local maker community. 

“The maker community in Manitoba is growing, but is still very tight,” Daivin Macdonald says. He is another W.E.S.T. member through his shop, North City Growlers. “I’ve experienced a tremendous amount of support from other W.E.S.T. members.”

North City Growlers features customized, personalized designs on beer growlers, which are bottles to transport draft beer. 

“It is especially satisfying when someone is buying a growler to give as a gift,” Macdonald says. “The design is usually an inside joke or relates to something very specific about the person receiving the gift. People love giving one-of-a-kind gifts that have meaning.”

Published in Volume 70, Number 9 of The Uniter (November 5, 2015)

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