Etsy bursted onto the scene 15 years ago and hasn’t slowed down since. Both an artisan haven and entrepreneurial catalyst, the platform has transformed the crafts cottage industry into a thriving virtual destination. Supporting family-run candle-making businesses or young fashion designers who might not have the capital to open a brick-and-mortar store, Etsy provides online tools for these businesses to reach shoppers looking to buy small and “local,” but on a global scale it’s becoming something of a worldwide farmers market. Offering everything from vintage clocks to handknit sweaters and upcycled bags, each purchase combats fast fashion by connecting people with the actual makers behind the curtain. With no factories in sight, Etsy truly sells from one hand to the next. SRQ


Hallmark is all good and fun if you’re looking for that perfectly corny Valentine’s Day card, but what if your brand of humor is a littler cheekier? Bailey Spasovski created Cheek & Pen Paper Co. for special occasions when plain old “Happy Birthday” just won’t cut it. Motivated by a group of online moms she bonded with during their pregnancies, Spasovski set out on her “bad word blunt card game” to turn her witty hobby into a full-time business. An artist who never quite fit in with the fine-arts crowd, she shirked the formalities of art school and, in a serendipitous twist of fate, settled on crafting as a profession. Spasovski remembers never being her art teachers’ favorite because she’d often branch out and do her own thing. It is exactly that independent sense of humor that has made Cheek & Pen such a success. Her one-of-a-kind cards, stickers, stationary and the hilariously popular Middle Finger Confetti can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days to create, depending on what jump-starts her creative juices and perhaps, most relatably, the level of silence her kids allow. With a five-year-old and a one-year-old running the roost, she admits “it’s not much.”


Bursts of imagination can come from anywhere. For Travis Ray of Dapper Bowtique, his whimsical spark came to him in a dream. The creator of gorgeous silk and cotton hand-sewn bow ties, Travis dreamed of his ancestors dropping African printed fabrics in his lap and took it upon himself to trace back the origins of his family tree. After three DNA tests, Travis learned the ancestors appearing in his dreams originated from Cameroon and Gabon. Travis himself was born in Alabama and relocated to Florida to work as the associate managing director of the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe. Now in his sixth year with the company, he finds his new home special because “there is a community appreciation for the arts and local artists that is infectious.” Encouraged to put his creations on Etsy by friends and coworkers, Travis says it has been his most successful year yet, with many locals connecting with him for custom orders. Giving back is also important to him;  he donates a portion of all profits each year to the Visible Men Academy drama pilot program.


Originally from the country of Belarus in Eastern Europe, Anastasiya Sivakova landed on the shores of Sarasota 12 years ago to join her then boyfriend, now husband. “I didn’t choose Sarasota,” she says, “it was simply meant to be.” On the hunt for her own wedding decorations, Anastasiya stumbled upon Etsy for ideas and was inspired to start crafting her own unique collection of wedding hair accessories. Made entirely by hand, these one-of-a-kind creations take precise and intense concentration—any one part of her Romantic ART Life pieces can take up to five hours. Drawing upon childhood memories of her grandmother crafting flower arrangements from handmade fabric and paper flowers, Anastasiya feels a strong connection to her family roots as she makes each piece. Every bead and stone on her tiaras, headbands and hair clips are hand-sewn with flower petals hand-cut and shaped. Having studied art for a decade, Anastasiya is passionate about shopping locally, not only to help small businesses flourish but for clients to hear the stories of the artists directly “to feel their passion and, therefore, appreciate the art even more.”


Anyone can buy a keepsake bracelet from a vacation spot, but what if you could literally bring the vacation spot home with you? Danielle Ferrantino, creator of Driftheory, uses resin jewelry to do just that. She captures a moment forever, by using the landscape and foliage unique to a location and sealing it beautifully in a necklace or pair of earrings. The lengthy process takes on average three days. Danielle travels to a local destination to collect and preserve natural materials such as shells and botanicals and then hand-designs and hammers all of the copper and sterling silver she uses for finishing touches. A self-taught artist who credits her creativity to her mother, Danielle enjoys using recycled bits of nature in all aspects of her business, even using sea grape leaves for her jewelry displays (which she dries and presses herself). Her pieces use native Floridian flora such as palm bark, wildflowers, shells and sand, but she also features pieces with flowers and honeycombs from places such as Montana or Idaho.


This crafty mother-daughter duo took up soapmaking on a whim, wanting to try something fun together and ended up with a best seller on their hands. Quickly realizing that the 18 bars of soap yielded by each of their batches was way more than they could share with family and friends, they decided to unload the handmade soaps to make some extra cash at the Siesta Key Farmers Market 12 years ago. Next, they decided to join Etsy to reach a broader audience and have been sudsy online savants ever since. Ashjoi, founded by Sarasota natives mother Joy Loos and daughter Ashley Baker, use the hot process to craft their soaps, which require about four hours, instead of the cold process that can take up to a month. Using essential oils to perfume their soaps, their best sellers include: gardenia, lemongrass, lavender and honey. Ashjoi soaps are eco-friendly in that they are never prepackaged; instead, they are gifted in paper bags or glass jars or completely package- free. At the farmers markets, Ashjoi offers a $1 discount for every jar a customer brings back.


After falling in love with the beautiful beaches of Sarasota, Melanie and Justin McKenney swapped the cold winters in Buffalo, New York to make a permanent move down South. Veterans of the Etsy world, these two have been crafting their whimsical, food-inspired homeware for a decade. Each bowl begins with finding the perfect fruit or vegetable for the creation of a plaster mold. The clay picks up the texture and shape, lending the final work a realistic and lifelike resemblance to their fruit or vegetable inspiration. Each piece is glazed and fired twice in a kiln to make them safe to eat from. Melanie and Justin both majored in art and have been able to make their ceramic business a full-time job. Etsy provides the perfect online outlet for them, and the success of Vegetabowls encourages the couple that even in the age of fast- ashion, “people want to buy unique items that show the handmade quality of creative people.”