Monday, 22 November 2010

Lots of present suggestions

The weirdest thing about the internet is how personal it is.  You experience random people on the internet much more as actual people than you experience the random people sitting in your carriage in the tube.  (This is very much the case with twitter, which I try to avoid but which keeps sucking me in.  A lot of twitter is a bit like overhearing things on a bus, but on the bus you pretend you're not eavesdropping, while on twitter you're supposed to eavesdrop, and it's all a bit confusing.)

I think my favourite internet thing at the moment is handmade stuff.  I'm trying to plan all my Christmas presents this year to be handmade either by me or, which is more likely, by people who are good at it.  I know I've posted about this before, but the three big sites for this are etsy, folksy, and dawanda.

Etsy is the original and by far the largest.  It's priced in dollars and most of the sellers are US-based.  Almost everything is on etsy.  Would you, or someone you love, like a pair of felted brain earringsAn ipod cover with crocheted mould?  I think this hand-blown wine stopper with a portrait of George Washington in it is really rather lovely, and I like this spooky linocut portrait of Boris Pasternak.  You can get excellent literary badges at beanforest, and amandertot sells bags with useful slogans like Jane Austen's "Run mad as often as you choose, but do not faint" (it's just occurred to me that this sums up why Buffy is better than Alias).  What about a silver woot necklace?  People do all sorts of things with upcycled comics and books.  I bought some wooden buttons and earrings from this bloke in Slovenia, and they are really lovely, and very cheap.  Of course there's lots of jewellery, from tribal-ish to semi-precious stones.  And Mattias Inks sells original pictures here.

The problem with etsy is that it's not easy to look for things made locally.  You can browse local shops if you don't care what they make, but you can't search for an item and get the UK producers brought up first, like you can on abebooks, for example.  USA means long delivery times, high postage costs, and the possibility of being made to pay customs duty.  (Though that only happens occasionally I did get hit for an extra ten quid on this, which my brother is getting for Christmas.  Brother, if you read this, DO NOT CLICK THAT LINK.)  But there are a lot of international sellers on it.  If someone only has one shop, it's on etsy.  And the plus side is the possibility of making an alchemy request.  This means you describe a commission, people bid for it, you choose one and discuss the design, and then they make it for you.  I've just done this the for the first time, and the item is in the post.  From the picture I saw before it was dispatched, it's a very pleasing thing.  Mine was a pretty boring request, but you could get someone to make you a t-shirt of Tupac riding a dolphin.

Folksy is the UK one.  There's not as much on it as etsy, and you have to be prepared to do skimming to get good things, but then you know it's coming from a local seller, which makes things more straightforward.  Perhaps you'd like to think wistfully about escaping your problems by being eaten by a brown bear.  Maybe someone you know would like a jumper for their kindle. Who wouldn't appreciate a notebook covered in an upcycled religious comic, or a bag to celebrate the wonder of Tunnock's chocolate teacakes?

Dawanda is the European one.  Postage is easier than from the US, and although you have to negociate the occasional shop in Dutch, on the plus side the things on it tend to be classier than on folksy.  There are a lot of Germans out there doing sophisticated things with thick grey felt.  I would love to have this owl ipad cover, if I had an ipad, and I think they do them for other devices too.  This is an excellent site for finding laptop and phone cases, and I'm thinking I might buy my laptop a skin at some point.  (I've got a kindle skin now and I'm really pleased with it.)  I really like this etching of the Vitruvian Fly.  There's a lot of things on there which are the works of young European designers, like this porcelain cup.  Also Dawanda has very impressive search filtering.  You can choose just to see UK stuff, or search by colour.

The problem really is that I could find endless presents for myself, and have no idea what, for example, my parents would like.  What would my parents like?  My dad would probably like a tree, but I don't know which one.

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