Annie Ciszak is one crafty lady -- in so many ways.
Consider them: Ciszak is the mind behind Annie's Arts and Follies, a local line of handmade metal jewelry. She's part of the Bella Boutique duo that has created a Midtown home for locally made jewelry and other assorted feminine accessories. She's also a mighty force in the Anchorage Craft Mafia, a collection of crafters who are bringin' crafty back by hosting local shows and fairs.
But there's another level of Ciszak's craftiness: her presence on Etsy, an online marketplace for buying and selling practically anything that's handmade.
Ciszak has been an Etsy member since September 2005 (the site launched in June 2005), so she's a bit of a pioneer.
She happened to discover the site one day when, bored at her day job, she was shopping online.
"I found this cool bag from Nerdbomber, and I thought, 'I have to have this,' " Ciszak said. "So I bought it, and then I thought, 'Hey, I make stuff. It should be on here.' "
"When I got in, no one knew what was going on," she said. "It's cool to see people start recognizing and know what's going on with the site."
When Ciszak joined Etsy, her member number, she said, was somewhere in the 5,000s. The site now boasts more than 800,000 members.
And her tenure on Etsy has helped her learn the strategies of selling, shopping and surfing. Like she'll tell you when most people do their shopping, which helps her know when to post new products (avoid the weekends, but September is hot for some reason) and why all the features are "awesome" and important.
Team, for instance, is a feature that brings sellers in the same area codes together and encourages them to host shows, network, share and promote their Etsy shops together.
Most of all, Ciszak has an appreciation for the small, tightknit community with a global reach that Etsy creates.
"I think I've only shipped one thing in-state. All the things I've sold I've shipped to six or seven countries. It goes everywhere. I just actually shipped a ring off to Australia.
"But you're dealing with each individual artist," she said. "It's completely personal, and the people are more than willing to do something for you. Not only do you make sales, but you make friends. Everyone is like-minded, and you all really heart the idea of Etsy."
Etsy's is even responsible for helping Ciszak find new inspiration.
With Alchemy, one of the site's features, members can post a request for a custom-made item. (Current wishes on Alchemy include a hooded dinosaur dress, a bicycle wallet, silverware jewelry, bumper stickers and an entire summer wardrobe.) Other Etsy members then bid on the opportunity tomake the item.
Ciszak won a bid a few years ago to make a ring shaped like a teacup.
"That's how the whole teacup phase started for me," she said. "Someone wanted a teacup ring, and I bid and I won."
Now teacup rings are a staple Ciszak item online and at Bella. She's also innovated the idea, making rings with miniature cake slices or filling the teacup with pearls (Ciszak calls that one "cappuccino").
So Etsy obviously offers awesome options for those who want to sell their handcrafted goods. But what about shopping on Etsy?
"Oh God, it's like the entire world," Ciszak said after she admitted she does all her Christmas shopping on Etsy. "You can buy every cool thing, and it's totally one of a kind.
"You're supporting all these small people. You're finding these unique pieces. You're not going to Wal-Mart, and everyone's going to look at you and say, 'Oh, where'd you get that?' "
Annie's Etsy: Find Annie Ciszak's Etsy shop at anniepants.etsy.com.
ETSY ALASKA: To find other Alaska Etsy shops, click the "Shop Local" option on the left-hand menu and enter "Alaska."