I don't recall what first led me to Etsy, but for whatever it was I am exceedingly thankful. If you're not familiar, Etsy is an online marketplace of awesome, where all things handmade can be found. Anybody who wants can set up a shop and peddle his or her wares. (I have a dear friend who has an Etsy venture selling homemade body scrub, and I doubt she'll be the last of my crafty friends to sign on. And check out those awesome labels! That's another shop right there.)
Ever since I happened upon Etsy, it has been my first stop for all gift searches, from birthdays, to bereavements, to babies. As one might expect of a worldwide showcase of handcrafted things, there are inevitable pockets of country kitsch and Lillian Vernon-esque personalized crap, but it has been my experience that Etsy-bought items are well made, reasonably priced, inspired, and one-of-a-kind.
It may have been my search for a locket that first found me scouring thousands of search results on Etsy. I found one at MStevensonDesigns that I wear all the time now, and hardly a day passes when someone doesn't ask about it. Melissa, the creator of my beautiful locket, was incredibly helpful and accommodating, going so far as to send me a new clasp when the original broke. She also made a custom locket for me, which I gave to my sister for a milestone birthday.
Another great Etsy find turned up as I searched for all things "llama." I purchased one of these ceramic figures from Daga Design for me, a second one for my mama (the great Llama herself), and have designs on a third for my sister. Instead of kitchen witches, we will soon all have kitchen llamas to oversee our culinary endeavors.
More recently, the presidential inauguration inspired me to find something for my Christmas tree to commemorate and celebrate Obama for years to come. I found some "official" Obama ornaments on eBay for upwards of $40, but once again, Etsy (more specifically, felt cafe) came through with the perfect thing, exactly what I didn't know I was looking for.
Finally, a few weeks ago I decided I needed some calling cards that I could use for personal purposes, so I didn't have to give out my government-job business card when I was interviewing a prospective student for Northwestern, say, or discussing my freelance work. I had seen Avie Designs in December at the Indie Craft Experience holiday show, so I looked up her Etsy shop and scored a set of 48 calling cards for only $12.50. Because she's local, I received them within two days of my order. She's got even more designs up now, if you're interested.
These are only a few of the excellent things I've scored off Etsy to date. (I'm considering a kickass mod cat bed these days... Little Man has a birthday coming up! And yes, I am a crazy cat lady.) Whether you want business cards, earrings, art for your walls, or vintage children's books for your friends' kids, Etsy probably has what you're looking for. If you haven't checked it out yet, give Etsy a try.