Early & Etsy: 8 Maine reasons to get a jump on your holiday shopping

·12 min read

Oct. 24—We'll just come right out with it: There's only 62 days left 'til Christmas.

In Before Times, you'd be right to laugh in the face of such a warning. Hahaha! and ha!

Halloween's still a week away. Thanksgiving and all of its cranberry and stuffingness a solid month off.

But in 2021, Before Times timing doesn't apply: On Sept. 16, still 100 days from Christmas, the head of the Retail Association of Maine urged people to get cracking on holiday shopping, citing anticipated supply chain and worker shortages.

So let's get on it! And let's shop Maine.

Etsy, home to 5.2 million craft-savvy entrepreneurs, has 41,000-plus Maine listings that we combed to find eight stand-out, holiday-worthy gift ideas.

Think gorgeous wooden placemats made from logs sunk 200 years ago in the Penobscot River. Swirly, hand-forged bookends. Crocheted water balloons. Seven-foot-tall driftwood Christmas trees. Velvet choker necklaces.

Some are as seen on the Food Network, as featured on HGTV, as endorsed by Martha Stewart and as worn by Kendall Jenner.

Oh, we are a cool, crafty lot up here in Maine.

Eight ideas and a bit about the artists behind them:

1. Porcupine quill earrings, $30, Wicked Wildwoods, Mexico

Maine-raised and Maine, well, run over.

Owner/creator Allie Nasatowicz said she has a long line of outdoorsmen and women in her family and was struck by the idea of honoring nature when she opened her shop.

"I hated seeing roadkill just sitting roadside wasting away — it seems most meat- and fur-bearing animals are picked up quickly but rarely do people remove or utilize porcupines, so I decided to. I enjoy being able to give parts of them a second life in the form of jewelry. I only started bringing this passion of

mine online in July/August of this year, but some of my quill pieces have already made it as far as California and even a couple to Alaska. I love the idea that these pieces of Maine wildlife are being admired by so many different people in so many different places instead of just sitting on the side of a road somewhere to rot and be forgotten."

"Quills are needle sharp on one end with barbs that anchor into skin with ease, so I always cut those tips right off and remove them," said Nasatowicz. "They still look pointy, but the ends are more blunt instead of needle sharp and won't pierce skin or poke anybody!"

2. Driftwood Christmas tree, 5-7 feet tall, $520+, Maine Salty Girl, York Beach

Cherie Herne collects driftwood from local beaches and coves, and the trees ship as a kit with a heavy driftwood base, copper rods and pre-drilled driftwood branches in sizes to form the classic Christmas tree shape. She's had requests for as tall as eight feet.

"I'm an eighth-generation native of York, and DNA has confirmed that I AM definitely part mermaid! Maine Salty Girl (a/k/a Salty Girl and the Long Dog) began in 2014 after symptoms of Lyme began to take over my body. Holding a mouse and sitting in one spot for hours as a web/graphic designer became impossible. I needed to keep moving in order to hold the joint pain at bay and walking the

beach cleared my foggy brain. Since then I've gone from sitting all day, to walking or paddling the local shoreline for beach treasures every day. I feel very fortunate to have been given a new profession that I truly love this late in my life. When I ended up with piles of driftwood and jars of sea glass I decided I needed to do something with my treasures or I'd just become a coastal hoarder!"

"My first wreath was made on the back of a wicker paper plate holder using a glue gun! I look back and think how unattractive it was!" said Herne. "Our wreaths are what we have become known for, however, our driftwood trees run a very close second. If trees were a year-round item, they'd be our No. 1 bestseller."

3. OOAK Maine Monstah mug, $52+, Studio 207, Portland

Tammy DeSalle's whimsical Maine Monstah mugs with noses, scowls and bulging or half-lidded eyes are the definition of scary cute.

"I have been making pottery since 2016 when I took a class at Portland Pottery with a couple of friends and have not stopped playing in the mud

since. I fell in love with the whole process. I have always been an artsy/crafty person. I work out of my basement and garage, which has worked out great through the pandemic. I live in Portland with my husband and have two boys (both in college), who graduated from Portland High School in 2019 and 2020, who I used to call, 'my little monstahs.'"

"All are one of a kind and each of the 'Maine Monstahs' and the 'Misunderstood Monstahs' (more detailed and sculpted versions) is named in the process," said DeSalle. "The name gets stamped on the bottom of the mug and come ready for adoption. Some recent names I have used are Wolfgang, Sadie, Sinbad, Zeus, Lucy, Hank . . . I like to use names from shows that I watch, like, 'The Walking Dead.'"

4. Set of two wooden placemats, $39, Maine Heritage Timber, Millinocket

They're made from river-reclaimed wood salvaged from the bottom of the Penobscot River, lost during log drives as far back as 1890, according to Sandi Burns, who works in marketing sales and design.

Her fiance, Thomas Shafer, founded Maine Heritage Timber and the Timberchic Company in 2010. (See more about the recovery process at www.maineheritagetimber.com.)

"This area is very special to him (Shafer). . . . He had been coming up here since he was a child. He knew he wanted to do something with all this lost and forgotten wood/timbers. The process, business plan and environmental hoops was a process that evolved. Once the wood was cut and dried they knew they had something, but that recovery process would be very labor intensive, machinery involved and pricey. To create more jobs in northern Maine was also a driving force that evolved."

Timberchic is a peel-and-stick product designed for walls, beams, ceilings and islands. The classic variety, called From the Water, is also from river-recovered wood. A second variety, from white oak and red pine, isn't river-recovered. Timberchic has appeared on HGTV's "Desert Flippers," episodes of "Maine Cabin Masters" and will soon be on a second HGTV renovation show, Burns said.

5. Ice cream cone holder, $12+, JTWoodworks, Lewiston

It's true: Everybody loves ice cream. Lewiston's best-reviewed Etsy shop is home to several ice cream holders that currently hold top-seller spots, said co-owner Amparo Randall, whose husband, Jeremy, started the shop in 2010.

"Jeremy started woodworking as a teenager when he helped his parents build their house. He's also self-taught. I went from helping him sand shelves to being in the shop full-time. Jeremy used to do it all by himself. I kept asking

him to teach me how to use all the tools, so we could grow the shop. Once I felt comfortable with the table saw, I just took off. . . . We started with a few listings for cutting boards and shelves and now we offer over 150 items. We usually come up with ideas for new items through brainstorming sessions (over a pint at Gritty's) and collaborations with customers. A brewery, restaurant, ice cream shop, event planner, or an individual looking for a unique item will contact us with a request and we help them bring their idea to life. The ice cream cone holders came from a customer's request. They liked our egg tray and wanted to know if we could adjust the dimensions so that it could hold cones. Jeremy drew up a sketch, the customer loved it, and the ice cream tray was born."

The company also makes a variety of wooden tasting flight boards and paddles to hold beer and other beverage glasses. One of its boards appeared on the Food Network's "Food Fortunes." "It was Food Network's version of 'Shark Tank,'" Amparo said. "The woman with the margarita mix used our flight boards to present her drinks to the judges. We modified our birch whiskey boards to accommodate her margarita glasses."

6. Crocheted water balloons, $8, No Skein No Gain Yarn Co., Windham

Emily Natalino stumbled on the novel balloon idea last summer while searching for something kid and pet friendly.

"I have a chocolate Lab that doesn't understand she's not a child, and I could only imagine the amount of balloons she would have eaten," said Natalino. "The crochet balloons eliminate the problem of the dangerous plastic debris getting eaten and from making a mess all over the yard. Plus they're reusable so it saves a ton of money."

Soak, toss, resoak, toss again, enjoy.

"I first opened my Etsy shop in 2013 when I was still in high school. I sold a couple of items here and there, but I didn't really understand

marketing and it was an entirely passive shop. Then the pandemic hit and it rekindled my drive to really try to grow my small business. I was inspired by all the creativity that blossomed in the early days of the lockdown and the shift in peoples' opinions on shopping small and local."

Her bestseller? Felt unicorn eyes. "The unicorn eyes were originally just a practice project for my Cricut (machine used for cutting materials) when I first purchased it," Natalino said. "I bought this crazy machine that had so many functions and accessories and I had no idea what I wanted to focus on with it. I crochet little toys all the time and I thought it would be an interesting way to create expressions instead of using the round plastic eyes. I listed a few on Etsy and they took off immediately. My bestsellers are by far the 2-inch-size unicorn eyes, both the ones that look like eyelashes and the upside down 'u's."

7. Flat leather choker, $24.99+, Arthlin Jewelry, Auburn

Lincey Pepin founded Auburn's best-reviewed Etsy shop in 2011. (The shop name's cool backstory: "Art," for art, "h" for handmade and "lin" for Lincey.)

"It began as a humble stay-at-home mom small business. As my child got older, I had more time to dedicate to making products and marketing. Arthlin had a sudden growth spurt when the designs caught the attention of Kendall Jenner, Ipsy and Martha Stewart. It allowed me to hire assistants locally and to offer new items like earrings and laser-cut gifts. With the COVID-19 situation, I'm back to working by myself for now."

"In my teenage years, I was drawn to alternative fashion, and chokers were my favorite piece of jewelry. It's such a simple accessory yet it makes a bold fashion statement. Where I grew up in Quebec, there were no stores offering this style so I started making my own jewelry. People around me asked to purchase some and in no time I began selling them at a local store and online (on eBay at the time). Back in those days, customers mostly purchased my chokers to complement a costume or for a special event. However, they made a huge comeback in mainstream fashion in the last couple of years and nowadays people choose them for everyday wear."

"The celebrities shout-outs happened all around the same time in 2016-2017," said Pepin. "Kendall Jenner's stylists found me on Etsy and did two separate photoshoots (with her) featuring one of my chokers. Kendall Jenner's team even added a button in her app that took her subscribers straight to my store. I remember long nights and taking over the whole kitchen table to fulfill those orders! Ipsy found my chokers on Etsy as well and shot a makeup tutorial with it. Lastly, Martha Stewart had a 'American Made Maker' program back then and she added my brand to her curated list after finding my products on Amazon. The program has since ended but it was pretty cool to be part of!"

8. Hand-forged scrolled design bookends, $49, Wicks Forge, North Pownal

Artist blacksmith Nick Moreau forges everything from egg spoons to pot racks to fire pokers and is always looking to try something new, said Selena Fulham, the shop's marketing specialist.

"Nick first started off selling in person at local craft fairs, before starting up his Etsy shop in 2013, but his online sales didn't really take off until last year. We are thankful that the pandemic was kind to our business and we were able to grow our online sales and even start up our own website (wicksforge.com). We definitely try to come up with new products regularly, for a couple of reasons. One is due to Nick constantly wanting to try out new designs/ideas to keep things fresh in the shop, and the other is that we want to create products that we know our buyers are looking for/have been asking for. We're also very concerned about keeping our products affordable

for our customers, which means taking into account material costs and intricacy of production. So sometimes after a few months of selling an item we'll have to re-evaluate the design so that it's easier to incorporate into our production line."

"We've also recently partnered with Nick's mother (Joan Moreau McKeever, who is also an artist) to offer holiday cards that she created, bundled with a letter opener," said Fulham. "It's a great way to get some unique holiday cards as well as a little gift for someone."

A Maine artist working with his Maine artist mom! Wicked.

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