Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Conversation with Etsy's Matt Stinchcomb

Tonight I attended a lecture with Etsy's Matt Stinchcomb as part of the new PNCA + CYAN PDX Cultural Residency Series. It offered a rare opportunity to gain a glimpse of the people and motives behind a site that has become a crucial part of many lives, including mine!

Etsy started out, as many genius ideas do, in a living room as a conversation between two roommates, Matt, and Etsy founder Rob Kalin, who Matt points out bears a striking resemblance to Mark Zuckerburg (founder of Facebook).

This was not the first business venture for the pair. Matt, who played in a rock band, would screen-print merchandise for shows. He would often screen-print things for friends as well. Rob, the entrepreneur, saw Matt's screen printing as a business opportunity and asked a restaurateur across the street from their apartment in Brooklyn to give them all the money they needed to buy a printing press and rent a space. He did. The same restaurateur became one of Etsy's first investors.

Being in the handmade trade, it was apparent to them that the online marketplace lacked a niche for artists. They came up with Etsy as a solution. A site for all things handmade, where the buyer is directly connected to the maker. When asked where the name "Etsy" came from, Matt responded, "Only Rob knows for sure and everything you read online is a lie." The general motive behind the name was to pick something that would not come with any preconceived notions.

Just like the products they sell, the site was entirely handmade using hand built computers, servers and code. After three months of sleepless nights, the first version of Etsy was launched in 2005. Since then Etsy has exploded. They now have a staff of 70 which they expect to reach 100 by the middle of next year. They have 200,000 active sellers and over 3 million members, a number which is exponentially growing every day.

Unlike other online marketplaces like Amazon or Ebay, Etsy has a broader social mission: "To empower people to change the world economy by bringing heart to commerce." They achieve this by giving people the tools they need to start their own business and to tell their story. It isn't only about the finished product, but about who made it and how. They really show the person behind the product and give the power of commerce back to the people.

They also provide tools for building craft communities. At Etsy's home base in Brooklyn they have the Etsy Lab which is open every Monday night to any and all crafters and provides all the tools for making you can dream of. They also hold lectures and workshops for improving business skills. These real life Labs are then incorporated into Virtual Labs on the site for the benefit of the entire Etsy community. There is the possibility of satellite real world Etsy Labs popping up in urban centers, but until then there are Esty Teams which function like artist guilds. They are a way for Etsy shop owners working in similar media or in the same location to combine forces and share expenses. Did you know there are even Etsy Grants? Yes, if you are part of an Etsy Team you can apply for a grant to pay that craft show booth fee!

So where is Etsy headed? They are growing rapidly and with that growth comes new responsibility, which means hiring experienced staff to make sure the site stays up and running, and to ensure buyers keep coming. They are trying to reach out to a broader range of buyers who may not be privy to the DIY community. They are doing this by partnering with mainstream media such as, Martha Stewart, and People Magazine. They are also working with SEO specialists to optimize the site so that Etsy listings will gain higher rankings in search engines. The goal is to make Etsy a household name, so that the next time the most suburban dweller needs a wooden bowl they will think to check Etsy before heading out to Pottery Barn.

Etsy also plans to make their categories more robust. One of the biggest problems for the site is that there are so many items it is often hard to find what you are looking for. They would like a buyer who is looking for high end art to be able to follow a simple path in that direction while likewise someone looking for cheap clip on earrings can also follow a simple path straight there.

While Matt admits the listing process could be a little less painstaking, their current priority is to make it as easy for buyers to buy as possible, so we may have to wait a little while longer for improvements there. I don't mind if it brings me more sales.

They've also been talking with schools and museums like PNCA and The Museum of Contemporary Craft about the possibility of having group Etsy communities and stores. This would allow these organizations to have stores that represent a number of makers in one place, a practice which as of now is not allowed through the site.

One idea Matt mentioned in jest that would be really exciting (possibly illegal) is creating an app through iphone that you can take with you to the GAP. The app will have a barcode scanner. If you see a sweater you kind of like, you can scan it with your iphone and it will link you to similar HANDMADE items on Etsy. Wouldn't that be something?!

Thursday, September 17, 2009


I finally got around to watching Julian Schnabel's Basquiat last gramercy_park_hotel_yes_that_is_a_damien_hirstnight. I'm ashamed to admit I had only become aware of Basquiat's work a little over a year ago when my boss had asked me to research artists whose works were being included in Ian Schrager hotels. This lead me to the discovery of Gramercy Park Hotel in New York. I saw that the visual concept was designed by Julian Schnabel, artist and film director extraordinaire. I had seen and loved The Diving Bell and the Butterfly but had no idea Julian Schnabel was so multidisciplinary. The concept of Gramercy Park was to have a hotel where guests could appreciate 20th century masterpieces. The hotel functions in many ways as a museum in that the pieces would change, many of them on loan.

So this spurred a fascination with Julian Schnabel and all of his work. I discovered the Basquiat was a close friend of his and that he made this film in his honor. It provides an insightful snapshot of the New York art world in the 1980s through Basquiat's triumphant and tragic tale. He went from living in a cardboard box painting poetic graffiti as SAMO to being at the top of the art world, exhibiting at the Whitney Biennial, dating Madonna, selling pieces for millions all by the ripe age of 24. His life was cut short tragically when he was only 27 from a drug overdose. Schnabel portrays his rise to fame as almost purely accidental, a series of (un?)fortunate meetings. He sees Andy Warhol walk into a cafe and manages to sell him some post card drawings for $10 a piece. A critic then stumbles upon one of his paintings hanging in a friend's apartment at a party and throws him a show. Before he knows it he is the most talked about artist in New York. He is being heralded as the first "important" African American artist in modern art history. He seems to be just rolling along with the current, oblivious to the conventions of the art world. Getting lost in the hierarchies of the ladder to success and not paying attention to the people who got him there until it's too late and his only friend left in the world is Andy Warhol.

I recommend seeing the film. As if David Bowie playing Andy Warhol isn't reason enough --not to mention appearances from Parker Posey (as a sassy Mary Boone), Gary Oldman, Benicio del Toro and Christopher Walken.

I watched some clips from real interviews with Basquiat and Jeffrey Wright's portrayal seems to ring pretty true. Here are some great Youtube clips:

Warhol and Basquiat:

A Clueless Interviewer:

Interviewer: "No Haitian Primitives on your walls?"
Basquiat: "Haitian Primitives? What do you mean? People?"

Was this really the 80's?

My Favorite TBA Moments

PICA's 10 day marathon of Time Based Art has come to a close. I had a great time getting sweaty and dirty at Washington High School as a volunteer. I had even more fun stumbling from venue to venue taking it all in.

The most magical moment for me was Ethan Rose, Laura Gibson, and Ryan Jeffrey's Younger. They holed themselves up inside the white walls of PDX Contemporary Gallery downtown and created an improvisational performance. Ryan Jeffrey created video pieces inspired by Laura and Ethan's previous recordings which he would project on the windows for the duration of the 3.5 hour performance. The audience would be on the street looking in.

After spending an afternoon watching Melody Owen's eclectic collection of video works Circles and Spinning Wheels at the Northwest Film center I decided to wander around town until 6:30 when their performance at PDX Contemporary was scheduled to start. I walked towards the waterfront in search for a cheap lunch and stumbled onto Art in the Pearl. I explored all of the artisan's booths over pumpkin curry and then headed towards PNCA for Robert Boyd's Conspiracy Theory. As I walked past PDX Contemporary around 6 the space was full of movement as people set up equipment but there was no sign of any observers yet.

I was the only one in the room for Conspiracy Theory. It is a double channel video installation of television clips related to conspiracy theories. It started with footage of the two towers crumbling and quickly lead into AIDS being a conspiracy to wipe out homosexuals and drug addicts to UFOs and back again in a quick and climactic rhythm. It is set to Kylie Minogue's Believe. It made me want to dance. It made me want to believe while at the same time making me want to shake every conspiracy theorist I've ever had to listen to.

It was now time for the performance to start. I returned to the corner of 9th and Flanders and there was a crowd of maybe 15 people starting to gather. The sounds started... gentle and soothing as the morning dew... subtle chimes and ambient noise. Then Laura started to sing and her voice is that of a songstress from a bygone era. It is almost sunset. The video projections on the front window can barely be made out. Not soon after they began the crowd slowly grew shutting down the block. People would stop in their tracks. Cars who drove by would roll down their windows and pause. As the sun set the sky grew purple and the light reflected off the buildings and the projections became more defined. A child wandering through a meadow her hand brushing the grass, embers from a fire, piles of old manuscripts scattered across the floor of an old abandoned house... I must've lingered for hours. I never got bored... I just got hungry. It was dark when I left. The most magical part was watching the people who stumbled upon it unbeknownst to them. It's not everyday you get to sit in the middle of a downtown city street and just linger and absorb beauty like that through all of your senses.

Younger (Ethan Rose, Laura Gibson, and Ryan Jeffery)
09.06.09 at PDX Contemporary Art
2009 Time-Based Art Festival, PICA
Photo by Wayne Bund
All Rights Reserved, PICA

To learn more about Ethan Rose and Laura Gibson you can go to their myspace:

The closest thing I could compare them to are Mùm or Park Avenue Music.

My second runner up for best TBA moment was hands down Pan Pan Theatre's The Crumb Trail. A modern interpretation of Hansel and Gretel. They are a theatre troupe from Ireland. The show starts out with good old British humor. The four actors introduce themselves...poke fun at one another...quote reviews written about their own play. You feel like you are observing your own friends at a dinner party. Then the mood grows somber. Gretel starts to speak of death and loss and is drowned out by popular Youtube clips. She and Hansel are eventually kicked out for her unpleasantness. "My eyes will haunt you" she whispers as she leaves like a curse. She comes back...her face covered in blood asking for help but they do not let her in. Then the actors move to the corner where and play a drone filled song bathed in red light from the video projector..."maternal love only lasts 33 months after that it's pure affection." Throughout the whole play they had bread baking in a breadmaker. The smell permeated the theatre. I hadn't eaten dinner. I was so hungry. I would have done anything for a slice of that bread. In one scene Arthur is asked what he would kill for. "I don't I suppose" He is then asked to read the scene from Hansel and Gretel where the witch tries to trick Gretel into climbing into the oven...but how Gretel locks the witch in instead. He ends the passage with the witches curdling scream...

I appreciated the performance because while it challeneges the conventions of theatre it still managed to move me in a profound way. I have to admit I am getting bored of work that merely exists to challenge convention. This performance was disjointed and poetic in it's presentation. It left much to be implied. Maybe fables in their seemingly innocent terror aren't so far form reality. The wicked witch was hungry and pushed to the drastic measure of eating children for her own survival. We live in a world where children are killed for perversion more often than survival. A world where very real terrors exist... murder... hunger ...disease ..poverty ..and worse of all is our own apathy and detachment towards it all ... where we hide from our own pain and loneliness by surfing the web... broadcasting ourselves on Youtube... dancing because there's nothing left to do.

You can view a condensed version of The Crumb Trail here:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

TBA:09 Opening Night

We are nearing the end of another Time Based Art Festival put on by The Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA). I had the joy of being a volunteer this year which meant tons of free passes!

This year PICA gained access to Washingotn Highschool. It was built at the turn of the century and has been vacant for over 20 years. PICA transformed it into a venue for performance artists, musicians, and installations.

Here are some pictures from opening night. I will write more about some of my favorite moments of the festival later.

There are still three more days, so if you live in Portland be sure to catch what you can! for more info about the artists and the festival visit

Jesse Hayward's Forever Now and Then Again-- painted cubes in a room to be built up and climbed upon by viewers.

Ethan Rose's sound installation titled "Movements". Made from old music boxes that are wired and carefully timed to create a magically gentle chime-like flutter of sound.

Ma Quisha From No/4 Pingyuanli to No.4 Tianiaobeili
An autobiographical video performance where she tells the story of the pressures she faced, and the sacrifices her family made for her to be successul. She tells the narrative with a razor blade in her mouth obstructing her speech.

Antoine Catala "TV" video installation

Robbinschilds video installation inside a carpeted geodesic half dome. These two were some of my favorite performers of the festival. They are interested in the places where the body and landscape/architecture intersect. They dress up in semi ridiculous color coordinated costumes and do odd dance moves in many locales: the high desert, expanses of highways, redwood forests, trash dumps, minivans. etc. all to the rocked out tunes of Seattle based Kinski.

The halls of Washington High are super crowded.

Washington Highschool was going to be used by the Red Cross to house Katrina victims. The Red Cross set everything up but the victims never arrived. When the artists did their walk though of the school they found piles of donated Levi's and letters written for the victims by school children. This window box represents that aspect of the school's history.

The view from the lawn.

Gang Gang Dance performs in the school's auditorium.

A very crowded beer garden.

Friday, June 5, 2009

June's First Thursday in the Pearl

After 6 months of living in Portland, I finally ventured out to the Pearl for First Thursday. My first stop was to the Everett Station Lofts to meet my friend Audrey. I was really impressed with the spaces and quality of art. I did indeed dream of how wonderful it would be to have a live/work space with a storefront where I could display my work AND play curator. In fact, I picked up a lead for a show here at Last Thursday on Alberta which I think I should probably follow through with.

There were so many amazing artists, it's difficult to narrow them down to a manageable size to write about. Let's start with the mural at SEA Change Gallery made by artist Alec Neal. First of all, I love art that knows no boundaries, so I was very excited to see this mural take over and transform this exhibition space. Somewhere between Graffitti and Art Nouveau on psychedelics, Neal creates ornate and organic patterns that in his own words "embody the incomprehensible vastness of eternal entities."

Moving on... Have I mentioned I love installations? Have I mentioned how refreshing it is to see a non-commercial sculpture outside of a modern art museum? I also love repetitive obsessive work--like this! This is the sculptural component of Grady Clifford's Broadcast at ON Gallery. The mind numbing power of television is not an original theme by any means, but this sculpture is none the less beautifully executed. It miniaturizes the everyday, mundane yet iconic form of the television into a broken down army of relics. Apparently, Grady Clifford is a multi-faceted artist working in photography, painting, installation, video and web. His site mentions an EVENT taking place on June 12th at midnight. There is an ominous countdown on the homepage. I am very curious to see what else he might have lurking up his sleeve, and recommend all my dear readers to take a closer look at his beautiful site and impressive body of work.

We ended the night at THE Elizabeth Leach Gallery. I put a capital THE in front of it because it is the gallery I've heard and read the most about. What I've liked from what I heard, is that even though they are commercial (even artists and art dealers need to eat) they are still open to new media and art that doesn't fit the traditional norms of what sells...and they still manage to make a living at it. As soon as you walk through the doors, you know you've entered an atmosphere of quality. The exhibition is as streamlined as any museum. This month on display are the large-scale colorful works of Gustavo Ramos Riviera in Invenciones de Sol, and Lee Kelly's Reflections of Khajuraho featuring weathered steel sculptures and gold leafed works on paper in response to a series of ancient temples in Northern India.

Lastly, here are few random shots of work whose artists I poorly noted but very much enjoyed:

Friday, May 22, 2009

La Lavende

...wish I could float to a field in Provence....

Amaris Arts : Summer Shows

It's that time of year. I'm starting my summer right with some great shows. Here's what I'm signed up for as of now:

May 28th Last Thursday on Alberta
Come down to Alberta for some great street art, food, and gallery openings. Everything is open late and has something unique to offer! I'll be setting up around three and out until 9 or 10.

Crafty Wonderland at Doug Fir Lounge
June 14th 11-4 830 E. Burnside, Portland, OR
This one falls just before Father's Day and it's a GREAT place to pick up unique gifts! There will be a special project at the DIY table (led by the fabulous Jen of DIY Lounge) so you can even come and MAKE a gift for Dad!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Art Hop: Cute Dogs, Babies, and Summer Dresses

The Alberta Art Hop exceeded my expectations. It was one of the warmest days Portland has seen all year, and everyone seemed to be out with their puppies and babies. It was cute overload!

I took some pictures of my set up and of the mini parade! During the parade Rose City Vaudeville marched on stilts, and there were some awesome mini-cars!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Alberta Art Hop Saturday

It's so on! I can't even express how busy I've been making art for the Art Hop this Saturday! There will be many new pieces making their debut! If you live in the Portland area, be there! I am also having a special Art Hop sale Saturday only as incentive to pull you out into the sunshine!

Image credits to Art on Alberta.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Esomeliae Q&A

Over the weekend my friend and fellow crafter Melissa Vergara invited me to participate in an artist's Q&A for her blog at I've reposted it below but you really should check out her blog. It is a great read especially if you live in the Southern California area because in addition to posting about art, she posts about food!

You can see some of her beautiful handcrafted jewelry on Etsy. I have one of her necklaces and I wear it frequently. I want more! Check out her Etsy store:


When did you first start making art? I first started making art when I was a child. I remember becoming very upset when my pre-school classmate could draw a better dog than me with a magenta crayola. I made it my mission to be the best in my class at drawing dogs...and then horses, and then flowers, and then people, and so on. I would spend hours painting with my water color sets because I thought it was great fun.

What inspires you? I'm inspired by everything around me, trees, plants, people, music, history. I feel most inspired when I am discovering new places.

Biggest indulgences? CHOCOLATE, and wine, and creme brulée.... and massages.... and hot baths... I live for indulgences.
Best advice given or received? That you get as much out of something as you put into it.

Biggest challenge? Waking up in the morning... balancing creativity with paying the bills. Staying in one place!

Last thing you cooked? My signature breakfast potatoes and scrambled eggs seasoned with chives from the garden.

Last art show you went to? I just go back from the Rachel Whiteread exhibition at the Portland Art Museum, though I am not sure 7 sculptures and 4 drawings in the corner of the 4th floor constitutes an exhibition. I will be ranting about this later in my blog!

Last record you listened to? My housemate was playing the Raveonettes when I got home. I've heard of them but had never heard them. Now I'm in love!

Last thing you read? I'm in the slow process of reading "Challenging Art: Artforum 1962-1974" by Amy Newman

Dream scenario? I inherit an obscene amount of money from a distant relative I've never met, allowing me to run an art studio in a large warehouse building consisting of welding, wood, ceramic, photography and sewing facilities, with a gallery down stairs that possibly doubles as a bar/cafe music venue. It will run off memberships. We will also sponsor site specific, public, and ephemeral art within the community. I will even have enough money to travel around the world as much as I want to.

Last Thursday on Alberta

Tonight was the first Last Thursday of the season! I have never been before and really wanted to scope the whole thing out before trying to vend, but when the sun came out and I saw the traffic turning onto Alberta I knew I had to get out there!

It was already 6:30 when I got home so I quickly managed to fit the small amount of inventory that I had into a messenger bag and threw a folding chair and my tiny folding tv dinner table into my car! I left the larger pieces at home. I was lucky to find a spot where someone had already broken down and was set up by 7:30. It wasn't too hard with my tiny little table.

Sales were nothing to brag about but I had a great time just people watching. There were people walking on 9' stilts, goblin costumes, hot-pink tailed pomeranians, a mini-rave on the corner vacant lot. It was very entertaining. I passed out a lot of cards, and may have found someone to share a space with at the Alberta Art Hop.

I set up next to Ariel from Tiny Forge Design, who was much more well prepared than I and let my tiny little table bask in the overflow from her lanterns. She hand forges the most beautiful and simple silver jewelry. Her floral designs are right up my alley. She told me about the Art Hop and mentioned the possibility of sharing a spot. It is a Saturday (May 16th), and I work Saturdays but I think I will try to take this one off. It should be tons of fun! The entire street will be shut down and filled with artists!

At around 10:00 I decided to call it a night. I packed up and took a walk. I really enjoyed the show opening at Together Gallery, along with the musicians playing in the back room.

I will definitely try to make participating in Last Thursday a regular thing. I might even try to leave work early and bring a REAL table and more work!

(image credits go to the sites of Together Gallery and Tiny Forge Design...being ill prepared I left my camera behind tonight!)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Boxes: The Perfect Mother's Day Solution

So I decided it was time to take the wood burnings to a new dimension and finished three of these tiny 3" x 3" x 2" trinket boxes. Needless to say the response I've been getting is: "My mother would love this!" It happens to be the perfect price and size for Mother's Day which I almost forogt about! Good timing on my part!

If these do well on my Etsy store I am going to go to the Rebuilding Center and go a little crazy with some scrap wood. (Unfortunately as these are my experimental prototypes, they are not made from scrap.)

So, other than being busy with these I am contemplating participating in Last Tursdays on Alberta. I've never been and wanted to scope it out beforehand, but now that I've been reminded of Mother's Day maybe I should just dive in!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

New Work Added to Etsy

So I've finally gotten around to adding new work to my Etsy store! Check out some of the new pieces.

Next up: a colorful series inspired by the beautiful Spring blooms that are popping up all over Portland. Has the weather not been beautiful or what? Too bad it won't last!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Handmade Nation at The Museum of Contemporary Craft

I really enjoyed this documentary that was premiered in Portland this weekend at The Museum of Contemporary Craft.

It beautifully traces how "craft" has evolved from a hobby into an independent movement, as a reborn appreciation for handmade items has arisen as a rejection of the sterility and unethical practices associated with mass production.

Director Faythe Levine interviews several artists and business owners who are active in the handmade circuit for a personal look into their lives and practice. The highlights for me personally were Mandy Greer, whose work can be seen at the Museum through May, and Nikki McClure from Olympia WA, whose work recently hung in Powell's Books and whose calendars are carried in bookstores everywhere!

These artists are perfect examples of women working with traditional craft methods to transcend the fine line between craft and art.

Art is impossible to define because it is totally subjective. Craft is usually linked to the idea of something that can be used: soap, clothing, dolls etc. One might say that something leaves the world of craft and enters into the realm of art once it has been elevated to uselessness.

Mandy Greer takes a traditional medium, crochet and uses it in a way where the crocheted material loses it's practicality as a textile. She stages crochetathons which are real life collaborative performances where she teaches people the traditional craft of crochet. then she takes the mishapped remnants and creates fantastical installations that create entirely otherworldly environments.

Nikki McClure takes the traditional Craft of paper cutting and calendar making to make beautifully detailed and masterfully crafted illustrations remniscent of wood block prints. She plans to take her work into the realm of public art by recreating her smaller paper cuts into large metal pieces. I especially enjoyed when she shared how she got started on the paper cut track. She was sitting around her studio trying to figure out what to make for one of her upcoming shows. She was just doodling around when she started cutting out shapes in paper...suddenly a light bulb went off and the rest is history. It just goes to show how sometimes the simplest ideas that come when we least expect them turn out to be the greatest ones!

If this film is screened near you, don't hesitate! It is worth seeing! For more info visit the Handmade Nation blog. Also, if you live in Portland check out Mandy Greer before the show ends. Admission to The Museum of Contemporary Craft is FREE so you have no excuse!

An Introduction


My name is Marissa Laubscher. I'm an artist living and working in Portland, OR. I've decided to start a blog tracking my adventures in the Portland art and craft scene. I am sure this blog will evolve with my interests! I thank you for reading!

I maintain an Etsy store here :
and I have an online portfolio at