When the “shop small” ethos combines with a slow supply chain and the urge to huddle at home, a lot of shoppers turn to Etsy. Turns out, you can do that and keep your pennies in your local community! Explore this baker’s dozen of fantastic online shops that craft in (and ship from!) Eastern Iowa.
Bao Pham Art
The whimsical, flower-strewn women and cats of Iowa City artist Bao Pham’s prints have attracted nearly half a million Instagram followers and over 10,000 sales on Etsy. Pham also has 1.24 million views on his YouTube channel, where he posts timelapse videos of his painting and drawing process.
Perhaps best known as the artist behind Java House’s longtime coffee cup designs, McGehee’s distinctive scratchboard and watercolor illustrations have also graced children’s books, including Creekfinding and Begin with a Bee. Dozens of prints, along with copies of her books, a tote bag, a prairie coloring book and more are available for purchase from the IC artist’s Etsy shop.
Dori Patrick Art
Cedar Rapids mixed media artist Dori Patrick delights with her warm, whimsical designs accented by empowering sayings that walk that fine line between heartwarming and trite. Pins, prints, notecards, stickers and more are available from her Etsy shop or on her website, which also features journal entries and process videos.
Evelyn Mae Creations
This Cedar Rapids-based shop sells delicate little sterling silver, pewter and gold-plated charms in any shape you could think of: animals, insects, tools, states, runes, religious and holiday symbols—even a little toilet! This variety (currently 1,700 different products) has led to more than 50,000 sales and thousands of five-star reviews.
Dapper and Swag
Snappy dressers of any gender can put their outfit over the edge with a collar/cardigan clip from Kristen Lee’s Etsy shop, based in Iowa City. These metal bees, bats, bird skulls, antlers, octopi, dragons, simple arrowheads and more all put a bowtie to shame.
Alicia named her brand after the western Apache word for turquoise (pronounced dot-cluh-gee), a stone her Apache father often used in his traditional beadwork. Carrying on the tradition in her own way, Alicia crafts dramatic fringe earrings, statement rings and other intricate jewelry, utilizing sustainable materials. “Each collection that I create will be inspired [by] a strong woman and the elements used will reflect her story, her culture background and her style,” Alicia says on her website.
Dirty Birdies Vintage/ContempoLA
Clothes, decor, wedding cake toppers — they’re all a little more special when they’re vintage. All 3,000 items in these Oxford Junction-based sister Etsy shops are one of a kind, making scrolling through their wares a nostalgic experience for anyone who grew up between 1960 and 2006.
After developing a stomach disorder that made wearing tight clothing painful and impractical, Fox learned to make her own clothes: pullover dresses, patterned joggers, relaxed-fit overalls and other easy-to-wear garments, infused with the cottagecore/dark academia aesthetic Fox fancied. Soon, she was getting messages from people with arthritis, cancer, body dysmorphia, folks on the autism spectrum, all looking to purchase Fox’s accessible, stylish garments. Eightfold Fox was born, an adaptable clothing brand based out of Iowa.
Hecho en Iowa
Laura Lacasa Yost weaves tiny seed beads into colorful, lightly textured statement jewelry, some pieces literally making statements. Yost communicates with her customers in Spanish and English and donates 10 percent of annual sales to local nonprofits, including Dress for Success Quad Cities, the HACAP Food Reservoir and the Iowa City Free Medical Clinic.
The only thing more mesmerizing than Kristin Vaughn’s polymer clay earrings is watching her make them. Perhaps this is why the Ely creator has garnered nearly 150,000 Instagram followers, over 211,000 TikTok followers and spotlights from Buzzfeed, Yahoo Life and My Modern Met. Vaughn even offers a monthly earring subscription.
Mind and Mineral
Nothing brightens up a room like a severed finger dangling in the window. Iowa City stained-glass artist Brooke Dearborn Huston has filled her Etsy shop with a range of vibrant, playful and often horror-themed glass art: suncatchers, planter stakes, earrings, tree toppers, custom glass pet portraits and more.
Katie Adams crafts old-fashioned lye soaps and other eco-conscious products in small batches, avoiding harsh chemicals, palm oil, over-harvested essential oils and plastic packaging. Each bar is unique in appearance — inspiring the name Thumbprint Soap — and available in a range of fun scents. Her Cedar Rapids soap collection, for example, includes the fruity Crunch Berry Day; Lion Bridge Beer, made with the Czech Village brewery’s Bridge Beer golden ale; and Indian Creek, a woodsy scent inspired by the Indian Creek Nature Center.
Visit a few Iowa City living rooms and before long you’ll see a painting (or puzzle) in Suzanne Aunan’s distinctive modern primitive style. A self-taught painter, Aunan depicts happy scenes from her life in Iowa City and beyond with all the detail and whimsy of a Wes Anderson film still, including game day at Kinnick, the Holiday Tuba Concert at the Old Capitol, the Iowa State Fair, the University of Iowa Homecoming Parade, Dance Marathon and a tractor ride at Wilson’s Orchard.
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 300.