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Interview with DaWanda: Part One

When I helped pull together an event with DaWanda this past Autumn in Berlin (photos here) I was a bit surprised to learn that few decor8 readers outside of Europe knew about DaWanda and what their online marketplace is all about. I thought it would be a good idea to interview the founders and talk to them today so more could learn about them and what they are doing here in Germany. But first, a little background from my perspective on crafting in Germany and my personal opinions…

In Germany DaWanda is the equivalent to what Etsy is in America, ‘the’ site to go to when you want to shop handmade. They are gaining popularity throughout Europe as being based over here gives them a definite competitive edge as they are the first handmade online market based in Europe with sites available in three languages – German, French, and English (British) with more languages to come. This is really helpful, but aside from language is how the payment method differ from other online sites outside of the EU — the ‘standard’ form of payment here when purchasing products online is to wire money via your bank account. Credit cards are not nearly as common as they are in the states and though Paypal is gaining popularity it is still not as popular as wire transfers are. There is also something called the “EC” card, which is what residents can apply for, you basically go to your bank and have them issue one for you and then you shop using your EC card in stores. I have one, it’s pretty much the same as using a debit card in the states, the money is deducted from the bank account that it is linked to. But I won’t bore you with that. Simply put, you cannot use the EC card to purchase online so again, the wire transfer is the preferred form of payment and DaWanda offers this with ease.

Celebrating their 2nd DaWanda anniversary… Founders Claudia and Michael P?tz share a crafted cake and a smile.

In addition to different languages and payment methods, there is also the difference in aesthetic to notice that makes DaWanda unique from other online marketplaces. The Martha Stewart perfection isn’t part of the culture here, you can barely find a book authored by her in any local book shop and the crafting magazines are, well to put it gently, crap. Television isn’t loaded with crafting and decorating channels as I’m used to in the states and art supply stores are easy to find but a variety in supplies is a bit harder and the prices are quite expensive. The German equivalent of a store like Michael’s back home is called Idee but they have about 25% of what Michael’s offers. There also isn’t a lot of competition here yet within crafting circles. Crafts also tend to be much more personal, freestyle, and even a little wild at times as rebellion to ‘the man’ (large retailers) is popular and being overly formal with crafts (sticking to set instructions and ‘looks’ aka Martha style) isn’t a trend here at all. When you look at the DaWanda website you will immediately notice the difference in product offerings from other online marketplaces.

With that being said, do you know much about DaWanda and how it got started? I’ll interview them in Part Two (a post to follow this one) so stay tuned. First I’d like to give you my personal impressions. I met the founders, Claudia and Michael, in person obviously because we did an event together but I had no idea that they would be so down-to-earth, warm, and extremely welcoming. When I first met Michael though I thought he was going to beat me up, he came across a bit like he did not know what to expect from me and that he was not that keen on me. It was funny because I understood immediately why he was coming across a bit unfriendly. Here I was from America and set to speak for 2 hours and he only knew me from my blog so of course he was a bit nervous about it. I was nervous as well. A few hours after first meeting him, I was exiting the stage and felt amazingly relieved when he patted my shoulder and told me I should do this for a living (public speaking) and he gave me the warmest smile ever. I immediately felt like Michael is my new homeboy. He gave me what I call the “typical German treatment”. What I mean by this is that many northern Germans are skeptical at first but then you have a friend for life the moment they understand who you are and gain trust. It’s actually different for me as everyone I meet in America is my best friend the moment I greet them, we all a culture of ‘insta-friends’ just add water as I put it… Here in Germany it takes longer but the effort is worth it. Michael is a really warm and friendly person so I’m glad I’m in his circle. :)

In fact my entire visit to Berlin to meet DaWanda and to speak at the event was (gladly) not what I expected. Before the event started, I was talking to as many people as I could but everyone seemed a bit shy and unsure, you know those ‘pre-event jitters’ where no one knows the other, each one is checking out what the other is wearing trying to make some kind of assessment, and the vibe is a bit of fear combined with Why Did I Come To This Thing? The moment I hit the stage and started speaking, faces in the audience warmed up, arms unfolded, pads and pens surfaced from handbags and people started taking notes. Then laughing was heard and I saw hands raising to ask me questions, then more laughing and in the end, I was quite pleased with my welcome to Berlin and to part of the very large crafting community there in which DaWanda is at the very center of and this is just excellent.

I guess when I thought of young up-and-comers from Berlin I expected very fashionable, snobby types with very large brains and egos to match. It’s funny, the city is nothing like that, they are fashionable at least within the independent arts & crafts circles but they are not snobby at all, in fact those I met were extremely encouraging, eager to learn, and very friendly at least once they feel like they can trust you — then they are very friendly. I cannot believe what a melting pot Berlin is, everyone seems to live there from Polish to Turkish, to Scandinavians and even a huge American population. In the audience I met people from all over the world, all had flocked there because it’s affordable and filled with culture, it’s a great city for artists to live in because so many reasonably prices spaces exist that America sadly doesn’t have as much of these days thanks to greedy investors buying up so many great artists lofts and knocking down former artists spaces to build high rise condos. If you are ever interested in visiting a really large, really cool city go to Berlin. Or better yet, move there and be part of this amazing growth period because after the event I spoke to so many people and I was immensely inspired by the reasons for their move there.

With a little history behind us, I will now proceed with my interview with DaWanda founders, Claudia Helming and Michael P?tz Stay tuned for Part Two: The Interview, in just a moment…

(images from DaWanda and Mathias Meyer who has awesome photos on Flickr so do visit him there)

Posted in Arts + Crafts, travel on December 05, 2008

Etsy Take Five Tuesdays

Let’s see what’s happening over at Etsy today, shall we? Here are my 5 picks for the week, hope a few are new to you! We have a little folk-inspired work, ceramics, modern screen printed textiles, art for kids, and a touch of melancholy…

1. Cindy Tomczyk Art – Cindy in Chicago transforms her illustrations into letterpress cards and prints and also screen prints. Her work ranges from sweet to quirky, folksy to surreal. Don’t miss {her blog} and {her website} for a closer look at her life and art.

2. The Crosbie – Darra Crosby, Richard Antczak, and Sari Gunderson recently contacted me, they met in Savannah when they all worked at a design studio together and discovered that they wanted to leave the firm and form their own design studio so The Crosbie was born. Now living and working in Portland, OR they are doing (mostly screen printing) what they love exactly how they want to do it – by their own rules. The rows tote is my favorite, it reminds me of teacups…They will soon be offering screen printing classes in their North Portland studio so view {their blog} and their {new website} to learn more.

3. A Beautiful Party – This Illinois-based artist translates the fantasy worlds in her mind into collage pieces with characters that express emotions such as sadness, innocence, and being alone. Learn more about A Beautiful Party on {her blog}.

4. Paige Russell Design – Paige has quite an impressive resume in addition to her fine body of work as a ceramicist. She studied Fine Arts at Langara College in Vancouver and earned her BFA in Product Design from Parsons School of Design in NYC. She was then named one of the, “Top 20 young designers to watch out for” in Wallpaper magazine’s 2001 Design Directory. Her ceramic jewelry and housewares are lovely and often in expected shapes making them modern and a bit quirky. View more of her work on {her website} and over in her other Etsy shop where she sells her favorite vintage finds called {The Modern Hunter}.

5. MatiLou – I discovered MatiLou on Facebook and have been enjoying her shop updates ever since. Based in France, her work is made mainly with kids in mind – “little art for children” as she calls it. She transforms her colorful illustrations into everything from prints and calendars to iron on transfers, cards, and stickers. MatiLou also has {a website} and a {DaWanda shop}.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this week’s round up! If you have any Etsy faves that you’d like to see featured in this column in the weeks to come, please share them below in the comments section. I cannot promise I will feature all submissions, but I can promise that I will check them out (and readers will click on your links too).

(images linked to their source above)

Posted in Arts + Crafts, etsy, Etsy Take 5 Tuesday, stationery on December 02, 2008

Artist Leslie Oschmann & Swarm Home

I was invited to attend a gallery breakfast tomorrow at Anthropologies Rockefeller Center location but of course being in Germany it is not possible (obviously!) I hope that another blogger will attend and blog about it because I’d love to see how the event turns out. It features the work of former Anthropologie visual director (for 8 years) Leslie Oschmann (full bio here) and after you view her website I think you’d also want to see her work up close and personal. Wow. Great stuff. I think it will make you look at vintage paintings a little differently, especially the ones that you find at flea markets that could use a little love… Why not add some of your own creativity to them like Leslie does?

Leslie relocated from the states to Holland and now has an Amsterdam-based studio called Swarm Home where she gives new life to old furniture and paintings found in local flea markets. Have you seen her work before? It’s just lovely. I’m quite impressed with her painting, I wonder if she is also doing decoupage in her work? I do see some needlepoint on a dresser door below that I think is exquisite and I really like the application of silk on vintage portraits because it makes the painting feel much more current and fun.

I adore mixed media art and enjoy viewing how Leslie uses many different materials to create art, combining unexpected materials takes so much talent and skill. Leslie is just one of many artists out there doing exciting things with found objects… have a look around her website and see for yourself — it is quite a fantastic visual trip!

Tip: For those who cannot paint like the talented Leslie, no worries! Have you thought of decoupage as an option? It can be done really well and seems to be gaining popularity again here in Germany (and northern .Europe in general) I love seeing decoupage, stenciling, and stamping making a comeback because it was somewhat snubbed in the interior design world and referred to as being, “Soooo bad 1980’s” or “Craft store kitsch” but if done right (take Wary Meyers for example), I think that it can be lovely. I had this feeling that the decoupage ‘trend’ could come back but when my friend gave me the current copy of the German Elle Decoration and I saw a complete spread on decoupage (used on bespoke furniture) my suspicions were confirmed. Decoupage can be done right.

(images from leslie oschmann and swam home)

Posted in Arts + Crafts, trends, vintage on December 01, 2008

Etsy Take Five Tuesday {only it’s 10 this week}

I feel like there are so many great shops on Etsy right now that to simply mention 5 is not enough today. I’m going for 10 if that’s okay with you (just for today!). Plus it’s a short work week, I’m taking Thursday and Friday off so I can give you a little extra since you’ll have to go without for a few days… Ah, it’s okay though! Logging off of the internet for a bit is super beneficial — I think we all should ‘step away from the web’ for at least one day now and then. I’m stepping away Thursday, Friday, and all day Saturday and maybe even Sunday because I haven’t done that in a very long while and I feel like there is this need to do so. I’ve been feeling super inspired lately but like many of you, have lacked follow through so I plan to jump on some of my projects while I’m not blogging… I am very excited to take a brief pause you know? Can you relate to this need to step back for a few days and unleash your creativity? No Facebook, no email, nothing… I can’t wait. But I’ll have to wait… because it’s time for Etsy Take Five Tuesday! I’ve promised you 10 shops today so how ’bout I stop talking and let you start looking and clicking around. Ready? Go!


1. Lost Teeth – The art of Seattle based Natalia Czajkiewicz features slightly edgy illustrations of worldly girls on the go. I love the strong lines and colors. ::website::


2. Sound Revolution - This body of work by an Australian graphic designer and illustrator is inspired by the conflicting and harmonious relationships that the urban environment has with the natural world. I find this an interesting theme and enjoy seeing some of the stags here and there. Stags are everywhere lately, especially in stores in Germany. Is it the same in America at the moment? Stags as a motif?


3. Ice Cream Social – This is the candy shop for those with a paper goods craving. You’ll really swoon for these beautiful lick-your-fingers designs. ::Ice Cream Social Blog::


4. New Fashioned Whispers – I found this shop over at Melissa Loves today, and the moment I saw the snowflake earrings that Melissa featured I purchased them because they are delightful for winter and very Anthropologie without the often high price tag. This shop has gorgeous jewelry with an old fashioned twist, so girly, some art decor pieces, and they are affordable — especially if you compare them with what you find at some of our favorite retail chain stores. Eek! Thanks for the tip, Melissa! (she always finds the sweetest things.)


5. Naoko’s Stoop – “Aw…” That’s the first word that came out of my mouth the second I opened the page of this darling little etsy shop. Naoka was born in Tokyo (hence this gorgeous style she has) and now lives in Brooklyn, New York. Great work, especially her pieces on wood.


6. Track and Field Designs - This is one of my favorite little crafty shops and I’m constantly doing an online drive by to see if Sasha has listed anything new. Well this time I scored because I found a few newish things that I like, sweet to add in gift packs for friends or to give to your nieces (or okay, yourself).


7. Fiery Eyed - Oh Jenifer Altman, what you do to me! She is such a beam of light, wow. Her work always impresses me, with every new photo I’m amazed. More Jenifer here on her ::website:: or her blog ::Nectar and Light::


8. Shup(G) - Lydia Wong loves a good charm necklace, she makes so many creative ones too! Lydia is offering a 10% discount until December 15, 2008 on purchases totaling $50 and above. She will amend the invoice once she receives notification of your purchase. Charmed, I’m sure!


9. Nancy Tobin – Nancy’s paintings are wild, imaginative, magical… and so colorful! I can envision one of? prints in a very modern white space or even an artsy colorful apartment against painted walls in bold jewel tones like midnight blue or purple. Her work can fit into so many different decors. Nancy has been an artist for many years, her illustrations have appeared in magazines and children’s books, she has designed toys for Hasbro and graphic design for Herman Miller. Quite a lady! More of Nancy here::Nancy Tobin Blog:: or ::website::


10. Finest Imaginary – Super fun laser cut acrylic necklaces, can you resist this tea necklace? I thought not. So cute with a dress like this one

How was that round up? What did you like best? Any new to you?

(images from shops linked above)

Posted in Arts + Crafts, etsy, Etsy Take 5 Tuesday on November 25, 2008

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