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.
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…
I mentioned earlier today that I’ve had mandala patterns on the brain again. When I say again it’s because I was very into them back in 1999-2000. I purchased every mandala book I could at that time because I saw them everywhere and had to know more. I even purchased coloring books with mandala patterns for kids (yes, kids!) just so I could use the outlines to fill in with my own paint colors, found paper, etc. I really enjoyed experimenting with them in this way, but never had I thought to sit down and make my own from scratch without a general outline until recently. In fact I hadn’t thought much of mandalas in quite a few years. This is what made me think of them again…
One of my favorite bloggers is Kat from Secrets of a Butterfly and she recently inspired me in one of her October posts because she was touched by the work of California artist Anahata Katkin (the designer for PaPaYa!), a lady I’ve known about via the web, but Kat’s words about her touched me and it was only then did I really feel like exploring Anahata’s work myself. Do you know about her? She is an artist with work that is quite amazing and now I’m wishing I could somehow meet her and take one of her classes because the art fest she taught earlier this year seemed pretty great (images here).
Kat has never met Anahata to learn her technique so I’m quite impressed that by using her paintings as a guide she created this very lovely mandala mixed media painting using vintage wallpaper and old sheet music. You can see Kat’s painting above shown in her craft room in England. So pretty and well, REAL. I’m more and more attracted to such work, art from the heart and that is handmade at home because something the person saw motivated them to use their own hands to create something similar. So many times we consume, consume, consume without thinking, “Hey I could make that myself!” and I don’t mean COPYING work because a one-to-one version isn’t using your own creativity and it’s not fair to the artist. But if something you saw moved you and you just cannot afford it to buy it (or you rather do it yourself), then there is no reason NOT to try to do something for your own personal use.
This makes me think of cooking. In America we have nearly every meal you can imagine in the frozen food aisle. Here in Germany it’s much different, the selection is smaller. You are forced here to cook many things from scratch because you cannot conveniently buy them already made by someone (or something) else. I think it’s easy to get a bit lazy and not make your own recipes because it’s often easier and faster to buy it frozen or to order take-out. I think we sometimes forget the joy of making things for ourselves, you know? Add to this art, things around the house, etc. So much can be made by our own hands without buying it from someone else. Not everything of course, but a good amount.
Maybe we don’t have the time, or confidence in what we can do, but what about making time this month to make a few things handmade? I think it’s good for our self esteem, our wallet, and we can be a good example to others because often our children, friends, and family members (even e-friends) can be so inspired by something we’ve made and it may motivate them to create as well. When it comes to self esteem, the more you practice something you do not consider yourself very good at, you will improve and those improvements build your self confidence.
It’s not about quantity either. You don’t have to be some kind of energizer rabbit super crafter.
It can just be ONE painting, one apron, one really good batch of muffins… Just make something and how you feel afterwards. Imagine the fantastic circle of joy in that — you inspire others, yourself, and you have things around you made by your very own hands and heart. Nice!
Lots of us pledge to buy handmade and I’m all for that, but let’s pledge to also make handmade and do some things for ourselves this winter season. It’s such a good idea in this economy too. Take out those old copies of Martha Stewart Living and those PILES of arts and crafts book, pick a SINGLE project, and just do it. Want to make a pledge to make something handmade? You can leave your pledge in the comments section below and then when your item is finished, photograph it, place it in your Flickr account, and link it here once it’s finished. Or if you’ve already made your own things recently, comment with a link below because it’s fun to share.
You can see a roll of gift wrap and decide to go home and create your own like Ez did (and displayed a tutorial for) over on her blog Creature Comforts recently. I’m absolutely amazed by what some of my fellow bloggers are doing with their own hands lately and so impressed by their creativity.
Have you made anything with your own hands lately? Just ONE thing. Anything that you are proud to share? If so, please link to it in the comments section below, please show & tell!
(images from kat and the secrets of a butterfly)