Homegrown: Westwood-Century City's Local Etsy Crafters

Etsy is a 24/7 online craft fair, and Los Angeles residents are using it to sell their wares. Meet your local Etsy crafters.

Local shops are sometimes even closer than just down the street. Thanks to a website called Etsy, both hobbysists and professionals from card makers to jewelry crafters to poster printers can have their own shops online. These experts in Do It Yourself crafting take a passion and turn it into a second income, or, in some cases, a new career.

We found three Etsy crafters in the Westwood and Century City areas, and in 'Homegrown,' we take a closer look at the personalities behind the shops.

Cindy McGrath

Although this Westwood mother of three has been living in Los Angeles for over two decades, she credits the Midwestern cold for giving her a start in crafting. During weekends on those long winters, "I spent Saturdays making arts and crafts at my grandmothers house -- candles, woodburning kits, Spiro Gyro, tempera paints in those glass jars," she said. Working with her hands became a habit, and soon after she moved to California, she found herself selling her Planet Saver Bags made from repurposed plastic on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica.

The arts come naturally to McGrath. A professional graphic designer, she decorated one side of the bag with colorful, eye-catching art, and printed an environmentalist message on the other side. Far from preachy, the bags are meant to be fun. "if you carry one you will see that they are real conversation starters," says McGrath. "Everyone wants to read what is on the bag. I tried to make them as funny and as campy as I could so people would laugh."

Despite the lighthearted approach, the bags have garnered McGrath serious attention. Her bag emblazoned with Chicago's iconic Hancock Tower sells in the Chicago History Museum, and for the last two years she's designed bags for Maria Shriver's Women's Conference, in addition to wholesaling her bags to gift shops across the country.

Contrast Canvas

The Century City-based boyfriend and girlfriend team behind Contrast Canvas got their start when they noticed that most pop art was prohibitively expensive to casual collectors. "We were seeing prices well over $100 for a print," they say, especially of depictions of Audrey Hepburn or Marilyn Monroe. "Our goal was to offer pieces that not only captured these icons better visually, but also were a better value at under $100 and hand crafted on canvas!"

The duo work together to create each piece, collaborating on different aspects of the piece, though neither one takes on any one responsibility exclusively.  "The general sketch and design generally falls to me," said Jordan, "and the detailed line work falls to (my girlfriend) Jessica. That said...it's very much collaborative with every piece."

The communities of Westwood and Century City play a huge part in their work. A good deal of their supplies are sourced from the local Blick, and a majority of their sales are from locals who commission a portrait of their significant other or other personalied piece. The two even prefer to extend their philosophy of cost-cutting to their neighbors. "We've always made an effort to drop off paintings in person to avoid shipping costs or damage," says Jordan.


Malibu Bows

Next time you find yourself on a Westwood or Century City hospital campus, keep an eye out for the distinctive leather iPhone bags made by Malibu Bows. Westwood resident Sussi, a native of Copenhagen, Denmark, had the idea for her bags when she realized that she wanted a stylish, protective case for her iPhone but didn't want to carry a purse. "I started making an iPhone bag that was just large enough for the phone and several important items," Sussi says. "Some of my iPhone bags have been sold at different local hospital gift shops and they have been popular with the nurses who can carry their phones on them while working."

Sussi works primarily as a housewife and mother, working at her leather bag business in her free time. Originally, she started her Etsy business selling hair scrunchies, hence the "Bows" part of her name, but decided not to change it when she moved into leatherworks.

"I like the colors and textures that leather comes in and I love designing new things with it," Sussi said. She does a good deal of selling through Etsy, and by making appointments with offices and going there to sell her wares in person. "I find that people are more excited about them when they can actually see them in person," she said.

Each of her handmade bags can be made to order, and she says that no two are alike. That rule doesn't hold true for everything Sussi is proud of -- she's a mother of three girls, two of whom are twins. "This has kept me busy over the years," Sussi said.


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