Top 10 Things That Cross Your Mind Shopping on Etsy

(yes, I think somewhere in my pink tool kit I have all I need to repair this dolly…Sold!)

Sag Harbor, New York

You decide to check out Etsy, the rabbit hole of all things crafty, creative, and dust collecting. The 10 thoughts that run through your overwhelmed noggin, from start to finish… 

  1. I could make that. I mean, seriously? I took Home Ec. How hard is it to whip up a stuffed tomato with googly eyes? Or a King Tut the 3rd plushie? Yeah, I definitely can do that King Tut…wait is that CROSSTITCH?
  1. Who needs a resin Wizard of Oz Plate that plays music? I mean really, I’ve been sneaking plates OUT of grandmas house every time I go to visit, I don’t need to ADD to her collection (of 5,000). Last time I bumped into one, she spent an hour sobbing and telling me I’ll never be dainty enough to find a husband.
  1. Where am I going to put all of this ? Of course I’d love a lifesize shiba inu statue, but shouldn’t I be using that space to store my air conditioner, so I don’t have to go to bed each night dressed in an old fur coat and a scarf to combat the breeze (never took it out of the window in the fall)?
  1. My mom can do so much better. I mean, her cheesecake is the best on Long Island. Why would I buy someone elses secret recipe? What a sell-out. I mean, what if one of my friends buys it? I won’t be the stand-out baker at our next (non-existant) potluck.
  1. Wow, Jim really has a lot of time on his hands! I mean, it takes some skill to make old knives and forks really look like a roadrunner…oh, I see here it took 20 hours…20 hours?!
  1. Craft supplies galore- I can be the crafty mom now! Oh wait…I forgot to have kids. Crafty aunt? My sisters going through a divorce. Crafty babysitter? No one I know has kids. Darn! Ok, I’ll just pretend I AM still a kid.
  1. OMG, I can do all of my gift giving. For that uncle I can never remember the name of who plays checkers 20 hours a day, and my cousin who no longer bothers to pretend we are related, and to that frenemy Leila who is always making nasty remarks about the gift cards I give to starbucks. Maybe I like being basic. Well, Basic begone!
  1. I need to freeze my credit cards. Otherwise, the vintage Dolce and Gabbana denim jacket? Mine. I don’t care if I can’t pay my Metrocard and have to walk to work. Don’t I want to fit into the itsy bitsy teeny weenie bikini that supposedly Brigitte Bardot wore (according to Jo Anne Smith, 43, Louisiana, homemaker and storyteller extrodinaire)? The A train is so passe.
  1. Now my dog and I can match- look at these owner/pet cat ear headbands! Wait, dog? Whatever, me and my future dog (down the line when I move out to the suburbs and raise a family…aka never) Sold!
  1. Wait…I do need that! So I give in and buy everything and spend a week in sitting on boxes and trying to find my computer to SOS for help. Visit etsy.com/shops/japonicanyc to buy vintage porcelain dinnerware and other treasures. Shop to your hearts content!
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Tchochke Nation

Forget about Fast Food Nation. As Americans, we are a consumer nation. A hoarding nation, in less delicate terms. What’s with all the teacups? Yes, perhaps due to our (well, once) growing economy, we have over the years amassed a staggering amount of tchotchkes. I recently opened an Etsy shop, (closeted avid porcelain tableware collector) and realized just how far down the rabbit hole we have gone in terms of acquiring “stuff”. Is it called hoarding if each piece is not take-out containers and old balls of string? Hey, that….mug from MSG has a story I swear! I’ll go ahead and call it organized hoarding, to take some pressure off of myself and my treasure trove.

The term tchotchke is derived from a Yiddish word, which means a pretty, useless woman; in blunt terms: a trophy wife. Which is vaguely disturbing, but we Americans obviously shanghaied it and used it pretty much for the same purpose (useless decorative trinket), only in softer, less offensive terms, as we refer to inanimate, porcelain cats as tchotchkes, not living breathing humans. So have you. I’ve always been fond of the term, not sure what that means about me.

Maybe we should start with the history of human life and possessions. As nomads, cave people, for years, we moved from place to place. If you couldn’t carry it, it was not coming with you. Point blank. Also, being a primitive ‘society’, very few items were made. It was only when humans transitioned, staying put to plant and harvest crops, that we could begin to acquire more then we needed. However, during those times, humans did create the cave art that has been found, the little carved statues.

Tchotchkes are perhaps popular because originally they were a sign of wealth. As a person, you had the items you needed- pots, knives, dresses, hammers. Not even that. Immigrant families often shared silverware and such, just like in Bread Givers, a novel about Jewish immigrants in 1920’s New York. People on the Oregon Trail eventually abandoned their mementos, their heirloom grandfather clocks, as the oxen gave way, leaving behind an American Pickers wildest dreams, a trail of stuff. They survived with the bare minimum, because they had to.

If you had a porcelain doll, such as the popular Dresden dolls (from Dresden Germany- I couldn’t resist the lure and bought one when I visited), it meant that could afford items that were unnecessary, it was a sign of stability, a sign of at least minimum wealth (wealth being used as money, not as we use it generally). Then factories and technology to mass produce came along, and, at least in Europe and the United States, economies grew and people had more discretionary income to spend on whatever suited their fancy. That Virgin Mary statue? Sure go right ahead- add it to your collection of 50 others. Guinness!

Tchochkes often hold memories. A trip to Bosnia, I purchased a brass cat, which I eyeball on a daily basis, looking into those green eyes and thinking about how I was sweating in the 100-degree dry summer, touring mosques. Other tchotchkes are family heirlooms from a beloved grandmother, or perhaps a gift from a close friend. They can be useful- such as elaborate photo frames, clocks or pencil holders, salt and pepper shakers, even awards. But mostly, a true tchotchke has no purpose; it is just “a thing“ that we place high importance of.

They say that “home doo-dads” and Etsy stuff, are the things that women buy when they no longer care about impressing a beer belly husband, or their appearance. When they’ve given up on little dresses, either for themselves or for their children. Or when they’re single, and have nothing else in their lives to hold onto, lest that Tinder date, they fill up their homes with little porcelain angels, crosstitsch pillows and enough “Live Laugh Love” handcrafted signs,o army a gang of teenage girls (who also, interestingly, seem drawn to those inspirational signs). Quotes that they don’t even live by, but stare at wistfully.

Why not men? Men don’t seek out home décor, at least not in the same way that females do. Sure, I’ve met men who love antiques and vintage items, maybe an old tin firetruck, but they’re not out there purchasing potpourri containers and Sea World Memory Plates.

They decorate our homes, add a bit of colour to our office cubicles. They are the solution to what to give Aunt Birdie as a Christmas Gift. They make us smile, they are there if we need to throw something, and there when it’s moving day and you’re suffering a broken ankle. They’re art, they can even make us think. Just because things don’t have a crucial purpose, maybe that’s why we like them. We need something that just relaxes, that reminds us that the world is not so go-go-go all of the time. Maybe we hoard them because we don’t have to, that’s the beauty of something you don’t need. A frivolous want we can indulge in for 99 cents on eBay.

On that note, I’ll keep collecting my vintage plateware, I’ll not ship my heirloom antique makeup containers to Staten Island (dump), and I’ll keep smiling nostalgically at my paintings from Spain. Vive le tchotchke! Visit JaponicaNYC shop on Etsy to see my obsession.