Regretsy's April Winchell in Glendale tonight, with crafts
The wildly funny blog Regretsy, which finds regrettable crafts on the popular do-it-yourself market site Etsy and reposts them with reality-check commentary, is now a book. "Regretsy: Where DIY Meets WTF" is out today, and author April Winchell appears tonight at Border's in Glendale at 7 p.m. In addition to being a showcase for Regretsy's greatest hits, the book features several short pieces by Winchell about her very turquoise childhood, misadventures in sewing, and what it's like to appreciate the awful. She answered Jacket Copy's questions via email.
Carolyn Kellogg: At what point did you go from cruising Etsy to starting Regretsy? Was there a specific item that triggered Regretsy?
April Winchell: Yes, I actually talk about it in the book. It was a horrible kitchen rug with a drawing of Barack Obama and the words "YES WE CAN" stenciled on it in black paint. My friends Scott and Drew sent it to me as a housewarming gift and a cruel joke. It came postage due from South Africa, addressed to a nickname they had for me, and for which I had no identification. It was expensive and time consuming, but what a payoff.
CK: As a consumer, do you own pieces from both Etsy and Regretsy? In other words, do you appreciate both?
AW: Oh yes. You have to understand, I basically spend my entire day shopping. As an unintended consequence of looking for crap all day, I often come across amazingly beautiful things, and unfortunately, have to buy them. I have spent a small fortune in the last six months on the good, the bad and the ugly.
I did once ask my readers if they would like me to post exceptionally creative and well made things from time to time. I got more hate mail from that than anything I ever posted.
CK: Have you ever hit a point where the items on Etsy are too universally tasteful and too well-made to find new material for Regretsy?
AW: Oh, you make me laugh.
CK: So many wonderful items are in the book -- but the cowl! Where's the $159 cowl?
AW: The site and the book present two different challenges. I can really offer my commentary and criticism on anything when it comes to the site; I don't need permission to show what you're selling and have a negative opinion about it. So I can use anything that makes me laugh.
The book, on the other hand, could only feature people who wanted to participate. The site was only a month old before I started writing the book, so a lot of people didn't quite get the benefit of being a part of it. The people who said yes did so very early, and either had tremendous insight and business savvy, or don't have computers.
CK: Among the stories that you tell in the Regretsy book (Your dad was a ventriloquist! You were an '80s fashion victim!) you mention that you make dolls, not particularly well. Do you continue to create crafts?
AW: I don't have a lot of time for it right now, but I really would enjoy getting back to that at some point. I started making crappy dolls for charity about four years ago, and people buy them for reasons that escape me. I made a Tim Gunn doll and a pregnant Heidi Klum a while back, that somehow made their way onto the Project Runway blog. Tim Gunn said, "some fans are crazy," which I took as both a compliment and a warning to stay 50 feet away.
CK: Did some Regretsy crafters create new works for the book?
AW: The only thing created specifically for the book is the artwork that sets up each chapter [including "Pet Humiliation," above]. Rather than use stock images or professional illustrators, I hired Esty sellers to do the work. I think it adds a really charming dimension to the book. But other than that, this is all real stuff that people make and sell. You can't really duplicate the things that are made with absolute sincerity. It's that total lack of guile that makes it so appealing.
CK: You live in L.A. -- do you go to any real-life, offline craft markets or shops that reflect the Regretsy style?
AW: Oh my God, just go outside in Los Angeles and you'll see it. Girls wearing everything in their closet at once, horrible oversized sunglasses, cellphones covered with rhinestones and Hello Kitty charms and enormous handbags you could use as boat covers. You really see it in the fashion out here; people striving to be individuals and wearing their whimsy on their sleeve. At the end of the day, everyone looks like each other, and no one appears to have a full length mirror.
CK: You'll be at Borders in Glendale tonight -- are you expecting anyone to show up with craft items?
AW: Yes, a few sellers are coming in with pieces that are featured in the book. The woman who made the famous fish/squirrel taxidermy hybrid is going to be there. And Creepy Dolls is bringing a bloody vampire zombie teddy bear that we're going to raffle off for charity. I've also heard that the woman who makes soap that looks like poop is showing up in a giant penis costume. So you know, a typical book signing. I'm sure Tom Brokaw gets the same crowd.
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Photos: Left, the fish in a squirrel suit page; right, the opening page of the Pet Humiliation chapter, both from the new book "Regretsy." Credit: Villard / RandomHouse.