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Desert Companion

The Etsy artisan next door

In a world of faceless dot-commerce, crafty Vegas entrepreneurs turn to Etsy, where Sin City sells itself

Seeing her dress on a young Japanese woman at a Tokyo rock 'n' roll wedding is what hooked Jennifer Henry. The neon-striped number straight out of the '80s was Henry's first sale from her online vintage clothing shop, Flock Flock Flock. The buyer sent a picture of herself nervously delivering a speech at her best friend's wedding reception - in the dress that came from Henry's closet.

"I was just like, 'This is way more interesting than I thought it would be,'" Henry says. Henry's online boutique (FlockFlockFlock.etsy.com) is one of more than 400,000 such shops on Etsy.com, a marketplace for handmade and vintage goods. And countless Southern Nevada artisans, crafters and collectors who sell on the site have toiled at dining room tables and in converted garages to help create an alternative to mass-produced merchandise - and to do business in a way that's friendlier than the online commerce status quo. While hometown Etysians (an insider term for Etsy merchants) send most of their goods across the country - and the globe - Las Vegas makes a mark on their work, both as an inspiration and a selling point.

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"It makes some of my more glamorous pieces makes sense," says Henry, who scours garage sales and thrift stores to find her '70s maxi dresses, '80s rompers and '60s printed scarves. "It comes from a glamorous place."

Shop locally - and ethically
brass jewelry
Mary Beth Heishman, an art teacher at Richard H. Bryan Elementary School, designs offbeat silver and brass jewelry for her shop I Adorn U (IAdornU.etsy.com) after classes and during the summer. Her customers come to Etsy because they consider buying handmade to be an ethical choice, and they want to know where and how their product was made. And, of course, they appreciate the personal touches.

"Sometimes when [customers] order something, you wrap it with a nice little ribbon, and put in a little thank-you note," Heishman says. "You don't really get that from Amazon.com."

Las Vegas native Heishman's work is influenced by everything Las Vegas, from hotel-casinos to the creatures of Red Rock. Inspired by the iconic neon lights and signs around the Strip, her newest jewelry features hand-stamped text that reminds her of "miniature billboards and neon signage" hanging around the customer's neck. In her artwork, she paints animals indigenous to Nevada with unusual twists - such as two barn owls floating on a pair of mustaches.

"I have tried to blend the surrealism of Las Vegas with the naturalism of the desert to create a unique art form that combines the fantastic and unexpected," she says.
Jennifer Henry

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