(RNS) — At a traditional craft fair, customers looking for shirts quoting Scripture or handcrafted holiday decorations have to make an effort to find artisans selling religious-themed items.
But the internet site Etsy, where crafters and artists market their work, provides a direct pipeline for this niche clientele. Etsy, which was founded as a marketplace for all things handmade, but which has included some manufactured items since 2015, has spawned an abundance of shops selling everything from hand-painted Bibles to "Halal Kitty" decals.
"Etsy seems to be the place where people go if they're looking for something kind of unique," says Christian seller Brenna Milleville.
With more than 8.1 million shops, Etsy offers search features that allow users to find artists catering to any specific spiritual tradition.
Many shop owners have strong spiritual motivations. From an addict-turned-Bible-painter to a white Muslim convert fighting prejudice with puns, here are 10 top-rated artists on the site offering handcrafted work to an online audience.
The Hipster Housewife
Cards, stationery, hand-painted Bibles
The Hipster Housewife herself, Christine Errington, makes greeting cards, notebooks, cards and posters, but she loves her hand-painted Bibles most. They feature high on her Etsy page and populate her Instagram account, which has more than 16,000 followers. “Every single one of my Bibles is custom,” she said, adding that customers can send photos for inspiration, select the featured Scripture and even provide their own Bible. As a recovering addict who says she has been “redeemed in Christ,” Errington always enjoys when customers share their faith journey with her. “I've met so many cool people through (Etsy). That's one of my favorite parts. Obviously my stuff is faith-based, so people tell me their stories.”
Muslim Love Clothing Co.
Clothing with Muslim-positive designs
Muslim Love Clothing offers a variety of messages on T-shirts, decals and baby onesies. Its most popular one reads “RADICAL ISLAM.” Above the phrase, a figure dressed in a full burka catches air on a skateboard. Jay Kelly, a white Muslim convert, and his wife, Ayesha Kazmi, started the shop last fall, in the midst of the polarizing U.S. presidential election campaign, to provide a lighter take on the Muslim faith in the face of racism and negative media portrayal. Kelly says customers often buy the shirts to wear to protests or festivals. “T-shirts are a great identifier of people,” Kelly said. “It’s good to be able to give a group unity and visibility.”[ad number=“1”]
When she moved from Minnesota to North Carolina, Connie Dillon filled her spare time with calligraphy, a skill she started learning in college. She found herself writing and decorating Bible verses for practice, which she sent to randomly selected people from her address book. As she improved and began receiving requests, she started trying to sell her work. However, the craft fair circuit was proving fruitless. “Sometimes 10,000 people would walk by my display, and only a few would come in and look,” she said. “They just weren't oriented to be shopping for what I'm selling.” Only after her millennial son told her about Etsy did she find success. Thanks to the site’s platform, which makes custom orders easy, she’s sold about 1,800 handwritten posters with spiritual messages since 2013. Although she is a Christian herself and calls her shop “Biblecalligraphy,” her clientele spans multiple faiths, countries and languages. “I don’t have any restrictions,” she said.
At this shop you can buy an oak wreath or a rope heart in the shape of a pentacle, as well as other pagan-themed gifts crafted by Rowan Duxbury, a pagan artist based in the United Kingdom. Describing her style as “very Arthurian, as though the energy was representing goddesses of Avalon,” she offers a variety of products made from natural materials. She also sells tutorials for making her signature “Corn Dolly Goddess Dolls,” an adaptation of the traditional “corn dollies” once used in European harvest customs.
Fusioned Family, a shop selling ornaments and wrapping paper, appeals to an audience even more niche than a specific faith — by catering to two at once. The products depict messages blending Christian and Jewish winter holiday traditions, providing decor for a family navigating both Hanukkah and Christmas. Andrew Jensen, himself the product of a multifaith home, writes the slogans and creates the ornaments. Some of them are “goofier” than others, like “Challah-lujah” and “I Love You a Latke.” The hope, Jensen said, is to help the process of merging holidays and faith traditions. “It really eases the tension,” he said. “It brings something that could potentially be a tense situation and lightens the mood a little bit.” In the spirit of Fusioned Family’s “mission to bring the world together,” Jensen says he donates one dollar from each sale to PeacePlayers International, a nonprofit that brings kids from opposite sides of global conflict together to play basketball.[ad number=“2”]
Visible Faith Jewelry
Handmade sterling silver jewelry
After being asked repeatedly if she was on Etsy, Shandon Camarillo-Whitson said she finally joined in 2014 to reach a millennial audience. The Visible Faith Jewelry Etsy shop offers nearly 400 handcrafted, faith-inspired pieces of sterling silver jewelry. In addition to the general “Visible Faith” collection, the page includes her line of “God tags,” necklaces with a symbol, word and abbreviated Scripture stamped onto a metal tag. These 63 unique tags symbolize spiritual concepts such as motherhood, unity and strength. A second tag on the chain depicts a personal message, such as a name or a date. “We get a lot of people that say that our jewelry has impacted their lives in a positive way,” she said. “That it is a great way to show others without being in their face about their faith.”
While her candles may look beautiful for any occasion, self-taught henna artist Eman specifically markets her work as gifts for Eid, a major Muslim holiday. The candles, all customizable, come in various shapes and sizes. She decorates some with henna patterns, while she offers to inscribe others with Arabic calligraphy. The 10 suggested phrases include “Allah,” “Muhammad” and a variety of short prayers.
Jewish Holiday Shop
Jewish holiday decorations
About five years ago, Rita Brownstein was writing a blog where she posted various gift and craft ideas for Jewish holidays, including instructions so readers could re-create her creations. "Many people that I knew loved the blog," she said. “But they were like, ‘You know, I have a job. I have kids. I don't have time to sit and create these items.’” So Brownstein opened the Etsy shop where she now sells decorations for major Jewish holidays. While Hanukkah and Passover are her busiest times, her business operates part time year-round as she sells products like tzedakah, or charity boxes. She says many Judaica items sold in mainstream, brick-and-mortar stores are unimaginative and poorly designed. "I think a lot of artists, like myself, decided it's time to shake things up and design some better products for the Jewish consumer.”
Faith Paper Shop
Bible journals and stickers
Although she only joined Etsy in 2016, Donna Christian’s “Faith Paper Shop” has made more than 2,000 sales. She sells some generic stickers but primarily combines her loves of crafting and Christianity by hand-making prayer journals and Bible tabs covered in bright colors, fun patterns and Scripture. “I aim to honor God through all things I make and share,” she says in her “About” section. “ ... I am very passionate about sharing the truth of His Word and helping to make it accessible to everyone.”
Elly and Grace
Christian T-shirts and tank tops
Milleville uses Etsy to showcase shirts she both designs and makes herself. Bearing slogans like “Not today, Satan” and “Daughter of the King,” the tops come in customizable styles, colors and fonts. With the exception of some "Hamilton"-themed tops (it’s her favorite musical), all of Milleville's shirts display a Christian message. “My ideal client is very niche, and I feel like I can really speak to them,” she said, adding that she favors designs that speak to a target group she considers herself part of, "instead of what may be the most popular or ‘in’ sayings.”