Call it craft. Or do-ityourself art. Maybe independent design. Whatever the lingo, Albuquerque is buzzing with folks making everything from vintage-inspired note cards and crocheted hats to costume jewelry by hand.
If that sounds like a lot of country ducks and crocheted doilies, think again. Locals are taking traditional crafts and giving them a modern twist. That can mean handmade bags with zombie designs or vintage cards with caustic phrases.
Most craft in their off hours for creative release and extra cash. Many write blogs detailing their latest projects.
Crafters agree that the popular Web site Etsy.com has something to do with the craze.
Just ask Anneliese Steen. The executive at the New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union started making jewelry when her doctor suggested she needed to find a hobby to reduce stress. A few pretty beads quickly turned into a house full of turquoise.
Before she knew it, Steen was selling her wares on Etsy, an online marketplace for handmade items. "Etsy's been phenomenal," she says. "It allows you to turn your pastime into something that isn't a money pit."
At Etsy, sellers have profile pages where buyers see their work. Like eBay, the site earns a portion of proceeds.
Touring Etsy's handmade designs can be overwhelming or exhilarating, depending on your tolerance for Web browsing. There are more than 500 Etsy sellers in the Albuquerque area and 1,250 in New Mexico, according to Etsy spokesman Adam Brown.
So far in 2008, more than 3.3 million items have been sold on the site, harnessing the growing market of handmade, do-it-yourself accessories, clothes and home dcor.
The Etsy world is young, educated and employed. About 96 percent of buyers and sellers are women. The average age of sellers is about 35. Most are college graduates who consider themselves parttime artisans.
Albuquerque jewelry designer Alison Armstrong, 34, who creates bright baubles with names like "Celebrity Meltdown" and "Swooning in the Cha-Cha Lounge," says Etsy has changed the market locally and worldwide.
"I don't know of a crafter who hasn't opened up an Etsy shop, and quite a few artists operate only an Etsy shop and don't have a 'traditional' Web site," she writes in an e-mail.
But Etsy's popularity can make it difficult for jewelry sellers to stand out, Armstrong says. Others say many inexperienced sellers price their wares so low it is difficult for other artists who make a living off their work.
Spring Griffin, 33, a freelance writer and mixedmedia artist, is doing her part to kick the local craft scene into high gear.