By Sara Conrad Special to Published Oct 25, 2010 at 1:11 PM

When I feel like procrastinating (which is almost always) I turn to my BFF, the Internet. Once I fire up the ol' browser, without a second thought, my fingers are automatically entering W-W-W-dot-E-T-S-Y-dot-C-O-M. is the equivalent of eBay for the DIY crowd. Except there's zero bidding, zero fake designer purses from a land far, far away, and zero stress. Anyone who creates, designs or finds amazing vintage items can list their items on Etsy for a small fee. I myself have listed various this's and that's. It's an incredibly easy process to do so. For buyers, the reviews of each seller squash "buyer beware" and with an account you can keep track of your favorite items, add widgets to your own We bsite, and have "conversations" with sellers.

What I love most about Etsy, however, is its awe-inspiring window shopping. I can spend hours (OK, let's get real, days) browsing through the site, drooling at all the DIY genius. The other day I was doing just that when I noticed a button which read "SHOP LOCAL." I clicked on it, and what do ya know? Milwaukee is full of enterprising spunk.

Perhaps it's the long, long, looooong winters or the late night brainstorming sessions fueled by a cold can of PBR, or it could simply be that Milwaukee is a quintessential hot bed for creative souls producing clever and indigenous products.

Throughout the bazillion items on the site, I found the Milwaukee DIY'ers yielded some of the most inspired results. Knowing these items were born right in my backyard and that I literally moved amongst the artists who handcrafted them was the icing on the creative cake.

Case in point:

Koolmono is owned by Natalie Minnick and is filled with Japanese-inspired fashions, mostly for kids, some for women. The kidlet kimonos are ridiculously cute and would certainly make you the star at your next baby shower. Registry be gone! Natalie, a full-time stay at home mom, started her lil' Etsy empire after her growing son informed her the kimono her husband purchased on a business trip was too small. She turned to her sewing machine and whipped up her own patterns for new kimonos. After being a fan of Etsy for many years, it was a natural progression to open a shop of her own. She describes Etsy as a, "dream come true."

Blue Rose Design is where nature and jewelry go to get married and grow old together. Her golden pine needle necklaces and earrings are what caught my eye and the story behind them is just as interesting as the pieces themselves. They are inspired by the owner, Amber Sievers' home state of Washington, and "Twin Peaks." Yup. The television show. Those are conversation starters Target can never deliver. Amber tells me she also feels it's special to shop DIY. "I love shopping handmade because not only are you able to buy unique items, but I think you really get a part of the person who has made the piece. It's almost tactile. Shopping handmade connects people," she explains. Couldn't have said it better myself.

One of the more interesting finds on the Etsy local landscape was Sugar and Flour, a shop which sells the sugar cookies from your dreams. They are the most lovely, detailed works of edible art. The cookie chef, Karen, strictly sells her pastries on Etsy at this time, but for local folks she happily arranges pick-ups and hope to one day be selling her frosted creations all across town. My favorite for the season are her teeny acorn cookies. Perfect for the upcoming family gatherings and for $12 you receive eight dozen lil' cookies.

I'm the friend who is constantly sending cards in the mail. The reason for this is because I can't help buying cute greetings whenever I see them. My wallet is in trouble because I discovered Etsy shop, Paper Michelle, owned by Michelle Zerzanek. Her cards are all hand printed and all extremely cute. Take the one with a dinosaur skelton which says "I'm Digging Your Style.. Michelle loves the fact that Etsy has introduced her humorous paper wares to the world saying, "Everyone, everywhere is a potential customer - as long as they have a good sense of humor." You can find Paper Michelle products locally at The Garden Room in Shorewood and Sparrow in Bay View, as well as on Etsy.

Megan Johnson is no stranger to the Milwaukee art scene. She's shown her work at galleries all over our local terrain. Enter Etsy and you have the perfect storm of awesome opportunity. Megan recently discovered the site and is loving the freedom it gives her to expand her creativity for all the world to see. Megan currently has an Etsy shop selling prints of her beautiful mixed media art works. In a few days she will be launching a second shop selling more casual items such as handmade notecards and gift tags that use elements from vintage ephemera (sewing patterns, maps, classic Dick and Jane readers, etc). I can't wait to see her new shop, as her prints are amazing. What's also amazing is seeing artwork on my wall from an artist I could very well run into at the grocery store.

If you think a Web site like Etsy is a "Girls Only" club, you'd be wrong. Boys can craft with the best of 'em and Ken proves that with his shop, Urban Turn, where he sells beautiful wood pieces all hand turned and all functional works of art. After retirement, Ken's woodworking hobby got a bit out of control and his daughter, an Etsy veteran who handcrafts extraordinary hats, suggested he open his own shop on the site. Since then his work has been featured in over half a dozen design blogs and on Etsy itself. Everything from wooden bowls to whimsical tops, Urban Turn delivers. Ken explains he "tries to enhance the natural beauty of woods by turning forms that highlight the grains in the wood."

Photography is something I personally love, however the extent of my photographic creativity is limited to my iPhone (there IS an app for that!) so I appreciate a good photo when I see one. When I stumbled upon the Etsy shop of f2 images by Emiko and Mark Franzen, I was awestruck. There's no exaggerating when I say they are some of the most exquisite images I've ever seen. Call me mushy, but their photographs are incredibly moving. Apparently I'm a late comer to the mush parade as f2 images are for sale at The Home Market in the Third Ward, and have been featured at Starbucks on Water St. (also in the Third Ward), Art Bar and Hanle Productions. You can also find f2 images at the Milwaukee Public Market Outdoor Market. I will find them hanging on my wall. And soon.

I'm a sucker for anything charitable. Also a sucker for sparkly things. So combine charity with Etsy sparkle and yeah, that's my mind being blown. Get Noticed Designs is all of those things and more. The shop owned by sisters, Natalie and Jessa Lemke, offers handmade jewelry that is beyond beautiful. Both have been known to pick out their outfits based upon a single piece of jewelry and it's their personal belief that no one can ever have too much jewelry. "It is a perfect mood-booster, and you know it will always fit," Natalie explains. The sisters also donate $1 of every sale to the American Cancer Society. To date they have donated $1400. Order now and they'll ship to you for free and join their Facebook page for additional exclusive savings ... see? Charitable!

Sara Conrad Special to

To say Sara is a woman of many hats would be like saying sour gummy worms are delicious: an epic understatement. Besides blogging, vlogging, tweeting and designing, she is a gal about town. Hopping, skipping and jumping all over this fair city to seek out the latest and greatest.

Since moving to Milwaukee right after high school, Sara's ADD has led her to reside in nearly every ZIP code Milwaukee has to offer. She recently moved from the Third Ward to Shorewood, and though the quieter scene isn't sucking, she vows to prove the burbs' swagger is right up there with the city's.

The Milwaukee area is one of many hats. And Sara's determined to try on each and every one of 'em.