Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - March 26, 2010

Regret me not

Humor site Regretsy lampoons, celebrates odd Etsy finds

From embroidered toilet paper to "Christmas nativity meerkats," Etsy.com is full of intriguing items. Some such creations, deemed worthy of extra attention, show up on Regretsy (www.regretsy.com), a blog that pokes fun at Etsy's offerings and has taken on a life of its own.

Cheekily subtitled, "Where DIY meets WTF," Regretsy is the brainchild of Los Angeles comedian/writer April Winchell, who calls it "a marketing tool, a humor site and a community of creative, funny people."

She created the site last fall under the pseudonym "Helen Killer," inspired by some of the comically strange, creepy or just plain baffling items she stumbled upon while browsing Etsy.

"I didn't have much purpose at first beyond making people laugh," Winchell said.

She left out sellers' identifying information, not wanting to embarrass them.

"I thought ... readers might write to the sellers and start trouble with them," she said.

But about a week after the site's launch, Etsy sellers themselves gave the site a real purpose.

"I started hearing that the sellers actually wanted to be linked. They saw this as an opportunity. When I started linking, things started selling pretty briskly," she said.

The formula for Regretsy is simple: Post a link and photo of an amusing Etsy item; write a brief caption mocking it; hilarity ensues.

"Some of the highlights for me have been an oil painting of roadkill on a Pennsylvania highway, a taxidermied fish head grafted onto the body of a squirrel and a woman who makes embroidered toilet paper. My favorite Regretsy purchase so far is a small sculpted head of British actor Bill Nighy, glued to the metal workings of an old wind-up toy. It's fantastically peculiar," she said.

The site was an instant hit with viewers and Etsy sellers alike.

"In that first weekend it just exploded. It was everywhere, in all kinds of traditional and new media. The Wall Street Journal covered it twice in two weeks," she said.

The blog now has new items added and linked daily.

Winchell has even compiled a Regretsy book, due out April 6, showcasing some of the favorite finds with her trademark snarky commentary.

"About a third of the book is laid out like the site is. I've also written some long-form pieces that I hope people will enjoy," she said.

The book also features a sellers' guide of participating Etsy shops, as well as comments from sellers.

"They all share their experiences and their thoughts on criticism and creating," she said.

Any profits earned through Regretsy, such as through advertisements and merchandise, go into the "Regretsy Alchemy Fund."

"I don't keep a penny. When I reach $200 in profits, I hire an Etsy seller to make handmade items for charity. There are actually quite a few charities that solicit handmade goods," Winchell said.

She said Etsy has taken the creation of Regretsy with good humor.

"To my surprise, they had no interest in shutting me down. They simply asked that I add a disclaimer stating that we were not affiliated in any way, and that I change some of my colors to help separate the look of the two sites. They could not have been nicer about it.

"We do fill a need, in our own weird way. We send millions of hits to Etsy and drive a lot of business to sellers whose aesthetic isn't exactly their front page," Winchell added.

"It's another place to get your work featured," Etsy spokesman Adam Brown said. "It's supposed to be funny, and it is."

— Karla Kane

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