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Shopping as Museum Experience

This week, I’ve been thinking about what a fun experience shopping can be. Whether I’m browsing, picking up necessities, searching for gifts, or treating myself, I’m always looking for inspiration. Some stores are so full of good design that going in is almost like visiting a museum! I also find it interesting to see what each shop’s “look” is, whether it is an online or brick-and-mortar store - what their aesthetic is and how they communicate it through their selection of products, signage, layout, and so on. 

For example, two of my favorite stores, UniQlo http://www.uniqlo.com/us/ and Muji http://www.muji.us/store/, 
are not in my hometown (I’ve only seen them in big cities) and haven’t had much of an online presence until recently…. making it extra special to visit in person. Both focus on clean, useful designs, and their products are presented - in packaging, store displays, and layout - in a very no-frills, minimal way. This is especially true of Muji - they design everything using a Japanese unit called “sunn” which means “thumb” - so everything is designed, usefully, by the thumb unit! So cool! That way, everything they design for, say, a briefcase or a carry-on travel bag, fits together so nicely - the soap container fits in the toiletry bag, the toiletry bag fits into the suitcase, the suitcase fits on the shelf in your bedroom, etc… I always keep a couple of their catalogs on my design book shelf! Recently a book has come out on the Muji experience - I can’t wait to check it out. You can read more about it on their website: http://www.muji.us/store/muji-book.html

In my hometown of Athens, Ga., Helix is a great store to wander into and spend a bit of time in. They support local craftspeople, they have a good collection of items, and their design sense is lively. It’s fun to go in there on a regular basis to see what new items they have located and made available to us. 

But for online shopping and browsing, Etsy rules. If you don’t know about Etsy you must learn about it RIGHT NOW! It is THE place to shop … it is a 6 year old online home-made marketplace - everything you buy is directly from the maker to the consumer. You also have the option to search by location, so if you’re interested in the local foods movement, for example, you can buy LOCAL CRAFTS too! People sell very usable items such as kichenware, totes, and jewlery in addition to fun things like toys, pet supplies, or pottery. It feels great to buy right from the person who has designed and created your item, and to know that the purchase price is supporting them and their ability to make what they love. It’s a bit like the historic cottage craft system of the past…. only much more versatile!

I’ve been doing even more research lately on the Etsy community, because I’ll be opening a shop there soon. I’ll sell greeting cards and smaller textiles (tea towels, napkins, etc) and perhaps one day make my silk items available there as well. Etsy has a wonderful support network built in - they really try to educate their community to be the best business people they can be. You can check it out at http://www.etsy.com/ - DO look around at what everyone else has - it’s wonderfully exciting! It just may change your life! 

Tell me, what are your favorite online or real-life resources for fun items, interesting gifts, or beautiful designs? Do you have any favorite Etsy shops you think I should know about? I’ll collect your responses and share them in future post!