Etsy Seller Spotlight: DarkBalloon's Game Character Aprons
by Stephanie Tang 6 months ago
The Simple Life
My kitchen is bright, clean, and spacious. I have a glass stovetop, a convection oven, and a kitchen table that looks like the ideal for ritual sacrifice. (But a nice, classy affair, the kind with vampires in designer dresses sipping from Baccarat champagne flutes.)
As I sit here writing this, I have Portal cookies baking in the oven, Battlestar Galactica coasters strewn about the counter, an 8-bit heart mug in the cupboard, and I'm wearing one of the cutest, nerdiest aprons this side of creation because my boyfriend wanted to surprise me before my birthday.
This is when you know that the geekery goes beyond the video games and seeps into the rest of your slightly-off-kilter-but-utimately-more-exciting life. Here’s to those for whom gaming is not just a hobby, but one more facet of life.
Ladies, lovers of cute things, and swag folk of all ages, tell me which one of you would ever want to look away from this ridiculously adorable Boo apron?
Yeah. That’s what I thought.
Enter DarkBalloons’ Etsy Store
I first came across the lovely Neil Grey's Etsy store months ago when Pinterest and Facebook exploded with pictures of her ridiculously adorable aprons. They were everywhere. I linked them to my boyfriend. He’d already seen them.
The internet, for a while, was consumed. Frilly things! Pretty, frilly, game-related, fluffy things!
But they are expensive, ranging from $50 USD for some of the plainer designs to $70 USD for Boo and Kirby. Understandably expensive, considering the work that goes into making them (particularly when custom-sizing) but a little beyond my budget. I moved on.
And then Boo and Zelda came in the mail yesterday.
The aprons are handmade to order (with custom sizing!), are fully lined and made with cotton and vinyl accents. Many of them in the store are reversible so that you don’t need to worry about dirtying the details on the front. (Boo, unfortunately, is not one of them.)
About the Store
DarkBalloons' store is just two months shy of being a year old, but that hasn’t stopped her from filling just under 390 orders, gaining a fan following of over 900 admirers, and being commissioned to create “a zillion” dragon eggs for an HBO Game of Thrones event. Not bad for ten months’ work.
Her specialties lie in creating cute, vintage-styled gaming aprons (and replica GoT dragon eggs). The aprons are based on fan favorites from Nintendo’s Mario, Zelda, and Kirby, although a listing for Powerpuff Girls aprons manages to fit right in.
First, the Thing About Etsy
Now, I have a love-hate thing for Etsy. In principle, it’s great—as one of my team members, Jamie K, put it, “where else can people all over the world have the opportunity to attempt to do something creative that they love? It promotes the small people.”
It does promote the small people. But as anyone who’s ever frequented Regretsy, it also gives some people the ridiculous notion that they and their products are above critical scrutiny and that everything to do with their wares must be layered in the rose-colored light of “it’s so artistic and indie and one-of-a-kind!”
No, it’s not. If it’s crap... it’s crap.
Do not charge me $300 USD and $50 shipping for three sticks, some chicken wire, a feather, and broken glass tied together to become an up-cycled modern day dreamcatcher, radiating with the potentialities of those that are lost in the wastelands of life. I will look at you. I will laugh. And you will not rise up in self-righteous, insulted anger at me and pretend that you’re not out to make money off of stupid.
I hate people like that.
But these are not the sum of all Etsy sellers, and I cannot deny the incredible help the site has given to those truly exceptionally creative and productive sellers who use the site like it’s meant to be used.
In this particular case, I have a crazy amount of respect for anyone who can sell as many orders as Neil Grey does, in various sizes that requires redrafting patterns, producing and shipping withing 1-2 weeks, and still manage to make each order special.
What I Received
The package arrived in a plain bubble envelope, shipped standard. Inside, each apron was individually folded and wrapped in tissue paper. Included was a pretty envelope with a handwritten card thanking me for the order, hoping that I’d like the aprons, and relaying instructions for the care of my new frilly things, as well as one of those little 1x3” contact cards.
It made me remember why I love handmade stuff and small shops. The little touches.
The aprons themselves are lovable. They came creased (but this is to be expected) and I likely added more squishing them to my chest and running around in deliriously happy circles with them. The first order of business was to take an iron to them. The cotton material itself is easily ironed, but Boo’s vinyl face and Zelda’s blue painted panel make it a little more difficult to get some of the bigger creases out without horribly damaging my new babies.
Wearing them is comfortable and functional. The dimensions are on-the-spot perfect to fit my bust and waist without the whole apron looking too big or too small. I wore the Zelda one while making my cookies, and I really enjoy the the option of being able to reverse it so that it can be both functional as an actual apron as well as pretty.
...Did I mention that they are really, really, cute?
All in All
I am so happy right now.
I love baking. I love cute things. I have a warm pan of cookies shaped like Companion Cubes. I am a girl gamer and I don't have to pretend that I only parade around in unwashed hair and baggy sweats because that's what "real girl gamers do."
I am the ultimate geeky '50s housewife and a princess to boot!
Now, who wants to have a tea party?! (Bring your own controller, of course.)