Regretsy: Where DIY Meets WTF, by April Winchell
This book lives up to its title. The author of the book is the owner of a site that promotes (?) various failed efforts at creating do-it-yourself items for sale on Etsy based on the recommendations of friends, and occasionally buys or receives such items herself. Since Etsy as a website is pretty relentless in getting rid of anything that smacks of negativity, this site (and this book, which takes some of the more notable selections of failed craftiness from the Regretsy site) serves as a useful way of encouraging a side of criticism that is not allowed on Etsy proper. I have to admit that when I read this book at dinner I laughed out loud at some of the items, and hoped I wasn’t too obnoxious to those around me who may not understand what is so funny about a book that features cozies for baby chicks, a hat that also serves as a dual hummingbird feeder, or a “diving feminine yonni necklace” that contains what the author picturesquely calls a “claybia.” Some of these items must be seen to be believed, and even then some of them are pretty unbelievable.
This book is a complex one of only about 150 pages, but one that contains a wide variety of materials. The author begins with an introduction that includes how Regretsy was born, and then there are a variety of different types of DIY items from Etsy that are shown in all their glory and original photographs from the listings and savagely critiqued by the author. The categories included, all of which are introduced with a short discussion by the author on the particular theme, are as follows: Jewelry and accessories, pet humiliation, toys and dolls, vulvacraft, décor, art, wtf (a miscellaneous category with some truly horrifying items), and Christmas. Included among the horrors immortalized here is a goat coat, with a picture complete with a goat wearing said coat glaring at the photographer, a treasure box made out of a beaver log, doll heads in a bowl of Brussels sprouts, tampon cozies made out of plug rugs, a pond scum amoeba pendant. After the items comes an epilogue, acknowledgements, and a last word from the sellers themselves, some of whom are good-natured, as well as a sellers guide and statements and photo credits.
Overall, this book is a hilarious one, and it is hard not to laugh at some of the material that is included here. In this particular book, the author takes a look at the dark side of creativity. What is included here is certainly novel, in that no one had done things like this before (one hopes), but there are some very serious doubts as to the usefulness or appropriateness of these materials. And at the same time, the very act of ridiculing such items makes them sometimes worthwhile as conversation pieces, as you are impressed at your sense of humor while your houseguests ask you what possessed you to spend good money on such items when you could spend it on anything else. Yet even though this book is ridiculous, it explores the question of the legitimacy of art criticism, with the author pointing out that if someone has the right to create something, then others have the right to critique it, a right that is not always very popular among those who do not like their babies to face the cruel wrath of hostile criticism. And that is a serious enough discussion that these items are brought into a higher context than merely objects of ridicule, but also case studies in the legitimacy of creation and criticism itself, and that is a context that readers will likely enjoy even while they laugh.