Not Starving Artists

Five local top-sellers share their creative (and commercial) secrets

It’s a challenge for creatives to make a living in Las Vegas, but a number of them have found a way by selling their work on Launched in 2005, the 4.4 million-member-strong website helps individuals sell their handmade items, original art, vintage goods and artists’ supplies directly to Web surfers. Here, five of Las Vegas’ “Top Sellers”—those Etsians who have made at least 1,500 sales—open up about this venue for art in Las Vegas.


Bryan Ambacher and Nathan Pyle sell “steampunk” accessories such as cigarette cases, cufflinks and jewelry on the Etsy store Their designs, which range in price from $25 to $75, juxtapose watch parts, animal heads and unusual motifs in an edgy tribute to Victorian-era technology. Pyle has another Etsy store called for paintings that incorporate pithy aphorisms with psychedelic designs.

With the money earned from Etsy, Pyle opened the Frequency Gallery early this November (at the Arts Factory, 109 E. Charleston Blvd.), which showcases the duo’s work.

“Etsy is a big bill-payer,” Pyle says. “It’s allowed us to pay for this gallery six months in advance.” Their monthly income ranges from $200 to $14,000, he says.

There is a cost to doing business at Etsy, however. “For every $10,000 earned, we spend about $1,000 in advertising and Etsy fees,” Pyle says. It costs 20 cents to list an item on Etsy for four months, and when an item sells, the site takes 3.5 percent of the selling price as a transaction fee.


For Connie Norsworthy of, the long hours she puts in as an artist/stay-at-home mom are well worth the independence.

Her removable vinyl wall decals have become so popular that The New York Times Holiday Gift guide featured her top-selling chicken decal ($10) last year, and Parents magazine displayed her robot decal ($19) online.

Norsworthy also sells her decals on, an Etsy competitor, but says 90 percent of her sales come from Etsy. Because of the customized nature of her product, she’s not involved in fairs or craft shows. Of course, she hardly has time for them, considering that her “work day” can last from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.


Tobie Harris, a Los Angeles transplant, opened her knitted baby goods shop four years ago after her daughter LuLu was born. The store’s name,, refers to LuLu’s favorite stuffed toy.

“I focused the business around the soft, tactile things she loved as a baby and added some of my own style,” she says.

Soft Knit Eared Hats ($14-$18) and the Organic Cotton Lamby Hat ($18) are her top-selling items.

Harris supplements her Etsy store by selling to boutiques and online retailers, and she plans to participate in local fairs and shows as time permits. She’s sold 1,500 items since she joined Etsy in 2006, and she says her income varies between $1,200 to $2,500 per month.


Selling on Etsy can be quite a whirlwind, as Christine Esposito of discovered. To date, she’s sold nearly 7,000 pieces of jewelry made from aluminum cans cut into shapes, such as Hello Kitty heads and cupcakes (both $5). Her items range from animal-shaped magnets ($2) to surprise grab bags ($20).

When Esposito signed up two Decembers ago, she was unsure about Etsy, but was pleasantly surprised when she sold her first item in mere hours. Currently she’s making about $2,500 per month on Etsy, $500 more than her day job as a special education early child aide, which she keeps for the insurance and enjoyment. She adds that on Etsy you have to spend money to make money. “So many would croak if they saw my monthly Etsy bill,” she says with a chuckle.

Photo by HypefactorBecky Lanktree

Esposito goes to many arts and crafts shows, and she has a regular table at First Friday (on Charleston Boulevard behind the Arts Factory). The Going Green Gallery at the Arts Factory carries her items, as does Retro Bakery (7785 N. Durango Drive, Suite 130, 586-3740).


Recycling ordinary materials for jewelry has also proven lucrative for Becky Lanktree of and A former bartender, she started selling on Etsy in 2007, and now makes $45,000 to $50,000 per year from her business. Two-thirds of which is from Etsy.

On Tiny Trees, old Scrabble tiles become square necklace pendants ($6.50 and up). Art Under Glass showcases soldered glass jewelry ranging from small gift tins ($1.50) to vintage-style crown and initial necklaces ($35). Among Lanktree’s top-sellers are the Oval Bubble Soldered Charms ($18) with words such as “love” and “dream.” The Boulder City boutique Eclectica (501 Nevada Highway Suite 2, 294-2278) also carries Lanktree’s work.

Although she’s not a participant in the local art scene, Lanktree, like the others profiled here, believes it has a lot of potential. “I think the local art fairs and such are pretty good, considering the area isn’t as artsy as a lot of others,” she says.

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