Death + Art / Architecture Death + Popular Culture Death + the Web

The Dark Arts, the DIY/craft juggernaut, is the go-to place to buy and sell all things handmade. If you are familiar with this phenomenon, you would know that if it’s vintage button earrings and owl-themed stationary you desire, then Etsy has it locked down.

The Etsy craze is so hot right now that it was recently featured in a NY Times story. Online since 2005, Etsy employs 74 people — and one dog named Dottie — according to the “About” section of their website. And, you really know you’ve made it when another site pops up mocking yours — see

Since I am interested in craft and DIY culture, and I like to troll Etsy from time to time, I decided to do a little searching on some death-related terms and see what comes up. I figured I’d see some skeleton-themed, Halloween-y stuff and sure enough, I wasn’t disappointed. But digging a bit deeper, one comes across a most interesting array of death/dead/dying oriented items that are available for purchase for that special someone in your life.

I compiled a list of search terms and their corresponding hits below. But alas, there are some false hits. For example, in searching the term “dying,” Etsy doesn’t make the distinction between a seller writing that you may be “dying” to get your hands on her vintage fabric scrap neck gator vs. actual items that somehow are related to the actual act of dying. The “Advanced Search” supposedly allows you to narrow your search by adding the minus (-) sign, but it doesn’t always work. So, to use the “dying” example again, if you search on that term, you will also be given items that are tie-died and die-cut. As you can imagine, this annoys this here librarian. The date of this search was Sunday, February 21, 2010.

  • We found 11,675 results for dead.
  • We found 3,470 results for death.
  • We found 16,098 results for dying.
  • We found 549 results for coffin.
  • We found 337 results for funeral.
  • We found 11 results for morgue.
  • We found 62 results for burial.
  • We found 161 results for suicide.

Peering further into these categories, here now are but a few of the handmade goodies on offer (click the photos to see the items in Etsy). I’ll let you explore some of the more “shock and awe” items on your own.

Toe-Tag Party Invitation

Natural, Green Burial Casket

Vintage Wells Fargo Casket Tag

Human Bone Necklace

2 replies on “The Dark Arts”

You came to the right place to be in the wrong place! Google’s no librarian, but we are. Try searching using quote marks:

“Grateful Dead” tie dye
“Grateful Dead” “tie dye shirt”

or add a motif or album name, if you want something specific:

“Grateful Dead” bears tie dye shirt
“Grateful Dead” skull and roses tie dye boxers
“Grateful Dead” Ship of Fools tie dye

The more specific you get, usually the better results… sometimes the quote marks aren’t necessary then.

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