Beto O’Rourke in Candle Wax. Ted Cruz in Acrylic. Meet the Crafters Who Love Politics.
Posted November 2, 2018 5:24 p.m. EDT
While some Americans have prepared for next week’s election by obsessively following the news or canvassing neighborhoods, a small minority has poured that energy into a more quirkily patriotic pastime: crafting!
Etsy, the online craft store, has in recent years become a clearinghouse for homemade political paraphernalia. During the 2016 election, meme-able phrases from debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were transformed into T-shirts within hours. In the run-up to the midterms, some new candidates have received the Etsy treatment, including prominent Democrats like Beto O’Rourke and Andrew Gillum. But the 2016 heavyweights, including Trump, continue to dominate the site. Trump’s image adorns thousands of shirts, hats and knickknacks created by both supporters and detractors.
Below, we’ve highlighted a selection of political merchandise available on the site
Beto O’Rourke votive candle | $12.99
These candles were created by Camillo Melchiorre, a 39-year-old Philadelphian who has been closely following O’Rourke’s campaign to represent Texas in the Senate.
Several Texans have acquired the candles, including Loren Raun, a professor of environmental statistics at Rice University in Houston, who received one as a gift. She has yet to light the candle, though, citing superstition.
“I think it’ll be on the actual Election Day,” she said. “Maybe I’ll have a ceremony, I don’t know.”
Eighteen people have bought the candles since he started selling them two weeks ago, Melchiorre said. By contrast, he’s sold more than 200 candles dedicated to one of the few Republicans in his collection: Robert Mueller.
Trump Christmas tree ornament | $5
When she has free time, Adele Rutherford, 57, drives around Pittsburgh, searching for houses with roofers atop them. She negotiates with them for the raw slate they remove from the roofs, and takes the material home to Shaler, Pennsylvania, about 6 miles north of the city. She cuts the slate, cleans it, paints it and sells it. She has been doing this for about 20 years, and during the 2016 election, she turned her talents to Trump ornaments.
“When I first started selling them, the little ladies would say, ‘Oh put that in a bag please,’ as if they were buying condoms,” Rutherford said. “Now, last week I did a craft show and people are saying, ‘Hey, where are those Trump things, I want five of them.’ People are becoming much less worried about what their friends think.”
Most of the merchandise on Etsy that is dedicated to Trump includes an image of his face, but Rutherford said her ornaments were a “nontoxic” solution to people who were less enthusiastic about the president.
“Even if people hate Trump, you can’t hate a snowman,” she said.
Rutherford has been to three of the president’s rallies and said she had sold “probably hundreds” of the ornaments, mostly offline.
Mazie Hirono downloadable print | $3.99
When Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii spoke out about the sexual assault allegations against Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Jen Wilde was listening. Wilde, a 31-year-old Australian artist who lives in New York City, posts political drawings on Instagram and sells them as downloadable PDFs on Etsy.
“Rage inspires most of my work,” she said in an email. “There’s a lot of valid anger being felt by women, people of color, queer folks and other marginalized communities.”
Wilde, of course, cannot vote for Hirono, but she said she has been following her re-election campaign through social media. Wilde said the print had not sold well on Etsy but had attracted outsize attention on Instagram.
“It received a lot of negative comments — mostly from white men, which didn’t surprise me,” she said. “A progressive woman of color telling men to shut up? The hate that post received far outweighed any hate I got on my other posts.”
Miniature acrylic Ted Cruz painting | $15
Much of the merchandise dedicated to O’Rourke’s Republican opponent, Sen. Ted Cruz, is mocking. (Google the senator’s name and “Zodiac killer” to learn more.) But a unique tribute to Cruz that was painted during the 2016 election remains available for sale on Etsy.
The artist, Barbara Kalla, said she liked and respected Cruz, though he was not her preferred candidate at the time. Her choice was Trump, she said.
Kalla, who moved to the United States from Poland in the early 1990s and lives in Peoria, Arizona, said she does not plan to vote in the midterms because she is unfamiliar with the candidates. She said she was likely to vote for Trump again in 2020 (“I admire the man”) but will wait to make a decision until she sees the full field.
She said her accent told anyone speaking to her all they needed to know about why she is conservative.
“I know the other thing doesn’t work,” she said.
Print of Tim Kaine with octopus on his head | $25
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., is another 2016 holdover who finds himself running again in 2018, and, like for Cruz, many of the items dedicated to him date to that election.
Jonathan Crow, a programmer in Silicon Valley, started drawing all the vice presidents with octopuses on their heads when he was laid off in 2013. He thought the goofiness of the animal was a good match for the goofiness of the role, which he described as “the ultimate dead-end job.”
Expecting that Clinton would win the presidency, Crow planned to release this portrait of her running mate on election night. Of course, it was not to be. Still, Crow said, he has sold 11 of the prints since, to “people who wanted to live in an alternate universe where he became vice president.”