Posted on November 14 2020 by Emi Curtis
The world of Etsy is a massive one, with over 2 million registered sellers and over 60 million items for sale. For those as of yet unaware, Etsy is a storefront site where individuals can post handcrafted goods for sale, including pop culture and geek-inspired trinkets and creations. For as easy as it can be to find almost anything you’re looking for as a buyer, making one’s way as a seller can be a daunting experience. It is not a path many take as a primary source of income and even fewer as a full time operation. Those that manage this however tend to be driven, savvy, and impassioned with what they do. This week, I caught up with one such seller, Loot Cave Co. and took some time to learn about their journey.
Loot Cave Co. is massive storefront with an even more massive variety of things one can buy from them; a large number of which being Zelda-related items, including earrings, necklaces, pendants, socks, and even cookie cutters. (Because who wouldn’t want to bite into Sidon’s beautiful face?) One of their most primary ventures is the creation of ‘Job Stones’ from the popular MMO Final Fantasy XIV which are small, uniquely shaped gems that give an individual class abilities within the game’s lore. With over 35,000 sales on their Etsy alone and a dedicated website to their products, Loot Cave Co. is no small operation. Despite this though, the founder, Dylan Howell, was more than happy to take some time to answer some questions for me.
Let’s start with introducing yourself!
“My name is Dylan, I am an artist / entrepreneur that attended the University of Georgia. I have a passion for creating things from works of fiction/pop culture and building useful inventions.”
How exactly did Loot Cave Co. come about? It’s not a typical sort of business venture to say the least.
“Since middle school I have always been a person who loves fabrication. I started making woven necklaces, quickly transitioned to full Duct Tape fashion (including purses, wallets, and clothes), then moving into more complex challenges like furniture and Nerf Gun mods. Since around that same time I had also been an avid lover of video games, anime, trading cards, and fantasy literature; so naturally I incorporated those things into my passions and the themes of my creations. Around college I had to slow my hobbies down to make way for classes and studying, until year 4 when my father passed away very suddenly. My coping mechanism to deal with such a detrimental loss was to turn very heavily back into my love of building, keeping myself and my hands busy.
“I started crafting some pieces for friends who were into cosplay and convention life, which they were incredibly happy with. In order to partially fund my living situation, and the hobby itself, I created the Etsy shop known as Loot Cave Co. today. After a semi-viral post, I woke up to find over 300 orders in the first weekend, resulting from several small things I had listed. Everything from then on has been making Loot Cave what it is today, a passion project to share my work with like minded people and fans, bringing the same joy and quality to video game fans that I offered my friends originally. Fantasy kept my life together in a really tough situation and I want to bring that same level of love and comfort to everyone who resonates with these things the way I do.”
Given one of your primary item categories is Legend of Zelda, what is your personal history with the Zelda series? Do you have a favorite game from the series?
“I’ve played almost every Zelda game that’s been released, minus the CD-i series (though we really don’t like to recognize that those exist anyway). I have fully completed Link to the Past on its Game Boy port, Wind Waker, and Breath of the Wild. My favorite is definitely Link to the Past as it has a charm and world that made it unforgettable for me, especially since I played it while still fairly young.”
Obviously given the wide variety of items at Loot Cave, you have a strong connection to video games. Can you tell me more there?
“I am a gamer through and through; escapism through video games is just so specifically cathartic. Being able to be someone else and make decisions in a world that is so completely separate from your own makes the draw far more interesting to me than anime or books.”
You’re a fairly popular storefront. How do you handle high order volumes in peak seasons?
“I really couldn’t handle it alone, I have several people I’ve met over the years that actually assist daily with some tasks. It has grown to a point that doing this alone would be impossible and I’m lucky to have a small network of like-minded creators to join in my original passion project.”
What inspires you when creating new items for your store?
“Partially fan requests, partially things I have just enjoyed recently. At any time I have a whiteboard filled with 20-30 things to try my hand at.”
Could you describe your daily process when it comes to creating things for your store?
“It’s hard to say, I work very sporadically, but mainly my day starts with a hand-ground and pressed cup of coffee (I cannot live without it.) I then check messages, and begin various processes of fabrication for the days orders, fill orders, and in between tackle any problems or new projects that happen to crop up.”
What can someone expect when ordering from you?
“I do my best to maintain the highest level of quality and attention to detail possible. Everything is handmade and artisan, using some very specific and unique processes, therefore each piece is slightly unique and has its own look and personality. Regardless, each person should expect to receive a little piece of art that brings the things they love in video games to life right in front of them. We package up each piece in recycled mailers and individual paper bags (we really try to be environmentally friendly) and then ship it out. We also try our best to replace or fix anything someone may be unhappy with.”
Any last words to share?
“I appreciate this article and the communities I craft for in general. It’s truly been a dream come true to be allowed to make things for people the way I’m able and though it can be incredibly stressful at times; I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.”
I personally own several items from Loot Cave myself actually, many of them gifts, and it’s clear a lot of love goes into the work being done. Getting to speak with Dylan, it’s clear where that attention to detail and quality comes from. As an artist and tinkerer myself, it’s interesting to see how things like loss, coping, and support can blossom into new and greater things, much like a phoenix rising from the ashes.
What do you think about the creations of Loot Cave? What things have you been inspired to do by less than fortunate circumstances? Let us know in the comments below!
Emily Curtis is a junior editor with Zelda Dungeon. She is a freelance artist, crafter and programmer with maybe a bit of an addiction to video games. She can frequently be found playing Randomizer runs of Majora’s Mask and Wind Waker, her two favorite Zelda games. Currently, she is in the midst of writing a Breath of the Wild tabletop rulebook and catching up with Travis Touchdown in the new Switch port of No More Heroes. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram as her alter-ego Yuurei, posting art and incites on the world today.