The one thing I’ve always adored about the holidays, are the rich, magical, and mythical traditions surrounding Sinterklaas. The excitement at the thought of a magical figure of goodwill arriving to leave behind tokens and trinkets for the well behaved children of the world. Once, a tradition of handmade, wonderful things like candles, carved wooden figures, toy dolls made out of fruit, and handmade ornaments.
Today, in 21st century America, it had seemed very much so that the magic of the myth has all since worn off and been replaced with what seems like mandatory consumerism. Packed stores with harsh, florescent lighting, rows and rows of shiny new objects and electronics made in mass that make rich men even richer and the put poor into even more debt…with low interest…
Until the recent support of small business and handmade resurgence.
Trendy? Perhaps. Back to the point of the holiday? Absolutely.
I quit buying in the big stores years ago and have been an advocate for handmade, local, and independent holiday ever since. It’s just more fun. Searching for that one of a kind, unique, quality made, perfect present is just MORE FUN and finding it is even better.
Every year my dad gets the best fresh roasted coffee beans straight from the the roaster at Allegheny Coffee Company and I stand in line for an hour to get delicious fresh-popped popcorn in the most original flavors from Pittsburgh Popcorn Company, both located in Pittsburgh’s bustling Strip District. The Strip district rests along the river and is rows of family owned business, fresh produce, and boutiques that have been there for decades. Not only does my dad get those special gifts that he looks forward to once a year…I get to take in the smells and sights while supporting those small businesses that have been passed from Grandfather, to Father, to Son…
Some of my favorite places for holiday shopping in the Strip include Pennsylvania Macaroni Company (ALL THE CHEESE), Mon Amie Chocolates, Roxanne’s Dried Flowers, Loom Exquisite Textiles, Hot Haute Hot, Allegheny Coffee Company, and Penzeys Spices.
Other places that are great for unique gift finding include Boutique 208 (downtown), Most Wanted Fine Art (gallery on Penn Ave in Garfield and Bizarre! Bazaar! Boutique in the Waterfront), Pittsburgh Antique Shops (Castle Shannon), Journey’s of Life (Shadyside), and Artisan (Penn Ave in Garfield)….there are so many more, it’s impossible to list them all…we are so fortunate to have so many amazing small businesses in Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods.
(above: Artisan Tattoo & Gallery on Penn Ave in Garfiled Instagram: _artisan_ )
I realize not all of my readers are local or native to my area…so I’ve also included a list of some of my favorite online purveyors of handmade and independent….
Deadly Grounds Coffee: http://www.deadlygroundscoffee.com Instagram: @deadlygroundscoffee
Because who doesn’t need a bag of independently roasted cinnamon coffee with a picture of zombie Santa on the front?
It’s fairly obvious I’m a sucker for dolls, and these handmade monsters from Junker Jane are some of my favorite. http://www.junkerjane.com Instagram: @junkerjane
Fiendies is one of my new favorites: http://www.fiendies.com Instagram: @enchantedrumors
Engraved Spirit Boards, planchettes, elder runes, as well as quartz candles and fire dust. So unique, so much to choose from.
Morph Knitwear…some of the most stunning, handmade, knitwear for dark souls. http://www.morphkknitwear.com Instagram: @morphknitwear
Salt Circle Metals, hand carved and cast jewelry from Portland. The Phantoms Collection is to die for. http://www.saltcirclemetals.com Instagram: @saltcircle
Again, I’m a sucker for dolls…obviously. But Christy Kane, has always been one of my absolute favorites and I can’t do a holiday list without her. Hand stitched and embroidered, her Sisters Kane are made with so much love and fable.
http://www.sisterskane.com Instagram: @christykanedolls
Another that I’ve had the pleasure of crossing paths with recently is New England artist, Bill Crisafi. Simplistic black and white, but detailed, dark dream like illustrations spun from witchcraft and stories only the night would tell.
http://www.billcrisafi.bigcartel.com and http://www.burialground.org Instagram: @billcrisafi and @burialground
Sacra Luna goods from the sacred moon and gifts made in nature. Another new recent favorite artisan of jewelry, crystal grids, and all things mystical.
http://www.sacraluna.etsy.com Instagram: @sacraluna
Lastly, some of my favorite illustrations are those of Jon MacNair. His work speaks entirely for itself.
http://www.jonmacnair.com Instagram: @crispycopper
There are so many artists, artisans, clothiers, jewelry makers, and more…I could go on all day. But, here is your start. Now you have to do the rest of your digging for yourself. Go have fun, find that perfect and unique, one of a kind present that someone will never forget while supporting the little guys who work hard to bring you that special something without the use of factories and advertisement.