Holidays 2009: Local Craft Gifts

Shine up your halo by giving gifts from local shops.

By Emily Guendelsberger
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Dec. 1, 2009

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As another recession-era holiday season rolls around, keep in mind that local boutiques and craftspeople don’t have the insulation of a chain store; when they have a few bad years, they’re just gone, forever. Consciously tipping the balance of your shopping toward locally-owned places instead of chain stores or the Internet helps keep interesting places open and prevents you from giving your loved ones yet another book or DVD you spent five seconds ordering from Amazon. 

For your Aunt Betty, who’s happiest when tasting things she’s never tasted before:

Go to the back of Verde, the fancy garden supply store, and you can watch through a glass panel as chef Marcie Turney, of neighboring BYOBs Bindi and Lolita, spreads caramel and pours chocolate to assemble some of the most interesting chocolates in town. With flavors like white chocolate/curry/coconut, smoked bacon/caramel and rosemary/pine nut/caramel/sea salt, you can give your favorite person obsessed with the Asian grocery a new tasting experience.

4-pack Marcie Blaine chocolates, $7.95. Verde, 108 S. 13th St. 215.546.8700.

For your friend who recently started using words like “heirloom pork” and “Provençale”:

Although your friend may insist on only buying locally grown food these days, you remember when she subsisted on ramen out of a Styrofoam cup. But you won’t tell. Help her keep her kitchen looking like a real foodie’s with Mike Geno’s colorful, gorgeous prints of still-life food paintings. You’d never think raw meat and hardboiled eggs could be so beautiful.

Mike Geno food prints, $20. Mew Gallery, 906 Christian St. 215.625.2424.

For your 12-year-old niece attending private school:

If there’s a young lady in your life who’s getting disturbingly jaded for her age, see what she thinks of Color Me Fierce , a “fashion activity book” by Philly artist Nike Desis of FLUXspace It comes with six crayons with colors like “Black Is the New Black” and raises questions about body image and women’s media depictions with activities such as “Can you help dress Tatiana using the colors of seduction?” The book is very cynical and has sexual overtones not appropriate for the innocent, but hey, you could say the same about Paris Hilton, and at least this is smart.

Color Me Fierce coloring book, $12. Bambi Gallery, Piazza at Schmidt’s, 1001-13 N. Second St. 267.319.1374.

For your little sister, who drinks Olde English and rides her bike everywhere:

Sometimes the party sucks and everyone you rode your bike with wants to move on to the next place, but dammit, you’ve just opened the drink you budgeted for the night and you don’t want to just toss it. We’re not supporting drunk biking in the city, which is just begging for a broken face, but sometimes you simply need a cupholder in the interest of frugality. has just the thing: handmade beer cozies in bottle and 40 oz. sizes that strap onto your frame and allow you to transport your beverage without biking one-handed.

Beer cozy, $5-$12, bike strap, $2., 625 S. 23rd St.

For your mom, with whom you ceremonially exchange ornaments every year:

OK, so you don’t know what to get your mom, and she hasn’t really known what to get you since Ninja Turtles were in vogue either. After a certain amount of time being an adult, you both settle into a pattern of buying each other ornaments. But she’s your mom, and even though you’ve fallen into a gift-giving rut, she deserves the nicest darn Christmas ornament you can find. The color combinations in the handmade glass owls at Art Star are not to be beat, and it sure beats hitting Hallmark again.

Glass Happy Owl ornament , $36. Art Star, 623 N. Second St. 215.238.1557.

For your drinking buddy, who’s gonna get you back next time, seriously:

You know what they say about teaching a man to fish. Send your friend a hint that neither of you are made of beer money with everything he needs to brew up a gallon of hard cider. There’s an extremely simple walkthrough of the count-’em-on-one-hand steps to turn apple juice into booze on the Paupered Chef website, but chat with the person behind the counter at your local homebrew store just to be safe.

#6 stopper , $1.95; plastic airlock ; $1.75, packet Lalvin D-47 yeast , $.95. Home Sweet Homebrew , 2008 Sansom St. 215.569.9469.

1-gallon glass jug Whole Foods apple juice, $6.99. Whole Foods, 2001 Pennsylvania Ave. 215.557.0015.

For your favorite nicotine or iPhone addict, who always complains that her fingers are freezing:

Smokers, touchscreen users and anyone who can’t access his or her drug of choice while wearing gloves knows how annoying the cycle of “left hand in pocket/ow ow ow ow cold/right hand in pocket/ow ow ow cold” can get in winter. These gloves by Carolina Amato have little slits sewn in around the top knuckle of your thumb and index finger, allowing the necessary bits to come out when needed while leaving the rest of the hand warm.

Holed It gloves, $29.95-$74.95. Scarlett Alley, 241 Race St. 215.592.7898.

For your friends whose walls look the same as they did six months ago:

One of the easiest decorating tricks out there, chalkboard paint, goes on in 15 minutes and dries into an excellent, non-digital way to keep track of your grocery list, calendar, to-dos, messages for housemates, drawings of genitalia left over from parties … the sky’s the limit. You can find big cans of black at specialty paint stores, which are enough to cover a serious amount of square footage, or you can get one of the mini-cans at PHAG, available in a half-dozen or so colors, to turn a piece of your home something other than the dingy shade of Bachelor off-white.

Chalkboard paint, $8.50. Philadelphia Home Art Garden, 1225 Walnut St. 215.627.0461.

Dustless multicolored chalk, $1. Dick Blick, 1330 Chestnut St. 215.545.3214.

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