by madeleine peck
Originally, I was assigned to take a look around at locally made gift ideas, and also to come up with suggestions for making homemade gifts. But after thinking about it, I realized that unless one is gifted with a certain skill set, home made gifts aren’t as welcome as one might hope.
That said, there are a few caveats: cookies, cakes, pastries and knitted scarves are always welcome. In fact, when it comes to scarves, I tend to think odder is better. Wit is always welcome too: in lieu of extravagant gifts think about the recipient and choose a “giver” to make the recipient laugh out loud. One year, for our extremely liberal, activist great-aunt, Oliver North gave her a wooden spoon, and muffin mix. The message: pipe down and get back in to the kitchen. All done in good fun, and everyone had a laugh (really, at Ollie’s expense). Other living and dead personages placed gifts under the family tree as well: Abe Lincoln, O.J. Simpson (pre-legal trouble), and Martha Stewart all graced our family with their commentary-esque gifts.
Of course, locally produced and made gifts have an ethical component to them. Beyond solely supporting community businesses though, buyers have the opportunity to support a dream. One a neighbor or friend nurtures.
Currently on display at the Burrito Gallery (21 E. Adams St., 598-2922) is a show by LA-based artist Tina Rodas. The works, soft-sculptures of trees (that do double-duty as pillows) range in price from $35 for plaque-mounted pieces to $175 for a larger pillow. Made from green felt, the trees use repetitive patterns to evoke the movement of trees without getting lost in detail; a simple and smart solution that is graphic without being hard-edged. Plus, they are made with love (notice the hearts).
Reddi Arts (1037 Hendricks Ave., San Marco, 398-3161) is another great source for handmade and unique items, besides art supplies, they have a small, edited selection of gift items. Favorites among these include the Japanese noodle bowls. At about $8 each, a pair makes a satisfyingly tactile gift.
However, the most remarkable change that seems to have taken place over the course of this year has been the growth in handmade and DIY businesses. Burro Bags, Zombie Bikes and Cycledic Fixity are all trying to make (almost literally) something out of nothing.
Though the idea of using reclaimed and found materials to make messenger bags isn’t new, it is new to Jacksonville. The bags at Burro Bags (1520 North Main St., 982-5422) are made to function. They are practical, attractive and designed primarily for cyclists. They are a designer’s answer to typically over-engineered bags. Burro Bags often has several on hand in their Springfield workshop. Burro has also debuted a new bag, the hip bag, which is kind of toolbelt-meets-fanny pack for the do-it-yourself set. Contact them for a custom bag, or to swing by their Springfield space on North Main or go to Burro Bags are also available at MOCA Jacksonville and Cycledelic Fixity carries the full line.
Cycledelic Fixity (1012 King Street, 389-5002) next to the Burger King in Riverside, might be the perfect place to splurge on a gift for the special someone. Specializing in affordable hand built fixed gear bikes, the shop also has smaller elements for sale, seats, handlebars, grips, and tires (especially those brightly colored ones that look so spiffy). Even if you can’t afford a new bike for the fixie-lover in your life, at $24.99, a pair of Origin 8 handlebars make a great gift.
Jewelry is always a great gift. But it can be prohibitively expensive…and, let’s face it: a lot of it is just plain ugly. But artist Jennelle Comiskey’s pottery and silver necklaces defy traditional notions of delicateness and preciousness. Suspended from a thin silver chain, clay charms inscribed with a variety of images in subtle glazes, the necklaces are super sweet and really affordable. Starting at about $35, they make great gifts and are available at Violet in 5 Points (1007 Park St , 355-4449) and at MOCA Jacksonville (333 North Laura St., 366-6911).
For that crafter or aspiring artist in your life, who can’t stop/won’t stop, classes might be a great way for them to hone their skills, and in so doing, make things that don’t induce cringes in the giftees (pine cone Santas are cutest when made by 3-year-olds).
3 Eclectic Chicks (1704 Hendricks Ave, 306-0923) and Corse Gallery (4144 Herschel St, 388-8205) both offer classes that range from portrait painting to beading and quilting. In the process, the crafter/artist in your life gets to engage in a little professional banter; satisfying for novices and professionals alike. Plus, both galleries offer embellished objects…perfect for at least one person on your list.
This year, I’ll be looking for a gift from Jacobs Jewelry (204 Laura St, 356-1655) under the tree. (I’m pretty sure that qualifies as handmade). In previous years I’ve received bling from Curly over at Curly’s Gold on the Northside. So now, I’m lobbying for something even more shiny…but, in these economic times, I’ll probably settle for a candy ring. Or perhaps, good taste will prevail and I’ll be gifted with something special from someone local.
Happy Holidays!