We Love Really Cool Gifts

Photo courtesy of
’12/3/09 – “Santa’s Back in Town!”‘
courtesy of ‘heylovedc’

The holiday season is upon us, and whether you’re a partisan of Santa Claus, Baby Jesus, or Hanukkah Harry, it’s the time of the year when we’ve all got gift-giving on the brain. But you, dear We Love DC reader, do not want to give just any shiny, mass-produced bauble to your nearest and dearest, oh no. You’re the discerning type who wants to find something handmade that can’t be bought at your nearest Stuff-Mart.

Fortunately, DC is full of artists and craftspersons who make all kinds of unusual things for you to choose from.

richant1RichAnt is a self-taught painter who does brightly-colored images, usually of trees and other botanical themes. RichAnt’s Etsy shop ranges from large-ish paintings suitable for being the focal point of your living room (“Winter Blues” is my favorite) all the way down to these cute little glass pendants.

Also in the vein of original art you can hang on your wall or put in your pocket, there’s ArtShark Designs. I mentioned ArtShark last year as well, but I’m still so enchanted with the City Love series that I thought I’d mention it again. And of course, there are two DC-related images: DC Love – Capitol and DC Love – Washington Monument, which also comes in a pink cherry blossoms edition. If you’d rather have them in more portable form, the designs also come printed on Moleskine notebooks and notecards.

JETGallery has fun, brightly colored prints as well. “Sunshine of Your Love” is charming, but of course it was the Capitol and Washington Monument prints that caught my attention.

Goshdarnknit has fascinating pieces that I can really only describe as 3-D paintings/fiber art. You may have caught her exhibit at Artomatic- two paintings of knitting hands, joined together by an ethereal knitted web that seems to flow right off the painted needles. If you’re looking for something a little less tempting to cats and small children, she also has gocco-printed lunch bags and etched moleskine notebooks.

SVieraPhotoStacey Viera, whose photos you may have noticed from time to time here on We Love DC, is offering three different sets of handmade photo cards based on her images (with an actual 4×6 attached to the front), as well as prints of her various images. The photo cards are 10 for $25, or $3 each, and feature photos from the themes Food, Puppy Dogs, and Uniquely Washington. I think “It’s a Major Award” will prove quite popular. Prints are available from her online shop, but contact Stacey directly at staceyviera at gmail dot com for information on purchasing photo cards.

DC also boasts an army of jewelry designers in a staggering variety of styles.

Itsastich and spookychandelier are Etsy jewelry shops run by the same artist, Malarie, who makes lovely classic pieces like this cameo ring and simple stud earrings, as well as whimsical things like this Japanese fan necklace or this mushroom ring. Malarie also does some cool fabric items like pillowcases and totes by applying the design with bleach. The blue squid tote is my favorite.

Doing more elegant pieces is trillium. This shop features items frequently based on gemstone beads, and appropriate for someone with more restrained tastes. The paua shell/sterling leaf earrings are especially lovely, but there’s something incredibly romantic about this pearl-topped hair comb.

MaviBoutique is Turkish and lists her influences as “Native American, Mongolian, Tibetan and Eastern cultures,” so you can imagine how bright and jangly her jewelry is. There are Celtic pendants on heavily beaded necklaces, Nepalese elephants, and blown glass beads hanging around in this shop. Check it out; it’s delightful.

mannoliveringmannclovercuffsJimmy Mann of Mannmade Designs is another artist I mentioned last year, but his stuff is so charming I had to mention him again. His Etsy store is massive- it runs to 24 pages of diverse accessories. Recycled aluminum shapes, glass cocktail olives, bottle caps, and numerous other themes recur throughout his work. You can also view his pieces in person at Eastern Market on Saturdays and Sundays this month.

Along other types of female-focused accessories…

FeatherBrain makes feathered headbands that the more vintage-minded among us will immediately recognize as fascinators. This is kind of a specialized item, but if you’ve got a female friend with a kickass sense of style, these are really cool. The curly red feathers are a bold choice, but I think the peacock feathers would be my pick.

reboundsilverchairUsually the word “upcycled” seems like secret code for “trash I’m selling on Etsy,” but Caitlin of Rebound Designs makes really cool purses and wallets from vintage book covers. There are classic childrens’ hardcovers like The Five Little Peppers, but also some decidedly geeky paperback wallets like The Silver Chair and Return of the King.

There are a number of locals creating household accessories as well.

I had been looking all over Etsy for a local potter after having to have a couple of bowls shipped to me from the potter San Francisco so they could be wrapped and shipped BACK to the gift recipient in San Francisco. Goldhawk Pottery Etc. makes gorgeous, hand-thrown pottery, mostly of the serving vessel variety- platters, wide bowls, fruit bowls, etc. I love this light blue and yellow bowl; it makes me think of summer, and therefore what it would look like when filled with peaches. But I think my favorite is this blue and black pot.

chickadeelinenschickadeelinens2ThisChickadee sews funky table linens, placemats, & coasters. She’s having a coaster sale, in fact, and I think this green leaf pattern is cute. her stuffed shirt pillows are fun, too, especially this disco floor-style pattern from an old polyester shirt.

haleboppchopsticksI mentioned Art Drauglis’ woodwork last year, but it bears repeating. Art makes custom, hand-crafted wood furniture, but the smaller pieces Art creates to avoid wasting any wood are lovely and make good gifts. Chopsticks are economical enough to to pick up several pairs for when you need several similar gifts for coworkers, friends, cousins, etc. Also great for the dreaded office Secret Santa. Your coworkers do not need another Starbucks gift card. I love the Comet Hale Bopp cheeseboard for anyone who likes to entertain (or the larger Comet Holmes cutting board).

If I have any default go-to gift when I don’t know what to get someone, it ends up being fancy personal care products. Everyone has skin, after all, and it needs to be taken care of. Mary from Herban Lifestyle has you covered for both genders. She’s got sumptuous smelling goodies like the Rose Milque Face Mask for the ladies, but I am also pleased to note that she has an entire lineup of products for gentlemen. Usually men are sorely neglected in the fancy organic skin care department.

Finally, for the person who not only has everything but is trying like hell to get rid of it, there’s Erin Doland’s Unclutter Your Life in One Week, published last month. No, it’s not exactly handcrafted, but I personally know Doland was agonizing over every word for months, so who cares how it was printed?

And you guys, there are so many more talented people running around DC. This is a great time of year to find them, because they’ll be showing their art at holiday sales events, uploading more stuff than ever to Etsy (be sure to use the Shop Local feature, but watch it because it doesn’t know the difference between Washington, DC and Washington State), and just generally doing whatever they can to compete for your gift-purchasing dollar. Support them, won’t you?

But if you’re looking for some DC-themed media for your list, we’ve got you covered there too. Check the We Love DC Amazon Store for movies set in (but almost certainly not shot in) DC, books about DC, books by people from DC, etc.

Tiffany Baxendell Bridge is an Internet enthusiast and an incurable smartass. When not heckling the neighborhood political scene on Twitter, she can be found goofing off with her ukulele, Bollywood dancing, or obsessing about cult TV. She is That Woman With the Baby In the Bar.

Tiffany lives in Brookland with her husband Tom, son Charlie, and two high-maintenance cats. Read why Tiffany loves DC.

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12 thoughts on “We Love Really Cool Gifts

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  2. Great post! You included several of my favorite DC-area Etsians and introduced to me to several more amazing ones! Thank you, too, for including me in your list.

  3. I love to see so much love for handmade goodness in DC! You mentioned some of my favorites & also some I’ve never heard of. I would love to invite all of you to my 5th anniversary party/trunk show at the Dekka Showroom this Sunday. I’ll have all my goodies for sale, plus champagne & sweets! 1338 U St NW, 11 to 6. Hope to see you there!

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  6. I covered a number of local crafters in my recent review series at my blog Queering Domesticity. I’m DC based and love everything our craft scene has to offer!

    Come shop with 20 of the Craftiest Bastards next Saturday, December 19th, at the Design Within Reach in Adams Morgan from 10-5. This Chickadee, {craftgasm}, Tina Seamonster and so much more!

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