This holiday, I decided to buck the malls and chain stores, and in the spirit of aiding a crappy economy,
everything I buy will be local, handmade, and just plain awesome. After all, there are only so many slippers, fleece jammie pants, and Red Lobster gift cards
a person can handle (sorry Mom). With a shopping list about a dozen items long and a motley crew of friends with great taste, narrowing down what I need to buy can be a total headache.
Fortunately, since I organize Indie Mart, a local design and DIY show, 200 or so local designers come my way every year, giving me pick of the litter. This makes my holiday shopping much easier – and in turn, I can give you the short list of the best local gifts that won’t end up as white elephants.
The Gangs of San Francisco’s line of shirts are the brainchild of Larry Faedi, a restaurant guy by day and graphic designer by night. I love Larry's shirts so much, I agreed to build his store, partially so I could score tons of tees for the dudes I know. I also wanted to give his amazing brand a proper space that looks as rad as his designs. Larry’s tees incorporate historic graphics that are plucked from SF’s weird legends and old neighborhoods. The shirts say way more than some store-bought generic thing you send your dad for the holidays. My favorite: The Butchers of Bayview design, which actually came from the old meatpacking district in the late 1800s.
I bought my first Nooworks dress about two years ago after trying it on with a sense of chubby-girl sarcasm (yeah right, this may fit) and am now on my fifth one from Jen D'Angelo, a local designer and bartender extraordinaire who used to sling me greyhounds at The Attic. Jen's dresses have turned on just about all my lady friends as well. Her concept is simple: cute designs in fabrics she creates using local artists. They also flatter any figure and have pockets (perfect for keys and IDs so you can ditch the purse) and are user-friendly for busty broads. Coming from a bartending past, Jen knows you gotta be able to move and look pretty at the same time. Her dresses are a SF staple – they move fast though, since most are limited editions.
We all have those carnivorous foodie friends who can't wait to talk up the latest recipe or the weird cut of cow they just brought home from their butchery class. Shower these folks with some meat art.
Drywell creates art pieces and posters that showcase your favorite piggies and bovines in new ways. My favorite is the city map of meat cuts, showing SF’s neighborhoods emblazoned on a pig.
A few other highlights: the I Like Big Butts meat print, the Narwhal Meat poster, the Merry Carnitas holiday cards, and the 2012 Meat and Butcher Calendar. It's easier than buying your friends ground beef and it lasts beyond one meal.
For the badass in your life, try giving archery lessons at the Golden Gate Park Archery Range. The sport isn't just inspiration for "it" graphics you see on pillows and T-shirts, it’s a real deal. There’s something a little thrilling about getting your Robin Hood on with a game of bows and arrows. Not only is SF graced with a free archery range (which you can use openly once you’ve been schooled by the Pro Shop), but there’s also an awesome pro shop that works with the range on affordable equipment rentals, private lessons, and more. The store has a few amazing teachers on hand to school you on how to properly shoot. Archery lessons are an awesomely medieval gift someone won't soon forget.
I fell in love with Photobooth when I saw that it could feed my Polaroid obsession while offering a plethora of awesome, rare cameras and film. This retail space not only hosts photography classes, the owners also make tintypes – a long lost tradition of crafting photos on aluminum plates. I’m thinking this will be the gift of choice for my artsy friends who will appreciate the process. Photobooth offers tintype portraits for $50, and it's definitely way cooler than the time your mom took you to Glamour Shots in 8th grade where they made you look like a gigolo.
Best gift for the man who hasn't figured out that grooming is in: Give him a hot shave from Shorty Maniace at Mystic Hair. Shorty is like the god of razors. And guys, I’ve heard that you just aren't complete until you’ve had him clean you up.
We’re talking masculine luxury at it finest, as well as the closest shave you’ll ever have, a mini facial and for only $30-bucks. Something about the old-school process of sitting in a chair while having a knife to your neck is just the right combo of dangerous and refined.
Shorty also offers shaving classes, which include a starter kit that will get you out of lumberjack mode and into the realm of real haberdashery.
I am a big fan of flannels, but with the resurgence of more tailored menswear, I’ve become fond of a new kind of plaid. It’s locally made, and a bit more polished than the thrift store shirt you've had since the Pearl Jam Tour circa 1993. Pladra makes plaids that are lined with rad fabrics, so you get a little peek of a spirit animal in there (wolves, bears, and other outdoor scenes). Some even have studious elbow patches on them. They come with great detailing, fit well, and work for the ladies or the fellas.
The first time I saw an Adina Mills ’ crystal ring, I wasn't sure if it was a weapon, had the power to defeat Superman, or was wearable jewelry. Adina is a magical traveling wonder but often sets up base camp in SF. She forages and finds gems, stones, and crystals on her cross-country travels and turns them into wearable art. Her rings are by far my favorite and make a huge statement. I own five of these lovelies, each one fetching their weight in gold with compliments. Adina often shows at local design fairs but you can also find her jewelry at BellJar.
Yeah they are. Who doesn't love boobs? Gravel & Gold made an epic shirt of, well, hooters. Local artist Cassie McGettigan created this unique graphic that was then
printed on fabric and sewn into various designs right in the shop. You can check out Gravel
& Gold’s blog to find out more
about all the chests that inspired her. Can't get enough of this fun print? There's also a bag in the same design. Although you can always go for the real thing, too.
Thanks to Michael Shindler for the tintype photos used here.