Wrap it up

A roundup of local and handmade gift ideas for the holidays

Photo/Ashley Hennefer

Despite picture-perfect, Pinterest-worthy holiday decorations and gifts popular on the internet and on magazine covers, there’s a sense of minimalism dominating the holiday season for some of us this year. “Black Friday” was boycotted, with many favoring “Buy Nothing Day” and “Small Business Saturday” instead. The ailing economy has a way of refocusing priorities and expectations, and the “Buy Local” movement encourages consumers to spend money in their communities, supporting small businesses. But it’s important to note that buying local, while economically sustainable, doesn’t always equal environmentally sustainable. That comes more with buying items sourced, developed and produced by Reno artisans.

According to Danielle Henderson, founder of Campfire Ceramics, buying handmade items is about quality. And quality is the key to drawing consumers away from big box stores toward custom gifts.

“Objects can have an intrinsic value because of the memories they spark,” she says. “When you buy from a local artist, there’s interaction with the person who gave you the present, and then there’s interaction with the maker, and then that develops into a connection to the item.”

Henderson founded Campfire Ceramics in fall 2012. This is her second holiday season. She says the winter is a busy time for many artisans. Planning ahead to accommodate sales is vital for small business’s success. Prior to ceramics, Henderson had a small jewelry-making business. She’s noticed an influx in American made products, a movement seeing mainstream traction through corporations like Martha Stewart and American Express supporting makers and entrepreneurs.

Henderson cites the trendy “bespoke” style currently popular—“bespoke” refers to clothing and items custom handmade for the buyer. (There’s also Bespoke, a boutique in Truckee, that sells handmade goods.)

“I have a lot of hope that we will bring back American craftsmanship,” says Henderson. “Etsy and Big Cartel and websites like that have been huge for people making their own items.”

Henderson says that most local artists gain customers through word of mouth, so having opportunities to share their work helps to show the community that buying local “can be accessible.”

“There are some really good local shows here in town,” she says. “It’s a great outlet to sell and buy handmade goods. You get a chance to meet the artist, too, so you have that personal connection.”

She notes that there’s a perception that buying local can be pricier and is only for “arts and crafts things.”

“It can certainly be more expensive, but I’m willing to pay more for a story,” she says. “And you know someone has taken the time to make something custom just for you.”

Although Pinterest can be a source of consumerism and lifestyle envy, there’s a phrase floating around the website that some have embraced as the guideline for holiday purchases: gifts must fall within “something you want / something you need / something to wear / something to read.” Kind of catchy, right? This little ditty can certainly be adapted for taste, and it served as a loose guideline for how we looked for places to shop locally at this season.

Something to decorate

Few gifts say “thoughtful” like locally created custom art pieces. While it's tempting to peruse Etsy for the perfect TARDIS dress or ironic cross-stitching, there's plenty of handcrafted items to be found by talented craftsmen and women in this city. And several local artists—including Henderson—see online stores as a way to expand their business without leaving the Northern Nevada community.

This year, the Buy Local efforts have become closely tied to the local art scene. Within the past few weeks, artists have organized several art shows dedicated to promoting and selling art work for holiday gifts. On Dec. 12, the University of Nevada, Reno Clay Club hosted a Christmas sale to fundraise for a trip to the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts. And the Holland Project held a holiday craft fair featuring more than 20 artists. But even if you missed out on these events, artists’ work can still be purchased by contacting the Clay Club (www.facebook.com/UNRCeramics) and the Holland Project (www.hollandreno.org).

Through Dec. 30, Never Ender Reno (www.neverenderreno.com) will host the Cash & Carry Art Show and Sale, featuring work by more than 20 Reno-based artists. Throughout the year, Never Ender also sells clothing, jewelry and other wearables. Reno Art Works, open Mon.-Sat. from noon until 7 p.m., has displayable art pieces available for purchase (www.renoartworks.org).

Something to imbibe

Instead of bringing a bottle of generic wine to a family gathering, locally sourced and brewed libations are a classier choice.

There’s no shortage of coffee shops in town, but beans roasted in Nevada can be a bit harder to find. Hub Coffee Roasters (www.hubcoffeeroasters.com), Wood-Fire Roasted Coffee Company (www.woodfireroasted.com) and Kolika Coffee (www.kolikacoffee.e-beans.net) offer several selections of whole beans in various flavors and strengths. Bibo Coffee Company (www.bibocoffeecompany.com) sources direct and fair trade coffee.

Booze options are aplenty through local breweries, and seasonal brews can be unique. Great Basin Brewing Company (www.greatbasinbrewingco.com) offers the 2013 Wassail, available for a limited time, as well as beer-related accessories in its gift shop. New Fourth Street brewery Under the Rose Brewing Company (www.undertherosebrewing.com)–named for its proximity to Mt. Rose—features a special edition holiday beer available in its tasting room.

Something to wear

The real indication of the holiday season is when jewelry commercials dominate the airwaves. There's usually some cheesy narrative about a man proposing to his girlfriend featuring a sparkly diamond hanging from a Christmas tree or from the collar of a furry puppy. But instead of adding to the bigwigs in an industry rife with overvalued products, several local jewelers make custom items from scratch.

D Street Designs (www.dstreetdesigns.com) owner Doug E. Moore creates unconventional alternatives to standard engagement and wedding rings, but will also work with people to create items based on their designs. Michael & Sons (michaelandsonsjewelers.com), aside from traditional jewelry options, can also craft specialized items from several metals and different gems and stones. Their store also offers traditional Native American art and jewelry.

Beyond sparkly bling, clothing items make for excellent gifts for family members and friends of all ages. For the unique stylist, Atomic Ave Clothing Company (www.atomicaveclothing.com) makes specialty pin-up style dresses and accessories for women. And PolyEsther Boutique (www.polycostumes.com) has long been an outlet for experimental but high quality wearables for men, women and children.

Something for later

If you're still stuck on shopping for your loved ones, consider giving a gift card or gift certificate. It still supports local businesses while allowing for a fun, post-holiday shopping day. Besides stores, many restaurants, museums, and theaters offer gift certificates if activities are more your style.