If you’re anything like me, the holidays are a grab-bag of different stressors, feelings, and plans. “Let’s spend X number of days with my family, and X number of days with your family,” “So-and-so wants to meet up with us when we’re back home for Christmas,” “Let’s do thanksgiving in a new place this year,” and “Maybe we should just stay in Nashville” are all conversations we have every year in our house as we begin the holiday planning.
Our planning is relatively the same every year: stay in Nashville for Thanksgiving, and go back to our hometowns in Illinois for Christmas where most of our families still live. It’s low-key and familiar and intimate.
Every year, both of our families do a gift exchange. This makes it easy for all involved because instead of buying every single person a gift, we pull names and we only have to get *one* person a gift. It’s fun, too, because you get a more intimate sense of whoever you’re buying a gift for.
There were a few years here where this felt less fun, though. Instead of thoughtfully picking a gift, I just bought whatever was on their Amazon wish list. Which, sure, is amazingly convenient! But it’s also impersonal and just putting more money into Jeff Bezos’ pocket instead of toward families and independent creatives doing what they love. So I took a page out of my friend Claire’s gift-giving handbook: shop small and get personal.
Claire doesn’t have an actual gift-giving handbook, but that girl really knows how to find excellent indie creators and shops. Every time she sends me a gift, it’s unlike anything I’ve seen anywhere else and feels like it was curated exactly for me. So I texted her for a list of shop recommendations last year when I pulled my sister Anna’s name for my family’s gift exchange.
Not only did gifting feel different last year, but it was received differently. I felt more excited to share the gift I got for my sister because it reminded me of her and I wanted to share the story of the shop I got it from (in case you’re wondering, I got her One Page At A Time by Adam J. Kurtz).
She was just as excited to receive it as I was to give it. My sisters and I all love journaling and this book is a super fun, creative way to create a daily habit of journaling. It says it’s a daily companion, but really.. you can just open it to a random page whenever you want and get to writing. And, even better, you get to support a small artist doing incredible things.
So it got me thinking: where else can I gift from this holiday season? I reached out to my Instagram followers for more ideas and they delivered (as they always do). I’ve compiled many of their replies with some of my own favorite shops in this unofficial Shop Small Gift Guide.
Calliope Paperie is, honestly, everyone’s idea of a great gift shop. Their brick-and-mortar location in Natick, Massachusetts is what my sweetest dreams are made of: pink, light and airy, and full of notebooks, pens, candles, and stationary. Their online shop is fully stocked with everything from gel pens to greeting cards, and gifts like enamel pins and coffee mugs, Calliope Paperie has got you, boo. Seriously, I’ll have one of everything.
Can’t make it in? Not sure what to get a loved one? They ship from their shop AND they have gift certificates! Wham, bam, thank you ma’am.
BRWNGRLZ is new to me, but damn am I glad that it was brought to my attention. Just reading their about me section has me feeling things. Per that page, BRWNGRLZ was “made for those with too much melanin for magazines, too much “sass” to be “normal,” and too many tongues to be understood,” and hot damn. They did not come to play.
BRWNGRLZ is a nod to Women of Color standing out in a crowd by creating warm, vibrant, beautiful accessories that were made to stand out in a crowd, too. The mission of BRWNGRLZ is to encourage everyone to live as the brown girl does: channel all of the things that make you stand out from the crowd, and own that life fearlessly.
Happy Modern Art by Kellijean Press
Decor you can play with: a novel idea, no? It’s exactly what designer and artist Kellijean had in mind when she created DESIGNcubes, a set of 16 patterned cubes of predetermined or custom colors. You can stack them, line them up, and manipulate the cubes to take whatever form you desire. A gift that not only gives one a display-worthy home decor item, but one that is ever-evolving — just like most of us.
Kellijean offers both pre-made sets and custom sets on her Etsy page, including metallics and a fun glow-in-the-dark option.
Thistle Farms is very special and near and dear to me personally because it’s located in my beloved city of Nashville, Tennessee.
Thistle Farms is an incredible organization whose mission is to empower women who have experienced sex trafficking, prostitution, and addiction by giving women a safe place to call home in their two-year residency program, a job in one of their social enterprises teaching valuable skills, and a lifelong sisterhood support network.
Every dollar spent at Thistle Farms directly benefits the survivors who make their products. Specializing in naturally-scented bath and body products, you can pick up a candle, a lip balm, or a body wash and be confident that your dollar will go much further than it would at a big box store. Pro tip: their tea tree lip balm is MY FAV.
King Sophie’s World
Sophie King is the ultra-badass, talented embroidery artist that your grandma wishes she was and HBIC of King Sophie’s World. Sophie took embroidery to the next level with her powerful messages stitched into her art, oftentimes offering her personal voice on sociopolitical matters or on the deeply personal experience of being a woman in a modern world.
King Sophie’s World is based in the UK, but she offers worldwide shipping on all of her prints, patches, pins, customizable orders, and more. The kind of things that make me want to buy one for every powerful woman in my life just as a little reminder of how powerful they really are.
You are magic. Own that shit.
– from the mouth of Jes herself.
Jes Lewis, the owner of JesHausMade, is an indie clay maker based out of central Florida specializing in naturally-inspired, whimsical, show-stopping jewelry designs.
What started as a small side project on Instagram to fill a gap of affordable, accessible, and still beautiful jewelry has blossomed into a full-time hustle for Jes. Her designs are thoughtfully curated and she often shows her process on her Instagram for her followers to see how she take a block of clay and molds it into a stunning piece of wearable art.
SUGARSKY is an eco-friendly outdoor goods shop whose guiding principle is to empower their patrons to be confident in what makes them different by rocking inspiring patterns and textures.
Handmade in the United States by artisan seamstresses, SUGARSKY offers headbands, bandanas, swimsuits, blankets, and a myriad of outdoor gear that is printed with eco-friendly ink on fabric made from recycled plastic. Every design is thoughtfully created, encompassing a vibe that is stylistically unique and wearable for everyday.
Jill Quackenbush Comics and Illustration
Portland-based cartoonist and illustrator Jill Quackenbush (dubbed @jquack on Instagram) has a playful style that’s truly hers. She specializes in creating custom, hyper-specific family portraits, and quirky custom vision boards. Ready to manifest that new career path? Or immortalize a family portrait of your family that doesn’t involve vaguely matching and posing in an outdoor setting? She’s got you.
Gifts like this are especially lovely because you get to show your support for artists by working intimately with an independent creator (and mama of two!) on a project that will be uniquely personal to you or the person you’re gifting to.
Chas is the head creative at Rad Ranch and the artisan maker behind all of their handcrafted, high-quality CBD products. Lip balm, body scrub, tinctures, and salve are just a few of the offerings over at Rad Ranch. Every single product is handcrafted with care and love in small batches, created with CBD grown right there on the ranch, plus healing essential oils, and all-natural ingredients.
Chasity is an ever-flowing supply of knowledge about her products and what their benefits and healing properties are. Whether you’re CBD-curious, a first-timer, or a longtime loyal customer, she’s there to help you find what will work best for you. Just send her a message via her Instagram page and she’ll be your guide.
If you need a personal testimony, then allow me: Chasity’s CBD salve has helped soothe me to sleep many a restless night. I apply it to my feet and legs just before bed. I’ve even used it to soothe a bee sting with *amazing* success. Oh, and her lip balm. Oooooh, boy. That stuff feels great and has long-lasting staying power.
SHE IS THIS
SHE IS THIS, an Atlanta-based illustration and print shop run by Shae of Skoope Home that seeks to represent women of color by showcasing their powerful beauty in her colorful, bold prints. SHE IS THIS works to empower women to see themselves as art, and to own the beauty of their skin, their hair, and their story. All of it is worth sharing.
SHE IS THIS offers free shipping on all US orders. And holy wow, it was really hard to only pick three images to share. They are amazingly beautiful.
Stay Home Club
A club that never meets, but a club nonetheless.
Stay Home Club is… amazing. It’s the gift stop for the person in your life that would just rather not. A friend that, basically, is a cat. A lifestyle brand for those with no lives, according to their about page.
Stay Home Club offers a wide array of apparel, home goods, and gift options that are both snarky and adorable, designed by both in-house and contributing artists. Stay Home Club has consistently been one of my favorite online shops to gift from — everything from enamel pins to greeting cards and sweaters. Give me all of it (and let me give it to everyone).
Plus, they offer super-casual, loose-fitting clothing that is *hello* truly the epitome of comfort.
Hangnail Collective, a project born from southern California-based artist Cilesse, is a female-fronted shop specializing in minimal Linocut portraits. Cilesse says to never trust someone who doesn’t have hangnails and to always get your hands dirty. That’s where the good stuff can be found.
In addition to the visually-stunning black-and-white portraits currently in the Hangnail Collective gallery (which is updated weekly), Cilesse says she can easily create custom colors to suit any style of decor and any home’s color way — you just have to tell her!
Much like Thistle Farms, Starfish Project is another organization that works to restore hope and empower women by giving aid to exploited women in Asia. The sales from Starfish Project go back into their social enterprises, where they teach women survivors to make beautiful jewelry and learn valuable skills to go on to become managers, accountants, graphic designers, and photographers.
When you make a purchase through Starfish Project, you’re able to send a message of hope to the woman who crafted your piece of jewelry.
Again, I want to thank everyone who sent me an idea for this post. As I was writing it up, I kept getting more and more excited to post and to gift this year. I realized something: EVERY SINGLE SHOP IS FEMALE-OWNED. Hell to the YES.
If there’s a shop you love, leave it in the comments or send it to me in an email! I love hearing from you all. Again, there are so many incredible shops listed here and so many more that I didn’t get the chance to include this go-round.
I’d also love to know what else you do for gifting! My sister-in-law and I were talking about having a theme one year. We tossed around the idea of “experiences” — so going and doing something or paying for someone to do something (dinner out, zoo membership, massages, etc). We also talked about gathering as a family to do an act of service in lieu of gifts.
Another thing worth noting: gifting is entirely optional, and entirely your call. No amount of pressure from family, friends, or normalized consumerist practices can change that if you don’t let it. If you and/or your family is in a place where you cannot spend money (or you just don’t want to!), that’s perfectly fine. There are plenty of ways of showing love, gratitude, and generosity without spending a dime. Go volunteer in your city or town, teach your children the value of a dollar, and have honest conversations about your decision to gift or not to gift. This is your call.
See y’all next time, and happy holidays!