All I Want for Christmas is This Cool Swag from Indie Artisans

Eek!  My last post was Halloween-themed and it’s almost Thanksgiving.  I’d better get a jumpstart on the next holiday with some gift giving suggestions for Christmas and Yule.  Here’s what I want for Christmas: Support these and other indie artisans so that we’ll be living in a world full of creative, talented people.  Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive:  If I listed all of the artisans and companies that I love, this page would never load – and some of my favorites (you know who you are) aren’t actively selling their work right now.  There are also tons of jawdroppingly talented handcrafters and artists that I haven’t even discovered yet.  Don’t hesitate to tell me about them in the comments!  And now, without further ado, I present to you:

A basket of goodies from Carioca Witch. (Photo used with permission.)

A basket of goodies from Carioca Witch. (Photo used with permission.)

Carioca Witch

Nydia Macedo, a Brazilian witch and the artist-owner behind Carioca Witch, says, “Creating and recreating goddesses and gods from several pantheons, as well as familiars and runes, is how I fulfill an important part of my spiritual path. Hand-embroidering and sewing them together is like bringing these adorable deities to life over and over again, honoring their power and reaffirming my spirituality. This is the reason why Carioca Witch exists – my love for my pagan path and the opportunity of seeing my art being sweetly spread in literally hundred houses around the world – from Canada to China.”  I’m constantly struck by how beautiful Nydia’s work is, and how each design is so evocative of the deity it represents.  When her creations arrive, they’re always even richer in color and workmanship than I imagined from the photos.  My long-term plan is to collect the gods and goddesses related to healing and plants and hang them around the edges of my herbal workshop, with a scarf or garland swagged between them.
Make it personal: By giving a god or goddess that is special to the recipient, or who might be particularly helpful to the recipient at this time.
If you just can’t decide: The Yule ornaments are absolutely stunning!
How to order:  Browse Carioca Witch’s Facebook page and then message Nydia for more info.  Custom creations take time to make – and to ship from Brazil – so order early and often ;-)

 

Advent calendar from Sweet Enemy Art. Used with permission.

Advent calendar from Sweet Enemy Art. Used with permission.

Sweet Enemy Art

Kristin Richland swears her artwork isn’t “whimsical,” and I understand why.  We often use the word “whimsical” to dismiss work that has a fantastical element, and you just can’t dismiss Kristin’s artwork:  Sometimes I look at one of her pieces and find it charming – and then am absolutely caught up in the depth and specificity of expression on this rat’s or that tiger’s face.  Sometimes I look and think, “oh, that’s cute,” and then realize that the image is actually complex and haunting, and sometimes even rather disturbing.  Kristin Richland’s brain contains some pretty cool worlds.
Make it Personal:  Peruse the offerings on Society 6 (prints and products) and Etsy (original), or get in touch with Kristin to ask about a piece you don’t see there.
If you just can’t decide:  Quick, get the advent calendar!  Or, for this time of year when we celebrate light in the dark days, get a print of “We Gathered One Night.”
How to order: Click the links above, and don’t forget to follow Sweet Enemy on Facebook and read the blog.

 

 

Small pitcher from Doolin Pottery. Teapot from Rooftop Pottery. Large mug from Please Touch Pottery. Spiral mug and shot glass from Dancing Pig. Bowl from Glen Cross Pottery.

Small pitcher from Doolin Pottery. Teapot from Rooftop Pottery. Large mug from Please Touch Pottery. Spiral mug and shot glass from Dancing Pig. Bowl from Glen Cross Pottery.

Your Local Potter

I first fell in love with pottery at Doolin Pottery, in County Claire which – sadly – is no longer there.  I’ve since branched out, and I’m a repeat customer at Dancing Pig‘s and Glen Cross’s Pennsic booths, and this year I added Please Touch Pottery to my favorites.  The tea pot I use for herbal teas is a gorgeous fairy-tale-like creation from Rooftop Pottery, right here in Vermont.  When elsewhere, pottery is my favorite souvenir, as it’s fully functional – not just a shelf-sitting knick knack.  On the other hand, it’s not merely functional: I find tea and hot chocolate taste so much better drunk from a handmade mug than a mass-produced one, and my life also feels richer and more textured when I use handmade cups and bowls.  Since I’ve collected mugs of various sizes, as well as water glasses and a few bowls, I’m currently on the lookout for plates, which I understand are surprisingly hard to make.  Some day I’d like my full collection of dishes and bowls and vessels to be handmade, all mis-matched from different makers and with different memories.
Make it personal:  Purchase a cup, goblet, or mug that’s just right for the giftee’s favorite beverage, and include ingredients for said beverage.
If you can’t decide:  You really can’t go wrong with a good mug.  How about this one?
How to order:  Visit your local farmer’s market, craft show, or craft store, or check out the links above.

 

Used with permission.

Used with permission.

Urban Moonshine

With Urban Moonshine, you give the gifts of yumminess and good health all in one.  These bitters and tonics are a delicious way to take your medicine, and they come in gorgeous packaging.  The people at Urban Moonshine are flippin’ brilliant, and they source crazy-vibrant herbs, many of which come from Zack Woods Herb Farm (another business I’m a huge fan of).  If you’re in on the trendiness of bitters in cocktails, you will absolutely love this company’s product.  If bitters sound like something you’d rather avoid, take heart:  They’re amazing for your health and, after a while, actually taste good.  For a start, try Urban Moonshine’s Maple Bitters, which has been called “bitters with training wheels.”
Make it personal:  Use the Urban Moonshine Holiday Gift Guide (click on image at right)  to suss out which bitters or tonics are best for your giftee.
If you just can’t decide:  Embrace the holiday spirit and give them Joy.
How to order:  Right here at the Urban Moonshine website.

 

 

Juniper Ridge incense.

Juniper Ridge incense.

Juniper Ridge Incense

This is the one company on this list that I’ve always bought via a ‘middleman,’ my local co-op, rather than direct from the source.  That being said, their product speaks for itself:  This is pretty much the only incense I burn.  The scents are amazing, not at all perfumy, thanks to their use of wildcrafted, minimally-processed plants to make this incense.  I always keep their sage on hand because I find sage a little heady while it’s burning but love the scent it leaves in the room.  The other varieties that I’ve tried (sweetgrass, pinon pine, and juniper, which might be my favorite), are so delicious that I can sit right near them, and it’s only after a while – or after leaving the room and returning – that I realize what a gorgeous scent is filling the space.
Make it personal: Choose a scent that has special meaning to the giftee (or, even better, make your own incense in that scent).
If you just can’t decide: You can’t go wrong with sweetgrass.
How to order: Right here at the Juniper Ridge website, or ask for it at your local co-op.

So, there are a few ideas to get you started, and hopefully to inspire you to look around your own region for awesome artists, artisans, handcrafters, and other concoctors of wonderful things.  If you have any suggestions for me, please don’t hesitate to post them in the comments!

PS:  I know some blog posts of this sort are paid advertising.  This one isn’t!  I’m just posting about these people and products because I like them :-)


The Green Man and the Lady of the Seasons

I think it was about a year ago that I was lucky enough to win the Green Man pictured below during a giveaway over at Confessions of a Country Witch.  Nydia of Carioca Witch and Bringing Up Salamanders makes these beautiful hand-embroidered felt god and goddess figures.  She put her etsy shop on hold a while back, which is why I put this post on hold, but I’ve noticed some new designs over at the Carioca Witch Facebook page, so I thought it was about time to post this thank-you.

I really can’t say enough how much I love Nydia’s creations:  They’re beautiful, made with obvious care and skill, and stunningly creative.  Persephone (also pictured, and the aforementioned Lady of the Seasons) was the first that I ordered for myself, and I absolutely the balance of light and dark elements on Persephone, and how subtly the face appears out of the leaves on the Green Man.  Until recently, the Green Man has been living with my jars of herbs, but since our house has been in a bit of a to-do lately, I’ve had them together.  I think they like each other’s company :)


Vaguely Bohemian Angels

My sister has a knack for getting me presents no one else would have thought of.  For my high school graduation, she filled a small wooden chest full of everything from smudge sticks to a fountain – in short, a complete kit to make a boring old dorm room into a home.  For my twenty-first birthday, she bought me a mini waffle maker.  Not a traditional choice, but I lived on whole grain waffles under various toppings for the next two years.  For my most recent birthday, she commissioned custom cookies.

‘Custom cookies?’ you might ask (though you know that custom-made creations are indeed near to my heart).  Yes, when you know Angelica Howland of Scrumptious Angel.  This woman is – as my sister put it – the Vienne Rocher of cookies.  (If that reference doesn’t ring a bell, read or watch Chocolat.)  I can easily see Angelica setting up shop in a stiff little puritanical town and bringing out everyone’s best and most joyous traits with her deliciously original cookies and brilliantly creative self.

My first taste of Scrumptious Angel cookies came when a box packed full of Elegant Angels, Drunken Angels, Sparrows, and Streaks of Lavender arrived for my birthday.  Holy deliciousness, Batman.  I’ve had a lot of good chocolate chip cookies, but Angelica’s have the richest and most indulgent texture I’ve come across yet.  Plus, they’re not chocolate chip cookies; they’re chocolate chunk cookies, and dang good chocolate too.  Plus, they’re not just chocolate chunk cookies, but cookies with the most creative and balanced of flavorings and wonderfulness.  Just try these, for example:

Streaks of Lavender:  Dark chocolate with toasted almonds and a touch of actual lavender.  These were my first favorites, both indulgent and subtle.
Elegant Angels:  Dark and milk chocolate in cookies sprinkled with a touch of sea salt.  Absolutely addictive, in a way that makes you savor every bite.
Drunken Angels:  Amaretto-soaked cherries, cinnamon-roasted almonds, and dark chocolate.  Did I say the other two were my favorites?  This was definitely a favorite.  Scrumptious is exactly the right word.
Sparrows:  Dark chocolate, dried blueberries, and roasted sunflower seeds.  Frickin’ beautiful.  In the end, these are the ones I was saddest to finish.

Luckily, that wasn’t the end.  Next came the development of the custom Vaguely Bohemian Angels.  Angelica and my sis had brainstormed some ideas, one of which was oats, Earl Gray, and dark chocolate.  ‘What about oats, dark chocolate, and chai?’ I asked.  Angelica took that, added crushed fennel, and came up with the most delicious…I’ll start at the beginning:

When the cookies arrived from the Scrumptious Angel test kitchen, I’d been drinking some spicy herbal tea.  Because of this, upon my first bite, I tasted mostly cookie gorgeousness and dark chocolate.  ‘I don’t really taste the spices,’ I though to myself, ‘but damn, I have never tasted a cookie that is so rich yet so packed with oats.  This is pretty amazing.’  As I went on, I started to taste, subtly, the fennel – almost like, I imagine, the sensation of breathing out after a sip of absinthe.  Then, the taste of chai spices began to grow in my mouth.  It was as though the cookie contained the progression of bohemian beverages, from the absinthe of early 20th century Paris to the chai of my favorite bohemian teahouse.  In the second cookie, I was able to taste all of these flavors together.  Alas – although I knew I’d only get another box of samples if there was something I wanted to change – the cookies were perfect!

If you’d like your own box of Vaguely Bohemian Angels, or to find out more about other scrumptious Scrumptious Angel creations, you can find them on Facebook right here.  (Just click on “about” to see the listing of flavors and ordering info.)  The business is relatively new, and so far without a fully developed website, but you can keep an eye out at scrumptiousangel.com.  Believe me, if you’re ever so lucky as to taste any of Angelica’s creations, you’ll be as devoted as I am!


Greetings!

…to all who have found their way here from Mrs. B’s!  I’d like to invite you to scroll down to Thursday’s post, Halloween Hauntings and Giveaway, where I introduced myself as part of the Haunted Blog Tour and offered my own Halloween giveaway of a Looseleaf Handcrafted Five Phrases Story (you pick five phrases, I fit them into a one-page hand-bound story) set on Halloween.  I hope you’ll enter that giveaway too!

I started Looseleaf Handcrafted Stories just this fall,  because while I’m fascinated by the mainstream publishing industry, by what makes a book into the next Harry Potter or The Help, I would also like for there to be a lot more sense of community between writers and readers – much like there is with blogs.  I’ve always loved getting snail-mail letters and I thought, how cool would it be to send stories to real, live individuals instead of to publications.  If you like, you can check out some sample stories by clicking here (you’ll find them on the right sidebar), and I’m always open to suggestions for new types of stories!

And to those of you who’ve arrived from elsewhere in the ether, if you have any love for Halloween, you must check out the Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom 31 Days of Halloween for a month-long celebration including tons of treats!


In which our Heroine has the Good Fortune to Win a Set of Runes, and Says Thank-You

A few months ago, I thought I might try learning to read runes. I love letters and words, so the concept of using the letters of an alphabet for divination appealed to me.

I’ve had a tarot deck for a few years, and I’ve found it to be a good resource – and fun as well. I don’t know if I believe the average tarot reading is supernaturally influenced. But I do find that the act of fitting my situation into the pattern suggested by the tarot layout gives me a new perspective – and being able to look at things from a new perspective is invaluable.

Then fate (or a random number generator, anyway) sealed the deal, when I won this awesome rune set at Mrs. B’s 31 Days of Halloween. This handmade set is gorgeous, and each piece is essentially a tiny, hand-embroidered, felt rune pillow. Felt…felt is a friendly material, and I immediately felt at home with this set.

I made flashcards (“Of course you made flashcards,” my sister said), primarily using this translation/commentary of an Old English rune poem as a resource. While I don’t know all of the runes ‘by heart’ yet, it’s kind of exciting how naturally I’m getting to know them. What a wonderful Halloween gift!

Thank you so much to Nydia of Carioca Witch (where you can purchase your own set of OOAK runes!) You can check out her blog through the “Bringing Up Salamanders button. And many thanks to Mrs. B of Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom for putting together a fantastic month-long virtual celebration of Halloween!