I did my first ever holiday gift guide for travelers a few years ago, which was fun to compile. Readers seemed to enjoy the various items, and I was happy to share some of the products that accompanied me on the road. This year, I wanted to do something a little different.
For starters, my life is a little different – something all of you already know. As a result, my own gifts to family and friends aren’t souvenirs from far-away places, but fun things I’ve discovered. I wanted to share some of them here, especially as many are small businesses like myself.
This year, I’d like to share two categories of gifts: artists and makers from my new home of Ottawa and some from beyond, and books I love or found impactful in my own life.
I planned to publish the book guide and the art/gifts guide in the same post, but there are too many suggestions and it got quite unruly. So I will publish the book guide in the coming week, and below are my suggestions for art, jewelry, and more.
I hope you’ll find something you like in them!
Art, beauty, and jewelry gifts for 2022
Now that I live in Ottawa, it was fun to get to know some of these great people and I’m excited to share them with you, too. The items below are from artists that I have either supported by purchasing products myself, or local items I loved that didn’t work with my many immune/other restrictions.
Floral Polymer Clay Earrings
The talent behind Island Meadow Clay is Rylan, who runs the shop with her husband Alex. She makes the jewelry, he packs the orders, and they both show up at local flea markets with a booth to show off their beautiful earrings and necklaces.
The business began as a pandemic hobby, but took off even as the country reopened. I have purchased these for myself (see below), as gifts, and had an earring pair commissioned specifically for a friend based on the colours she loves.
These are made of lightweight polymer clay, so even the larger earrings are not going to pull down on your earlobes. This is an important thing for me, since I already have a lot of head pain. These will also make for a great gift for people with migraine headaches or other conditions that affect the cranial nerves. And, for people who simply love hand-crafted jewelry.
Because I’ve purchased from them the most, they are at the top of the list—and rightfully so! I love their products, and their warmth as a couple too.
Embroidered heart maps
I met the lovely couple behind Sadie and June when at a flea market in Ottawa, and appreciated their fun offerings as a traveler with a lot of places I miss deeply. They sell hand-embroidered maps for 900 locations (and counting), either as stand-alone “I love this place” style, or connecting hearts, where there is a thread connecting two places. They also do custom maps, if your favourite destinations aren’t on offer presently.
The couple, whose names are actually Steve and Kendall, are a cross-border couple—something quite common here in the towns that border the US! She’s from New Jersey and he’s from Ottawa, but they met in Florida. Extremely popular any time I’ve seen their booth around town, they capture the nostalgia of leaving pieces of ourselves in places we loved.
Says Kendall, “Our hand-embroidered heart maps were born out of this love and our belief that love knows no borders. The concept: I began embroidering through paper vintage map prints that meant something special to me and Steve.”
The couple have a post about how they went from being ‘flat broke’ in 2014 to building a full-time business around their sewing skills. When I met Kendall at the market, she mentioned that as the business picked up she was struggling to get orders done … until she taught Steve how to sew, and that helped get the maps completed much faster. Now they are both working on their popular maps, and adding cities all of the time.
Preserved resin flower jewelry
Another local vendor that I was taken by is Floral Sweeties. I ended up getting my mum’s birthday gift from them, beautiful earrings that I knew she’d enjoy.
Floral Sweeties is the brainchild of Hannah, a registered nurse who has expanded into a botanical side hustle. The jewelry she sells is made with hand picked wild and garden flowers from Ottawa that are dried, preserved, and then embedded in resin to create each piece. (She also sells clay pieces where fresh flora is imprinted in clay to produce plaster relief art using natural pigment, but those are quite heavy to ship and I am focusing on her jewelry).
Their earrings, like Island Meadow Clay, are mostly very lightweight—perfect for anyone who has headaches.
Hand-drawn maps of food
Yes, yes—I have included my own maps in this guide as well. I, too, am a local Ottawa business after all. And one with an exciting development: my food map of Canada is finally complete!
As with the other maps in this series, the Canada map is designed by me and inked by Ella Frances Sanders, a bestselling author whose new book is also in the books guide that will be published shortly.
Plantable cards that turn into wildflowers
Another fun gift that is thoughtful, AND does not create waste: quirky cards embedded with seeds, that you can then plant and nourish over time.
Seeded Memories was built by MaryAnn and Jose, a husband and wife team who felt greeting cards were both expensive, and wasteful. So they decided to make paper and cards using 100% recycled material that are embedded with a variety of wildflower seeds. So the card you bought can be planted, growing a garden of memories and one that creates no tangible waste.
Cards are available in English, French, and Spanish.
Adorable fruit earrings
I fell in love with cute grapefruit earrings a few years ago, and have worn them so frequently that they fell apart.
In the hunt to find new replacement earrings, I found a few shops on Etsy that offer them, in case you want a pair for yourselves—or someone else!—too.
LOOK HOW CUTE THEY ARE:
They too are lightweight, and a very fun addition to any outfit.
Porcelain and ceramic jewelry
Larra & Dawn started Flourish Stoneware in October 2018, on what they call “nothing more than a dream to create.”
Each of their pieces takes an average of 25 hours to create, as it involves sketching, imprinting the clay, drying it out, and then firing it in the kiln before glazing thereafter.
The pieces are individually crafted with a variety of materials like porcelain, speckled clay, black clay, a variety of glazes and overglazes (like gold lustre and Mother of Pearl overglaze).
The result is a collection of beautiful, unique jewelry that caught my eye at a local market.
With a mission to bring greenery to “every struggling plant parent”, Kelsea’s whimsical knitted cacti caught my eye at a local flea market. The business came about when Kelsea knitted her sister some cacti for Christmas, after seeing how her sister couldn’t keep plants alive.
Taking inspiration from real plants, Kelsea carefully crafts knit cacti and succulents in a variety of sizes, colours, and shapes. She also tries to use sustainable materials for other parts of her products: upcycled packaging, sustainable yarn and stuffing, plus reusing cardboard inside the pot to make them lighter weight for shipping.
The company is fully family-supported, including the build for the displays at the market stall I met her at.
I bought myself a mini cacti (though I’m having cactus regret that I didn’t get a larger one), and thought you may want one too.
DIY candle, deodorant, and clay mask kits
Jessye, the founder and maker behind Make This Universe, started her DIY shop in 2018, while getting very frustrated trying to make her own deodorant at home. She searched for a shop where should get a kit to do so instead, and came up empty. Like me starting my food maps because I couldn’t find the product I was looking for, Jessye kicked off her shop to fill a gap in the marketplace.
Make the Universe offers DIY “modern craft kits” for candles, deodorant, masks, and necklaces, in sleek packaging that can be recycled. They allow for customizable products to account for personal sensitivities, without having to do everything from scratch.
Caffeine necklace in silver
Do your loved ones enjoy coffee as much as I do? This stainless steel and silver plated necklace of the molecule for caffeine may be up their alley, or yours. Chain length: 50cm. Nickel and lead free
You can buy it here.
Whimsical bird art
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting the genius behind Birdstrips, Jess, in person in Montreal twice before we each moved elsewhere. Her illustrations have grown a huge following on Instagram due to their whimsical, relatable messaging.
In Jess’ words, the shop comprises “the existential distress of the flightless through the eyes of the flighted.”
Below, two prints from her shop: one of an acrylic painting of a chicken named Cheddar Cheese, who’s “escaped into a field of dandelions and is having the time of her life”, and the second, therapy “before and after”—in classic Birdstrips style
Birds + curse words
These illustrations of birds that swear in creative ways are popular all over the web, with good reason. As Twitter implodes and the world feels like it’s doing the same, the bird outrage by Aaron Reynolds says all that we are bottling up inside.
That doesn’t stop people from getting pissed off about the cursing, but … did you expect anything else from a company called Effin Birds?!
Where to buy: Clothing, mugs, pins, and more here, plus an Effin’ Birds book and a newer French Effin’ Birds book, as well as a 2023 Calendar too.
Shipping to: Worldwide
Follow him on: Instagram
Pearl jewelry from Tahiti
My friend Celeste is not only a great travel writer, but also runs an environmentally-friendly Tahitian pearl company, Kamoka, that adheres to the strictest levels of sustainable farming in the world. Their pearls are from oysters grown in the nutrient-rich lagoon of Ahe Atoll, 300 miles northeast of Tahiti, with electricity supplied by solar and wind power. And if you needed more convincing about supporting their enterprise: a National Geographic study found that their farming methods helped increase the area’s fish population in recent years.
One of their products I wear often: the Mana Bracelet. At $99, it is an investment, but a durable and beautiful one.
Celeste said that this bracelet was initially crafted for surfers. Now, it’s one of their best sellers for active people who want a beautiful pearl bracelet without worrying about fragility. The adjustable band is made from kangaroo leather (the strongest leather in the world), and is a great choice for the fashionable wanderer and the active fashionista alike.
They also now offer a new collection, featuring Tahitian blacklip oyster shells and jewelry made from their own sustainably produced mother-of-pearl. The earrings below are more affordable than the pearls alone, and are a beautiful gift for those who want something sustainable and different.
Those are my 2022 gift picks! I hope you enjoy at least some of them. I’ll be following up with the books I think are worth a read, in just a few days. 💙