Listen, I hid out on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Moody Blues Tuesday. The truth is that even if I’d wanted to truck out to Wal-Mart for BARGAINS! (and if I’d had ample cash, fortitude and peppered-spray), I wouldn’t have, because I believe in all that “shop local” crapola we repost on Facebook. I don’t think we gain anything, as a nation or as a species, through the buying or the giving of cheap plastic crap that’s made in China under suicidal conditions. It’s the exact opposite of peachy.
This leads us to the bit where I tell you to buy gifts made by friends of mine, but listen: I’m not doing this because I want my friends to get paid. Not exclusively because of that, anyway. I’m doing this because gifts of independently made and sold art, crafts, and goods have a humanizing effect on all that Black Friday-purchased overstock. If you’re getting someone an end table, it should have some of Big Dipper Wax Works’ delightful beeswax candles sitting on it. And if you’re giving away your body for Christmas (as are many of us), it oughta be on Sin in Linen’s sexy-assed sheets.
Artisan gifts raise the stock of non-artisan gifts. Straight-up department-store purchased holidays are soulless and boring. Christmas was always meant to have fingerprints on it — otherwise, what’s the fucking point? I could buy myself a Kindle, but I wouldn’t have known about Krysztof Nemeth’s pinup art and Kate Black’s Bad Buttons if people hadn’t given them to me, and in so doing, made the both of us that much cooler.
Dig into these links, give some custom gifts, and make the world a better place. I’m not exaggerating. That’s precisely what will happen.
Bad Buttons. Kate Black’s lapel buttons kill fascists. Well, perhaps not, unless you dip them in poison and poke somebody with them (but you didn’t get the idea here, feel me?). What I mean is that the the Brooklyn-based artist makes buttons for the culture war that’s been happening for years, and each one of them is a tonic for unspoken rage. “Bike jocks are still jocks,” reads one. “Sodomy Prevents Abortion,” says another. And even your leftiest lefty friends may bristle at “Babies creep me out.” She also makes lovely and clever art pins, including a set devoted to people named Oates (John, Joyce Carol and Quaker). Stick a few of these up the stocking of your favorite brickthrower, and keep the home fires burning.
Big Dipper Wax Works. This Seattle shop makes the sweetest-smelling beeswax candles in all creation. This is a natural sweetness we’re talking about, like late spring or first love; it is a subtle, clean and intoxicating scent that can redeem even the bitterest man cave. (Ugh, mental picture.) Big Dipper’s candles make for great stocking gifts and additions to home improvement-themed gifts, and you ought to give a bunch of them. Maybe keep a few.
Charm School Art & Design. I’ve written much about the pin-up girls of Kansas City. MO. artist, musician, and elegant gentleman Krysztof Nemeth because I never run out of nice things to say about him and his work. Though his work is based in an artistic tradition that runs from Alberto Vargas to Coop, Krysztof has a line that is wholly his own, and his drawings are timeless. He does commission work, but if you want some Krysztof Nemeth art right now, take a look at his online store. He has well-made t-shirts and shot glasses and even a CD of his film noir band, The Latenight Callers. That said, you’re not a Krysztof fan until you’ve requested one of his Kustom Drawings. This writer owns two of them, and several other non-custom pin-ups. If I buy any more, I’ll have to move somewhere with more wall space.
Schadenfreude Photography. These are my girlfriend’s photographs, okay?* Yes, the same Lorien Gruchalla who graciously shares a bed with me and two clinically psychotic cats. Now that we’ve that bit of business out of the way, I can tell you what I love about her work, which is most everything. Lorien shoots from the ghost world; her photos are luminous, haunted and different. I know it’s cheesy to say that they’re like windows to another place, but they truly are. You feel like you can reach into them, grab onto the subject and pull yourself into a place where the air is a cocktail and favorite songs are felt as electrical trembling in the nerves. She shoots with a variety of small cameras, including an infrared camera and an Android phone, and she achieves effects that utterly transcend the equipment. You need a few of her schadenfotos hanging on your walls, beckoning you to places of wonder and solace.
Shari Elf. This Joshua Tree, CA.-based artist creates her playful pieces out of “95% trash (or stuff people throw away).” To say her art is endearing is perhaps underselling it; not many other artists have taken the “outsider” aesthetic, with its wobbly lines wide-eyed innocence, and turned it sideways as successfully as Elf has done. As of this writing, every piece she’s put up for sale has sold — perhaps in part because the price is right (I couldn’t find a piece priced more than $120; most are much less). But I suspect the real reason Shari Elf’s work sells so quick is because people want to bask in Shari Elf’s desert sunshine. You should buy a piece of her art for yourself and one for a friend. Don’t worry; she makes plenty.
Sin In Linen. Sandy Glaze doesn’t illustrate her linen sets as much as she tattoos them. Sin in Linen’s sheets are bedecked with pretty girls, sugar skulls and damask blossoms, and when you put them on your bed they’ll likely incite the rest of the stuff in your bedroom — the end tables, the family photos, the IKEA — to booze up and get inked. Sin in Linen’s reach extends beyond the boudoir; there are lovely tiki and voodoo bones drapes, hand towels with pinups on them, and even sequined throw pillows. But it’s the bedoom stuff that keeps giving, night after night, year after year, even after your looks have gone out as thoroughly as mine have. Don’t waste any more time reading this; just go look at Sin in Linen’s stuff, and get something nice for your favorite hoodlum.
* I was not asked to include her in this roundup, and oh boy, am I gettin’ laid tonight.