Neighborhood: East Village
Type of Place: Flea Markets
A few more gifts yet to find? Want them to be distinctive, locally made (often hand-made), and affordable? Want a wide selection in one spot, and not feeling drawn to the outdoor markets in this weather? The Gifted craft market, on 4th St. and Lafayette (just a few blocks south of the Astor Place stop), will be your friend.- Pamela Grossman
It sure becomes mine, when I go in search of gifts for my brother and nephew, for whom I never know what to get. My goals: Find things they might like; support local artisans; and highlight, for this piece, potential gifts with especially fair prices—all the more welcome in these times.
The first booth I visit belongs to Grace Napoleon (www.etsy.com/shop/gracenapoleon). "These are clothes made out of clothes," she explains. Basically she cuts up "standard" clothing items and recombines them to make far more fabulous garb. "I search the world for patterns and textures," she says. "My house is a mess!" Maybe so, but these clothes are fantastic—and even scraps are not wasted, with bits from one item turning up as decorative patches on another. I'm far from alone in cooing over, say, the In the Pink dress ($70), a fluffy pink sweater sewn together with a flouncy pink skirt, or the "Go Green" tunic—perfect for Christmas, with a red and white striped top and a green and white patterned bottom ($72).
Completely charming; but since neither my brother nor my nephew are the right recipients for the In the Pink dress, I push on.
Next up comes Citybitz (www.citybitz.com), a Dumbo-based outfit making pendants, compacts, money clips, etc. from photos of New York City signage. The stuff looks great—and I'm especially drawn to pendants featuring photos of individual letters ($20). What better Hanukkah gift for Helen or Christmas gift for Charlotte than an H or C pendant? Perfect for birthdays, graduations, etc., too; distinctive and super cute; and the price is very right.
The booth for Black Sheep Heap (www.blacksheepheap.com) is swamped, understandably. Designer Jen Harris hand prints clever produce-based images and slogans on organic-cotton bags ($16) and shirts (from $20). Canned produce is accompanied by the words "Yes We Can"; beets are paired with "Beet the System" (a big seller). If I didn't already have a gift for my dad, I'd probably get him the "Avant Gardener" bag or t-shirt (he was composting back in the 70s, way before most knew about the process); but I file them away for future birthdays ideas. However, I grab up a handsome grey long-sleeved t-shirt with an image of (realistic, not cartoonish) bees and honeycomb for my brother. It's distinctive, practical, and affordable, and I get to support a talented local. Score!
Jewelry designer Page Sargisson (www.pagesargisson.com), also generating quite a crowd, finds her materials all over the world and works with both new pieces and antiques (she makes great use, for example, of vintage casino chips). I love her simple stone pendants on chains ($25); the rose-colored cherry quartz is my favorite. I also admire her smooth-stoned pale green jade bracelet ($40) before moving on to make way for her other admirers.
Live Poultry (www.livepoultry.etsy.com), an outfit based in Red Hook, Brooklyn, sells what it calls "Industrial Clothing": hand-silkscreened t-shirts (from $28) and tote bags ($22) featuring scenes and icons from Brooklyn's industrial areas. Um...wow! My boyfriend often talks about how great-looking these areas are; and I thought he was the only one to think so. Far from it, apparently. The shirts are beautifully made and even make me see how these areas and artifacts are indeed attractive. My boyfriend would wear every single shirt here; and hell, I really like them too. I will be shopping from this line quite a lot; if you know someone who loves New York's industrial spots, so should you.
At the space for Fine and Raw chocolate (www.fineandraw.com), chocolate-maker Daniel Sklaar smiles when he sees me taking notes. "Are you with the tax department?" he asks. Nope—just really glad to find this artisanal, organic chocolate, made (also in Brooklyn! I am very proud of my borough and its creative residents!) from organic, fair-trade ingredients. And it is delicious. And, starting at $8 for a small box of bon bons, it is affordable. And it is utterly free of chemicals and junk. And did I mention that it's delicious? Grab some up for Christmas, certainly; but it's not too early to keep this in mind for Valentine's Day, on which it will make an ideal present.
Photographer John Murphy (www.shopjohnmurphy.com) also creates gorgeous limited-edition collages, signed and numbered, which start at a beyond reasonable $35. My favorites are an elephant, a hippo, and an ostrich (three separate pieces), all collaged with blooming roses. It is astonishing how sweet, graceful, and utterly lovely a hippo bathed in roses can look. I remind myself that my birthday is next month...and tell John that a rose-swathed hippopotamus might be just what I need.
I'm starting to flag a bit, but I must admire the wares at Book City Jackets (www.bookcityjackets.wordpress.com): $15 for sets of three brown-paper book covers, printed with designs and images from up-and-coming artists and sold with a pack of crayons, so you can customize your covers; Domestic Construction (www.domestic-construction.com), which primarily works in interior design and construction but also offers craft items, including fabulous custom-made wooden yo-yos ($12); and Moontree Letterpress (www.moontreearts.com), selling stationery and other paper goods, including packs of elegant and whimsical notecards ($10).
I find my friend and neighbor Christina Stankard's work at her booth, Gray Cat Jewelry (www.etsy.com/shop/GrayCatJewelry). Her pieces are handmade, using gemstones and pearls from conflict-free regions all over the world. Each item is made with great care and with tremendous attention to detail; the gorgeous colors in her materials garner lots of attention. Indeed, today I have to admire an exceedingly pretty pair of blue topaz earrings ($50), shimmering like a tropical sea, before pushing ahead to see if, at last, I can actually find something for my little nephew.
And then, finally, I do. At Intaglio Antique Prints and Maps (they don't seem to have a website, but you can find them at Fort Greene's Brooklyn Flea most weekends), I find a beautiful matted antique postcard of the Williamsburg Bridge ($15). My nephew loves maps and routes; I hope he'll enjoy a view of this bridge, which can usher him into my neck of the woods from his own. Maps and artifacts can be found here, for a range of fair prices; if you're shopping for, say, a friend from England and want to find her a postcard from, image of, or old map of her town, this would be a place to start. I'm really pleased with my find, but I'm tired; so much so that I stumble out into the night and actually leave all my notes about Gifted back at the Intaglio booth. When I return, I find them in the midst of dedicated efforts to find me—proof that they're decent people as well as sellers of cool stuff.
And that, overall, is my main impression here: Quality stuff made and offered by caring and committed human beings. From their hands to your home: Happy holidays, and enjoy