Meet Your Makers
Let's fantasize for a moment. This holiday season, wouldn't it feel good to resist the suck of Target or a crowded shopping mall? Consider a gift not made in China or replicated by the dozens in every color and pre-wrapped so you're done with absolutely no thought at all. Think about the heft of a lovingly made earthenware bowl or a piece of handcrafted jewelry, made by someone you might very well bump into at your local coffee shop.
Shop local, support your local artisan. This is easy enough to do in Memphis, where there are dozens of makers crafting their wares. We spoke to a few of them, and we have a few ideas ...
If you have eyeballs, then you've seen the work of Michelle Duckworth. The Bartlett native is an illustrator/artist whose work has hung in local galleries. Duckworth also participates in 10 to 12 artists' markets a year, selling her mounted wood prints.
Duckworth describes her work as "fairytale-ish — a snapshot from the middle of the story." She's inspired by fairy tales and folk tales and old illustrated books from around the world. The works call to mind Grimm's Fairy Tales — images that are at the same time pleasing to look at but a little scary, too. "They walk the line between being kind of nice and being kind of off," she says.
Duckworth's work is available at Five in One Social Club on Broad and through her Etsy shop at MichelleDuckworth.
If this speaks to you, you'll want to check out the porcelain works of babycreep — pretty baby faces shorn off for planters, a tiny spoon that tapers into a finger. Fingers figure a lot in her work. There's jewelry, too. Also available at Five in One Social Club.
"I like to make my jewelry so that you see a cohesive design first. The tickle comes from the fact that it's food," says Funlola Coker.
Coker is primarily known for her oh-so-tiny and stunningly detailed food jewelry. Donuts, sushi, peas, asparagus, bacon and eggs, avocados, cauliflower, and more adorn her earrings and rings.
"I like to think that it's for everyone," she says. "A lot of people assume it's for quirky or alternative folk, but really you can pair a simple pair of donut earrings with a chic grey dress."
Is it the appeal of the food or working in miniature that drives her? It's both, she says. "I love food and food presentation. I feel like I enjoy my food a lot more with good presentation. It doesn't have to be fancy, just visually appealing. However, I love to dive into the process of my work. Rolling out tiny peas or texturing a little piece of chicken is extremely satisfying. It's all very time consuming, but the more I do it the faster I get, and before I realize it, I've iced 60 miniature donuts by the end of the day."
Coker's work is available at Five in One Social Club and at funlolacoker.com.
Looking for a unique set of earrings? Five in One's popular Grit and Grind earrings are one way to show that you are a homer. Their pretty tinysaw label earrings bring to mind architecture and beehives.
After Lisa Wheeler graduated from college with a degree in ceramics, she was itching to make something ... anything. But, she decided, it would have to be something she could use, something she needed. And that's how she ended up making soap.
Her first batch involved coconut oil, olive oil, and lye. ("The lye really freaked me out," she says.) She let the soap cure for two months, and then she tried it out. "I loved it," Wheeler says. "I felt like a chemist."
After experimenting with ingredients, Wheeler was ready to launch her line — LATHA. First she needed a gimmick. She'd seen cupcake soaps, cake soaps. She then hit upon drink soaps. Among her Bawdy Bars, which come in a cup, are Electric Lemonade, Sparkling Mojito, and Sex on the Beach. LATHA also sells bath bombs, including the Jager bomb, and scrubs such as On the Rocks. For the recent Crafts and Drafts event, LATHA introduced beer-inspired soaps.
One drink she hasn't been able to translate into soap is bubble tea. The color was weird. "I'm going to revisit that," she says.
LATHA soaps are available at lathabar.com.
Need to clean up your act? Check out Gifts from Nature. Some of their bar soaps: the blue-striped Seersucker, Rehab (with charcoal), and the Mannish. Available at www.gfnsoap.com. — Susan Ellis
Naughty and Nice
Aunt Margaret would clutch her pearls if she got the "Merry Fucking Christmas" card from Five in One Social Club, but Uncle Bob would love it.
You can't please everyone all the time, especially when it comes to holiday gifting. But you can get pretty close if you shop locally.
Small, locally owned retail shops dot the landscape from Broad to the river. In them, you can find beautiful, useful things for the nice people on your list, like Aunt Margaret, and funny, kitschy things for those on your naughty list (lookin' at you, Uncle Bob).
The Nice List
You know that friend that is In. Love. With. Memphis? Stock and Belle on Broad offers up tons o' tasty treats to help get them grit, ground, and Bluff-i-fied.
Look for artist Kyle Taylor's prints of a melty, good-enough-to-eat Pancho's cheese dip man and Taylor's huge prints of a matadored Marc Gasol as Big Spain. Stock and Belle also carries plenty of Memphis wearables, like the Nine Oh One trucker hat and the house-made "Embrace Your Inner Memphis" T-shirt.
For the luxe-loving jet-setter on your list, hit up 20twelve on Broad. The store focuses on high-end fashion, and, while picking out clothes for somebody else can be tricky, 20twelve has plenty of perfect gift items.
Chocolate-bacon-pretzel bites, anyone? Yes, everyone. That's but one flavor in Sugarfina's Vice Collection candy bento box, which also includes maple bourbon caramels and pale ale gummies.
20twelve also sells many high-end fragrance brands — and gift cards, of course.
That friend of yours who won't stop talking about running probably loves Breakaway Running. Its Overton Square location still feels new and has everything to get your running buddy on the road — or trail.
Picking out clothes for someone else is tough (that's double for running clothes), but you can't go wrong with a pair of Yurbuds, the sport earphones that just won't fall out. Ever. Or, get your runner some nighttime illumination, like a Petzl headlamp.
A sense of adventure fills you up when you open the door at Outdoors Inc., and you see all the gear you could possibly need to enjoy the, well, outdoors.
Your pal may do that fake smile thing when she opens the Adventure Medical Kit from Bighorn, but she'll be praising your name when she's mending a wound on the trail. If you want to win Christmas, give someone the Yeti Hopper, the indestructible, always-cold cooler that has become a status symbol for the outdoor set.
The Naughty List
Let's get straight to the penis candles, shall we?
Tater Red's has been a shopping mecca for Beale Street tourists (and locals alike) for more than two decades. It's a cornucopia of the peculiar and profane.
You know you have one friend who would love one of Tater's penis candles, (which come in red and black). Tater has vagina candles, too, but he was out of those on a recent visit. Also, look for a ton of throwback Memphis sports gear, adult coloring books, voodoo dolls, and Hangover Helper Mints.
Okay, we're back at Five in One, but we're on the Naughty List and, well, the Broad Avenue shop is the only place you're going to find that "Merry Fucking Christmas" card, which is made in-house. Five in One has tons of great, original Memphis-themed stuff, like Samantha Crespo's new book, 100 Things to Do in Memphis Before You Die Vol. 2, T-shirts and sweaters, and Beerings — earrings made from cans of Memphis beers.
Maggie's Pharm is another great Nice List shopping place, but Maggie also loves the naughty snark.
That special someone in your life needs a pair of socks that read, "I hate everyone, too." You've got that other friend who needs a bottle of "I Can't Believe I Fucked That Guy" hand sanitizer. Load up on stocking stuffers like "I Love My Penis" gum, "Coffee Makes Me Poop" gum, or "Mother Fucking Girl Power" gum.
Maggie's also has nice cards, wide selections of herbs, coffees, teas, and more. But, y'know, go for the gum and the socks.
Head on down to A. Schwab on Beale Street, and bring home a fat sack of 100 percent USDA-certified Memphis kitsch.
You want the authentic hip-swiveling Elvis clock? How about a pair of Elvis sunglasses (you know the ones)? A TCB patch legit enough to fool even the Memphis Mafia? Go to Schwab. And what says Christmas more than a pink Elvis snow globe refrigerator magnet?
There's plenty of great non-Elvis stuff, too, like a "Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go to Beale Street" coozie, an old-school collectible Memphis plate, and Beale veteran John Elkington's kids book, The Pirates of the Gayoso Bayou. — Toby Sells
Eat, Drink, Be Merry
I'm not big on giving gifts of food for Christmas. What with all the ham, weird wedges of cheese, chemically enhanced popcorn, loads of cookies, and tins and tins of peppermint bark — erp! — it's too much. But there are exceptions. Lots of exceptions ...
You can't go wrong with a bottle of Pyramid vodka. The general reception for this smooth delight: Hells, yeah! And, if the holiday family-together time is getting to you, we recommend you grab your friends and take a tour of the Pyramid facilities. You'll learn something, for sure, and the tour is capped off with a taste of the product. You might want to call to make sure they're open first, though: 576-8844.
Absolutely nobody complains about a gift certificate from Joe's Liquor or Hammer & Ale. For the mixologist on your list, there's the Elixir No. 01 line — simple syrup, mint julep, and orange and green chile syrup — from the Crazy Good folks.
I receive a tin of Aunt Lizzie's cheese straws every year. If I don't get one, there's going to be trouble. Bad trouble. These are the perfect snack for sports-watching or Netflix-binging during that lovely stretch between Christmas and New Year's.
For out-of-town folks, get them an order of barbecue — Corky's, Rendezvous, Germantown Commissary, doesn't matter — and you'll be treated like a damn hero. Another option: a gift box from Memphis Flavor (memphisflavor.com). The Memphis Flavor Original Sampler box includes barbecue sauce from Central BBQ, a jar of Flo's Homemade Goodness, Makeda's Cookies, and more.
I'm a sucker for good packaging. Judy Pound Cakes' simple brown box, tied in string and stamped with a pound sign, rings all my bells. The cakes come in all sorts of flavors — chocolate cayenne, cherry almond, plum — but the Plain Ol' pound cake is my favorite. Makes a good hostess/host gift.
Your dog has been a good, good dog. (Forget about the couch!) Treat him or her right with a bag of Farm House Santa Paws, yogurt-iced peanut butter cookies, available at Curb Market. Donuts, brownies, muffins, and cupcakes — why not? At Hollywood Feed Bakery, each treat was created specifically for your pup.
One of my go-to gifts for Christmas, birthdays, house-warmings, whatever is Dinstuhl's Cashew Crunch. The angels sang when they created this candy. I once gave a friend a box as a thank-you present, and she ended up breaking a tooth. After three or four visits to the dentist, she was totally fine and still eating the crunch.
Hipsters need gifts too. Scratch 'em off your list with a jar of brilliant red Koolickles from Porcellino's. Pickles and Kool-Aid — it's a match made in ... well, we're not sure exactly where.
The caramels from Shotwell Candy are a fine, fine thing indeed. Just thinking about the Craft Beer & Pretzel caramel, I'm misting up. You might want to warn the recipient that this gift is precious and should be hidden immediately in their secret snack drawer.
GiveGood Toffee makes an excellent stocking stuffer. At $5 for a pack-of-cards-sized box, it's a little pricey, but the company was founded to empower young adults living on the autism spectrum. Learn more at givegoodco.com.
For those who like to represent, there's the Nine Oh One coffee mug, available at 387 Pantry. The stoneware beer cup by Erica Bodine Pottery is pretty special, too, and you can put it in the dishwasher. You can find one at Miss Cordelia's.
Muddy's Bakery has made its rep on delicious cupcakes and gnome-tastic adorableness. The "Hustle n' Dough" T-shirt features gnomes and a tumbling stack of pies. Resistance is futile. — Susan Ellis