As the holidays loom closer, so too can the panic over what to give friends, family, and colleagues. Our advice: Shop local. Don’t feel like you need to trek hundreds of miles to find the perfect present, or begin a desperate online campaign of frustrated Google searches (i.e., “father-in-law + perfect gift under $50”). There’s an amazing array of area retailers specializing in original, meaningful, beautiful, and useful gifts catering to a wide range of tastes and budgets. Remember: Shopping locally means more than just convenience. It’s about supporting your community and bringing home a rich variety of extraordinary locally made and sold goods.
Elegance in Giving
Going for that high-class look without that upper-class guilt? Head over to Antara Home at the Broadway Arcade in Albany where you can find fair trade throws from Swaziland ($185) that will look good in any setting. Vermont-based Creative Women partners with Swazis to produce these throws out of mohair, a silky fabric made from the hair of an Angora goat. Tiny Swaziland has a long tradition of textile weaving amongst its women, a tradition that has continued to this day. The goal of Creative Women is not simply to buy these products at a reasonable price, but to make the Swazi producers viable in the larger, international market. It seems to be working—the throws perfectly complement pillows produced by respected international names. They also come with their own matching pillow enclosures, including real African wood buttons and feather-down pillow inserts ($150). Consider these items an investment: both as a gift to a loved one (or yourself) and to those who will never have the luxury of being picky about pillows and throws.
Antara Home, 488 Broadway (Store 102), Albany; (518) 465-8475;
Serving Style for the Holidays
This holiday season, show some appreciation for the people who will make your dinner. Stop by Pearl Grant Richman in Stuyvesant Plaza and choose from two lines of serving sets that are not only elegant, but useful for that impending holiday feast. Pacific Merchants’ Acaciaware consists of bowls, platters, and plates, each in a variety of shapes and hand-carved from a single piece of South Pacific acacia wood. Dine without guilt—the company only harvests fast-growing, nonendangered trees on private land.
If you’re looking for a sleek, futuristic look, Nambe has created a line of similar kitchen items from a top-secret metal alloy that doesn’t crack, chip, or tarnish. Originating from a tiny village in New Mexico, the works of Nambe’s artisans have been seen at museums worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Now that’s something to start a dinner conversation.
Pearl Grant Richman, Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany; (518) 438-8409.
A Cute Alternative to a Bank Account
Saving money is usually the furthest thing from most minds during the holiday season, but Fashion Angels Enterprises’ Zookidookis will certainly not go unnoticed. These fancifully designed creatures exhibit the clear influence of Japanese animation, from their oversize eyes to their exaggerated facial expressions. Far from being piggy banks, they are equal parts art and function—perfect for the young, or the simply young-at-heart.
The Museum of Modern Art in New York has noticed the appeal of the Zookidooki, selling them for $25. Cheeky Tiki Monkey (where the strange critters seem right at home) on Lark Street only asks for $19.99. They carry eight different types of Zookidooki, each unique in name, shape, size, and color. Whether you pick the adorably gloomy Unagigi, the buoyant Wasabibi, or any of the other Zookidookis, all are ready to collect both attention and your loose change.
Cheeky Tiki Monkey, 252 Lark Street, Albany; (518) 281-6816.
The Best of Asia
Asia-Barong’s selection of Asian art, antiques, furniture, and sculpture—the largest on the East Coast—is as vast as the continent itself. With an inventory of items priced from 50 cents to $75,000, there is bound to be something in your price range. Spectacular antique Indonesian gazebos run for $6,000 and up and make pleasant nooks for friends to share beneath pleated woven bamboo ceilings covered by wood-shingled roofs. A decorative Balinese Buddha mask, hand-carved from Balahu wood and gilded at the base and on the floral headpiece, stands five feet tall and is an ideal focal point for an at home meditation center. Can’t find what you’re looking for in the heavily stocked multileveled “Asian playground”? This Great Barrington store and gallery will search Asia for you.