It is that time of year. The turkey will scarcely be off the table and the stuffing bowl in the dishwasher before fingers will be gripping the mouse and shopping websites will droop under the weight of millions of anxious visitors. Elsewhere, in the real world, coffee-fueled shoppers will queue up at insanely early hours in frenzied anticipation of deals to come in their favorite stores. Yes, bargains will be had, but at the cost of emotional and physical fatigue.
As you plot your shopping strategy, keep in mind that everyone enjoys a gift that is unique and thoughtfully selected. Remember you can rise above a present that is merely a quick grab at a cheap price and instead choose an item that is distinctive and memorable. And nothing can surpass a handmade, artisan creation.
So, to make this process as smooth as possible, we’ve created this quick guide to shopping for interesting artisan products. Keep it chill and follow these simple steps.
Rather than risk the dizzying experience of riffling through the tossed bins of a big box store, it is so much more pleasant and efficient to stop into a shop that specializes in uncommon goods from talented artisans.
The Burlap Bag, just north of the UT-Austin campus, is an engaging shop full of well-priced artisan items. Don’t miss the shop’s own collection of soy candles with humorous names – anyone on your list deserving of “Bossy Pants”? The Bag has items from almost 100 artisans, so your odds of finding the right thing are excellent. There’s a range of choices from stylish jewelry and whimsical pins to the store’s smile-inducing dino planters.
Over in East Austin, EA/ST Co. and Fail Collective coexist in a light-filled, calming shop on Caesar Chavez. Bri Ussery offers her own The Good Hippie skincare line of natural and organic products, along with a carefully curated selection of artisan items for the home, plus clothing, art and more. And jewelry designer Christine Fail makes sophisticated, beautiful pieces that are sure to please.
Moving up to the Square in Georgetown, swing by Antiques and Artisans to see booths by local artists such as Neena Buxani Gohil. Or for food choices, including locally roasted coffee, Texas wines and artisan beers, head to Monument Market.
Spin down to Wimberley for a gorgeous view of Cyprus Creek and a fun selection of rustic items and folk art at Rancho Deluxe. The store on the Square is a perfect place to shop for truly unique items from Texan and Mexican artisans.
Keep the momentum going at Art on 12, which bills itself as Central Texas’ largest art gallery, staffed exclusively by artists who show there. Here you will find an impressive selection of paintings, sculpture, photography and jewelry from more than 50 artists.
If you really want to give a gift that matters, hop in the car and drive out west to Artisans’ Village in Johnson City. A fair trade retailer, Artisans’ Village features products from artisans and growers in more than 30 countries. You’ll be proving support to artisans who depend on it for their everyday lives. The store is an excellent choice if you are looking for jewelry or chocolate, in particular.
Continue on west to Fredericksburg to visit Artisans – A Texas Gallery, where you’ll find artisan crafts, furnishings and fine art. If you’re a fan of beautiful, wood-turned treasures, see works by Harold Dykes, Anna Rachinsky, Brent Mosher and others.
Many communities feature special seasonal markets where you can find a wealth of artisan-produced goods. Here are just a few:
Fischer Christmas Market on Nov. 24-26 – The historic shop near Canyon Lake presents a variety of handmade goods from local artists.
Leakey’s Christmas on the Square – The picturesque town west of San Antonio will showcase food and handmade gifts on Nov. 25. If you’ve been meaning to drive out to see the amazing Lost Maples State Park, make it a twofer.
Christmas on Mercer Street – Dripping Springs’ annual holiday event on Dec. 2 features holiday shopping, arts and crafts booths, live entertainment, a petting zoo, trackless train, pony rides, children’s activities and more.
Fredericksburg’s 60th Annual Christmas Home Tour & Market on Dec. 2 includes a self-guided tour of historic homes decorated for the holidays and a market with items from 22 artisans.
The German-Texas Heritage Society presents its annual Christmas Market at the German Free School in Austin on Dec. 2. Find lots of food and entertainment, plus authentic German, handcrafted Christmas ornaments, nutcrackers, Schwiebogen, smokers and decor. Enjoy Gluehwein (hot spiced wine), Christmas Stollen made by The New World Bakery or pick up a gingerbread heart by Uwe’s Bakery.
Oma’s Christmas Fair in Boerne on Dec. 2 and 3 gathers a hundred artisans in three buildings at the Kendall County Fairgrounds.
The Armadillo Christmas Bazaar is Austin’s massive 11-day fine art, shopping experience. Explore a broad array of handmade items from more than 160 artists while enjoying live local music and sips from a full bar.
For those late shoppers, the Origin Designer Market in Austin’s Mueller neighborhood is held just a week before Christmas on Dec. 16. You’ll find pieces from more than 40 specially selected designers and makers, along with refreshments, community, music and fun.
Inevitably, no matter how prepared and organized you are, there will arise the last-minute need to add a gift for someone. This is when, desperate and sweaty-palmed, you swerve into a parking lot and dash inside a drugstore for whatever you can find that isn’t completely silly or offensive.
Our advice: Don’t do that. You won’t find locally sourced items and probably not even products that are organic. Instead, stay calm and head for a Whole Foods, Wheatsville Coop or a Central Market, where you’ll at least find some locally made goods and healthier food choices — many made in the area.
So that’s it. We wish you happy shopping and the good fortune to land some truly special gifts for everyone on your list.