This holiday season I thought it would be cool to help promote some of the awesome independent designers, writers and artists within my network. These people are doing something I’ve always found incredibly difficult: making things with discipline and purpose, putting themselves out there, maintaining a shop, and schlepping their goods all over the place to try to make a dime.

Wouldn’t it be cool if we bought our holiday gifts from them this season instead of Target and Amazon? Target and Amazon are great for certain things, but it’s also nice to know that you can help support someone’s brave creative career. Even if we artists only bought from each other, that could make a small difference.

***Note!*** If you’re buying anything from Amazon, DO THIS FIRST! Amazon will donate .5% of each purchase to a charity of your choice. It takes 5 seconds.

These are just the artists in my network. Think about your own network too and reach out, I’m sure there is amazing art, craft and design right next door to you.



To look at

jessica-rae-gordon-floodArt & Prints by Jessica Rae Gordon – I once walked into a local café and fell in love with some cut-out art on the wall and realized upon closer inspection it was actually by someone I knew! Jessica’s work makes me absolutely giddy. If I had the stamina to be a full-time artist, this is the kind of folky crafty nostalgic work I’d wish I could do. Buy her prints, original artwork or even some fancy schmancy gloves from her etsy shop.

troy-deshano-crowsTroy Deshano prints– If you don’t know Troy, go watch his talk from Weapons of Mass Creation Fest right now (I went ahead and embedded it below). His story will give you chills. This guy is so creative and real and I think if you hung his pictures in your house you could only benefit from his good karma. His Crows poster is my favorite but he has lots more in his shop on Etsy.

“The Best Decisions Rarely Make Sense on Paper”

Troy DeShano – The Best Decisions Rarely Make Sense on Paper

old-and-new-lyons-499551_2112420_bOld & New prints – A couple years ago Troy Deshano, mentioned above, and Jim LePage started this Old & New Project – modern interpretations of Old Testament stories – and I was proud when they asked me to contribute to the first round. They never even asked about my religious beliefs because they wanted a variety of perspectives, which I think is rad. You can buy any of these glorious prints from really incredible artists and designers and ALL proceeds (not just a portion) go to Blood Water Mission. The one featured here is one of my favourites by the talented Andrew Lyons. (Here’s mine if you’re curious.)

Jim-LePage-46-1-Corinthians_Slider>Jim LePage’s biblical prints – Jim is co-creator of Old & New Project above and if religion is your cup of tea, he has some additional biblical prints. I find it admirable that he uses design to challenge his beliefs, I think that’s something we could all stand to do more of. He’s also super committed and consistent in his focus, so there’s always something new to look at. Nice gifts for someone in your life who cares as much as Jim about the Bible.

radworks-sail_bermuda_vintage_travel_poster<RadWorks custom posters – Lindsay Amerault, founder of RadWorks Studios, has got to be THE most positive person I know. She simply loves loves loves life, and that is reflected in her work and in how genuinely nice she is to everyone she meets. We studied Graphic Design together at the University of Florida and I often wish we were still deskmates, she was that nice to be around. Her beachy posters remind me of home, but you can customize them to say whatever you want.

California-Stately-SandwichesStately Sandwich prints and posters – Who doesn’t love sandwiches? One of the things I missed most when I became a vegetarian was ham and mustard sandwiches; in fact I thought sandwiches were dead to me. I had to rediscover them with vegetarian ingredients, which I’m happy to see featured in Kelly Pratt’s poster series, Stately Sandwich. These prints would be lovely in a kitchen or restaurant and Kelly says she’ll be having a holiday sale soon.

Sylvie-007 CaroleSylvie Ceres prints & greeting cards from ~$6-70 – I found Sylvie through my cousin Meredith who has always had an enthusiastic taste for all things artsy. Glad to be acquainted with her talented friend who says she is selling prints and greeting cards of all the designs from this album.


To read

Betos-Burrito-Book2Beto’s Burrito paperback ($15) or iBook ($5) – This was a heartwarming book I illustrated and published for my dad, who wrote the story. It has beginners Spanish vocabulary, and the iBook even has my dad pronouncing the words and reading the story aloud in his lovely Texan accent. I’ll definitely sign it for you and send along a handmade felt finger puppet to go with it! This project actually has a crazy story behind it. Watch the videos to find out more.

Commuter-LitCommuter Lit Anthology – The first thing I did when I moved to Toronto was join a writers group at the local library. My friend Nancy spearheads that group, she’s a wonderful writer with a powerful voice. She has since created Commuter Lit, a daily publication of short pieces for people to read during their commute to work, and recently she put together an anthology of the best pieces so far. I have a couple whimsical little poems about planned obsolecence in technology in there. Worth giggling over! Now 40% off for the holidays, only $12.Get it now.

cadence-slangCadence & Slang, A book about design by Nick Disabato, $50 ($35 pdf) – Writing for Nick in Distance was one of the most grueling editorial processes I’ve ever been through, which I’m sure carries through to Nick’s own writing. Cadence & Slang is one for the bookshelf of other smart design books. And knowing Nick, the advice within as well as the physical artifact will last for ages. Or get the digital version – read how you want to read! Satisfaction guaranteed or money back.

Ayla-Newhouse-bolditalicpiece_simplifiedV4-01-716x1024Dating by Design by Ayla Newhouse, $25 – Besides being a friend, I saw Ayla give a compelling presentation on this book at a Pecha Kucha night in Toronto. She explores how design principles can breathe new life into a tired dating scene, and her own design sense is charming, tactile and sophisticated. I think this is one for the lady designers in your life, but your divorced aunt would probably love it too! (Recently featured on The Bold Italic)

BorisRobot of Leisure graphic novel – $35 for 230 page softcover, or $10 ebook (available in Winter Park at A Comic Shop for my Florida readers). Holy smokes Katharine Miller is a prolific graphic artist. I first met Katherine at my Beto’s Burrito book launch, and she was sooo sweet but you could tell she had an edge. This comes through in her work. This gift would be an awesome lot of entertainment for young lovers of graphic novels.

cheng-these-daysJack Cheng’s book These Days – I met Jack at Brooklyn Beta in 2012 at the coffee station. We talked about character development and self-publishing and I had no idea he’d raised $23,000 to publish his work on Kickstarter – amazing. He was so totally unpretentious that I am more than happy to help promote his book here. Although I haven’t read it yet (new mums barely have time to brush their teeth) it sounds perfect for folks in the design industry who are craving a fictional holiday read. $9.99 on Kindle or $13 from Amazon.


To use

said-the-king-forewordSaid the King – Karen King was my first friend in Toronto and I’ve watched her grow from an artful copywriter into independent artist/entrepreneur, literally carrying her goods on her back to every craft fair in the city. Her site is worth a visit for the puns alone, but I think you’ll love her products too. I especially love her Foreword single book shelves (I have two – great for book lovers and book cover design lovers alike) and her ceramic bowls – I have the one with the hands (drawn by Karen herself) that says “Never stop eatin’”, definitely a family motto. I also love that Karen takes care to produce eco-friendly products that are still affordable. Go Karen.

ideacious-money-clipSlim money clip ($50) – My friend Josh started Ideacious a few years ago – it is a sort of Kickstarter for product designers. Designers submit product ideas, customers pre-order items, and if the product gets enough pre-orders it will go into production, with the original customers receiving income from future sales. Check out the full range of products, there’s some awesome stuff in there, just double check that it is already in production if you’re looking for a holiday gift.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABen the Illustrator’s wintery backpack, £80 – Since having a baby I’m a sucker for cute backpacks, since backpacks are a necessity whenever we go out. Right now I’m stuck with a free Nestle one. So if anyone wants to get me this, yes please! Love it. Ben reached out on twitter to let me know about his stuff, lots of beautiful goodies in his shop (including this lovely pillow in the same fabric), check it out.

Mymo-keychainMymo, reinventing the monogram – Patrick Durgin-Bruce reached out to me on Twitter to tell me about this newly launched product – which looks awesome. Mymo – get a personalized necklace, keychain or ornament. I love the NY one. I wonder what a ‘To one would look like? Order by December 2 for the holidays.

meow-meow-tweetMeow Meow Tweet natural body products – I’m a real sucker for natural ingredient body products (it’s crazy they aren’t regulated like foods). Order these handmade goods through Shopify. Meow Meow Tweet (incredible name) is “a Brooklyn-based duo offering vegan soap and body products handcrafted from whole, natural and organic ingredients.” Wish I’d known about this when I was pregnant, I would have ordered myself some cocoa butter. (Thanks for the tip, Sarah Hallacher!)

rhymes-with-tweeRhymes with Twee paper goods – I found Leigh’s Etsy shop through my friend Sharlene, and a friend of Sharlene is a friend of mine. Her Etsy shop features punny holiday cards like “It’s bean a good year”, but my personal favorite is the Maggie Smith moleskin notebook (and only 9 bucks). Here’s what she has to say about it: “The Dowager Countess notebook should only be used by witty men or women. This is *the* perfect stocking stuffer for sassy folk in your life!”

Samantha Dubeau-il_570xN.519954058_2rxpSamantha Dubeau Etsy shop – Sam was also recommended by @boyreporter, and I love love love her holiday cards. If I ever got around to sending cards of my own, I would get this set and carefully choose six worthy recipients.


To wear

Aime-Luxury-M-Project-Charitee-Embroidery-Front-webAime Luxury clothes – My husband played soccer with Monica Mei and she had us over to her gorgeous flat where she had her fashion designs hanging on a rack in her living room. I’ve been following along her entrepreneurial journey since. She’s won all kinds of awards, and deservedly so. These clothes are on the pricier side but you can be sure they’re well-made. This shirt (featured) is only $35.
denim-vixen-$_57Denim Vixen jeans – This is my cousin’s ebay shop. When she’s not occupied with her two kids, she scours swanky Californian secondhand shops to find quality jeans and handbags. I’m super proud that she’s making this work for her lifestyle, it’s inspiring. Head to her shop to make a bid and snag a deal.

ghostfaceknittah-still_ill@GhostfaceKnitta makes great and charming jewelry. Great for hapless boyfriends,” so says @Boyreporter Ron Nurwisah. Her motto is “making sh!t for your girlfriend since 2007″. She doesn’t have an online store though so those in Toronto can look for her stuff locally; her next appearance seems to be at City of Craft Dec 14 & 15. And read the blog, it’s good.

maddy-douglass-il_570xN.465554598_2phh
Earthquake State
– My cousin recommended this gem of an Etsy store from Maddy Douglass. I love the unisex quality of these pretty knits. There’s also a good range of prices. If I was looking for ideas for Canadian men in my life I’d consider this store for sure.


To eat and drink

Style: "Porcelain vivid"Norm Hardie wine– I’m not a wine connoisseur but I know who is and that person is Sean Kozey. Sean (co-owner of ecentricarts) has been working with my husband on a new website for Norm. The site’s not up yet (but I’ve seen the preview, it’s beautiful!), but you can still order from their current site. Sean, along with other volunteers, spends his weekends stomping grapes and stocking barrels at Norm Hardie’s, which I’m sure he wouldn’t do if it wasn’t very excellent wine.

GreenZebraLOGO-GreenBig-For-Ad-Box-297x300Green Zebra Kitchen – Our friends Jessie and Jay bought us a two week meal package which we used when Amelia was born. I was impressed with the friendly home delivery service and yummy, healthy meals. I especially loved the vegan mac ‘n’ cheese with nutritional yeast. And I think it’s actually a really affordable, thoughtful gift – especially for friends or family who’ve just had a baby or are simply really busy with life (who isn’t?).

Mama-LosMama Lo’s bakery – Yum. Need I say more? Okay, I will. Mama Lo’s was referred to me by Bonnie Lui, who I actually met through Twitter because she asked me if I wanted to go macaron tasting with her, where I learned she takes her baked goods dead seriously. Therefore these cupcakes come highly recommended and would make a delicious addition to all your holiday parties.


To experience

LLC-gift_card_designLadies Learning Code gift cards – The women behind Ladies Learning Code are some of the hardest working people I know. Support their mission and give the gift of learning. I am friends with a few of their fabulous top-notch teachers and I’ve only ever heard good things about their courses.

makelabMake Lab 3d Printing – Although 3d printing produces a tangible product, it is still very much an ‘experience’ for lots of people who have never seen it in action before. My friend Vivien Leung is working with Make Labs to print custom gifts. If you have an idea for something that hasn’t been made yet, get in touch!

kiddology-1540d830a3d0ba096dee3dd8a2ed191f_largeKiddology on Kickstarter – This is a project from Jay Kapadia, who I’ve done some freelance work with. Check out the stunning artwork and support great storytelling for kids and families and become a part of bringing this project to life. Personally, I like the $45 tier: A sticker pack, demo code for our in-app purchases, and a children’s t-shirt or onesie with our Kiddology character Kiyoshi. Estimated delivery is Jan 2014.


To shop in person

Still like getting out to shop in person? Try your local farmer’s or arts and crafts market. Here are a few near me.

vendor-queensVendor Queens – Good ol’ Lindsay Munroe let me know about this: a pop-up shop for small business owners in Queen West every weekend through the end of December. There’s an awesome writeup on BlogTO about what’s available here. Looks fun, I might have a wander down there myself.

popifyShopify Toronto pop-up event – From the website: “Popify is a limited time retail experience where a storefront in Toronto is transformed into a curated selection of products from around the world.” December 5-8 in Kensington. Looks fun. Love that they’re supporting independent sellers.

City-of-craft-9412207784_91075c84d4_oCity of Craft – An arts and craft fair at Queen West in Toronto on December 14 & 15, 2013. $2 admission. More details here.


Alas, that is all! If I missed you or made any mistakes in the write-ups, let me know. Otherwise, happy shopping!