I love to give gifts that are full of personality. I once surprised a friend with a print of her favorite Pittsburgh hangout soon after it was closed forever. For less than $20, that gift captured a memory, because the artist knew our hometown. Not all my favorite gifts have been that perfectly timed, but many of them have been made possible by local artisans. Our neighbors and friends know how to make amazing things! Here are my suggestions for exceptional and affordable gifts this year and where to find them.
If you know me, there is chance your family will receive the 2019 Alternate Histories Calendar by Pittsburgh artist, Matthew Buchholz, this holiday season. This treasure is my go-to gift of 2018. Inserting monsters, robots and dinosaurs into places and times familiar to humans, it is a gift that can capture the imaginations of an entire family for $15. It is an affordable and fun present that would be right for a company gift exchange or a clever alternative to a bottle of wine for your dinner hosts. You can purchase it at: https://alternatehistories.com/.
If you have friends who are anything like my family, they have enough stuff in their homes. Their shelves are full of books, and their closets are crammed with stuff they rarely see. I suggest appealing to their taste buds. Surprise them with infused honey from Honey, Be Kind! Hyper-locally made in Mt. Lebanon by Rabia and Shahab Khan, this honey will make a great gift for the person who has everything or a tasty holiday season treat for the office break room. It’s way more impressive than a dozen donuts for less dollars. You can purchase their honey (and handmade soaps) at: https://www.honeybekind.com/.
I have given their cardamom-infused honey as a gift by itself, but I also love to pair it with a mug from Dormont artist Richard Dickman. It’s a welcome gift package during cold and flu season. Combine the talents of two local artists, and it’s easy to create a delicious and useful present. You can find Richard’s mugs at The Artsmiths on MacFarland Road, my stop when I need a personal and surprising gift. It’s where I first discovered Alternate Histories, where I found a delicate origami broach for just the right friend, and where I bought that memorable print of a beloved Pittsburgh hangout.
A stand-alone gift shop might not seem as easy as grabbing a deal from the end cap at Target, but the free parking, business hours seven days a week, and abundance of cool stuff make The Artsmiths worth the slight detour. It is not the only way to find inexpensive gifts produced by local makers, however. Ask your friends who their favorite local artists are, and share your unique finds with all of us. When we support our local artists, we put the most incredible and delightful surprises under the Christmas tree!