Given that your wallet may be particularly light this holiday season — and your work bonus a $5 Starbucks card, if you’re lucky — snagging affordable gifts is more important than ever. So, too, is supporting local retailers and designers, who are no doubt feeling the pinch. With that in mind, we set out to find presents for everyone on your list that you’ll feel good about buying, all around.
Fire & Light Dinnerware
About $20 per piece, available at: The Treehouse Green Gifts, KatesCaringGifts.com
Even on an overcast day, the hand-poured, pebbly textured tumblers and bowls from Fire & Light seem to shine like no other. Made with crushed recycled glass in a rainbow of colors by artisans in Humboldt County (who teamed up with a bunch of local investors a few years back in an effort to put tons of recycled glass to good use), these tumblers, bowls, and candleholders are instant mood boosters.
Sexy Heating Pad (yes, really)
$15, available at: Gaytha.etsy.com
For the friend who won’t stop bitching about her heating bills, a sassy, cuddly leopard-print heating pad from ingenious Oakland crafter Gaytha is a sure bet. You simply toss the long pillow-like pad — which is filled with rice and lavender — into the microwave for a few minutes, slide it beneath the sheets, and instantly make cold feet a thing of the past. Got a few more bucks to spend while you’re at it? Gaytha’s colorful, expertly stitched Dia de los Muertos pillow ($85) is simply gorgeous.
Recycled Vinyl Tote Bag
$24, available at: JennyHurth.com
Made from massive discarded vinyl signs and banners that would otherwise end up in landfills, these sturdy, vibrant hand-sewn grocery totes from San Francisco designer Jenny Hurth will suit just about anyone on your list, from your church-going grandma to your rebellious teenage cousin.
Lizard Press Letter Press Note Cards
$25, available at: LizardPress.etsy.com
For a cook, gardener, or simply that one person you know who still writes with a pen and paper from time to time, try a set of herb-themed note cards from San Francisco’s Lizard Press Letter Press. The exquisitely beautiful “Notes to Grow On” set consists of seven cards, each of which is affixed with a different tidy little packet of seeds including fennel, marjoram, rosemary, peppermint, chamomile, and chicory.
Blowfish Piggy Bank
$48, available at: ACCI Gallery
If you’ve never put a piggy bank in the shape of a blue blowfish on your holiday gift shopping list, you’ve clearly never seen the handiwork of Berkeley-based ceramicist Brenda Soi. Unexpected, charming, and expertly rendered, it’s the perfect gift for the recession-savvy penny-pincher — or someone who should be one. Not into fish? Perhaps elephants, or — yep — pigs, are more up your alley.
$16-20, available at: Peekaboutique, Fabric 8, Milkbomb.com
Know a baby who flies? Nothing will make his mom and dad (and fellow airplane passengers, with any luck) grin wider than a tiny T-shirt or onesie from Oakland-based Milkbomb featuring an illustration of an airplane and the words: “Congratulations! You get to sit near me!” Guaranteed to make any kid’s incessant screaming much easier to bear.
Guy’s New Leaf Clothing T-shirt
$32, available at: NewLeafClothing.com, D-Structure
For that skinny-jean wearing, hipster guy you always end up buying a T-shirt for … well, how about a really, really cool T-shirt this year? Richmond designers Erik Otto and Deny Khoung have a knack for creating stunning compositions featuring silhouetted birds, leaves, and airy streetscapes.
Recycled Laptop Bag
$40, available at: Mangosteen, OaklandUnwrapped.org
For the social activist on your list, check out Mangosteen, a unique online import company started last summer by Oakland public interest lawyer and mega-traveler Gabrielle Lessard. Mangosteen’s lightweight, fabric-lined laptop bag, woven out of plastic bags by survivors of sex tracking in India, makes for a particularly versatile gift.
Glass Animal-motif Cufflinks
$40, available at: Relish at Home, HappyOwlGlass.com
We’re not sure why owls are all the rage these days as a design element, but a pair of delightful, rectangular, fused glass cufflinks by Happy Owl Glassworks lend credence to the notion that the trend is indeed a good thing. (They also come in frog, penguin, skunk, and seahorse designs.) Happy Owl’s glass animal nightlights ($45, online only) are amazing, too — sure to please any kid, colleague, or in-law on your list.
Gold Horseshoe Hoop Earrings
If the woman in your life is a jewelry fiend, you can’t go wrong with earrings by Oakland designer Melissa Joy Manning, who’s made a name for herself in the last decade by crafting delicate silver and gold hoops with just the right au currant edge. Our pick: 14-K gold horseshoe-shaped hoops that are a perfect — and unexpected — pairing of elegance and whimsy.