Pondering the return of the holiday season, and the attendant obligation of shopping for holiday gifts and writing about same for this magazine, I started to feel a little overwhelmed. There's an awful lot of stuff out there: there's even a lot of cool stuff, green stuff, eco stuff. How to choose? The answer, of course, was to narrow it down, way down.
As regular readers know, I'm pretty into animals, and as I started to peruse gift-giving options, those that were animal-related quickly emerged as my favorites. From great gifts for actual animals, to gifts that benefit animals, to representations of animals to wear or hang on the wall, it quickly became clear that I could narrow my focus, thereby simplifying my life (and yours, if you choose to follow my shopping directives) and still have plenty to choose from.
If you happen to have a pitbull fan on your shopping list, whether an owner or just an admirer, the Bay Area group Bad Rap (badrap.org) has some of the coolest graphics around, and sells t-shirts, stickers and totes, all sporting a pro-pit message ("My best friend is a pitbull"). Their calendar, with a year's worth of choice rescued pit pictures, is an easy and affordable gift for any animal lover, and proceeds go to support the group's wonderful work rehabilitating dogs, and the breed's image.
But if you have an ACTUAL pitbull to buy for, or any other breed of dog or cat (and as a pet parent, let me tell you that buying a gift, however small, for one of my dogs, or my turtle, will charm and please me in a way that almost nothing you could buy for me would) I suggest you head over to PS9, easily Brooklyn's most elegant pet store. PS9's owner, Joan Christian, is as conscientious as she is stylish, so you'll find dog sweaters hand-knit by indigenous peoples in South America, gorgeous collars hand-beaded in Kenya, green coats and sweaters made from bamboo or recycled plastic bottles and loads of stuff made by local Brooklyn artists.
Of course, PS9 carries the best foods and treats, including the coolest dog gift ever: naturally shed deer antlers (they just fall off... no need to kill the deer, and no more gross animal parts on the bed/sofa/carpet) that are gathered by dogs trained to find them in the woods. That's right, dog toys that employ actual dogs. Trimmed and cleaned, they make a chew toy that lasts forever, cleans the teeth, and is well worth the premium price ($12-32, depending on size).
For actual people, my favorite store these days, bar none, is a little boutique out on Graham Avenue in Williamsburg, the amazing Treehouse. Treehouse is a treasure trove of beautiful handmade, recycled, vintage, green things, and on closer inspection seemed ready to provide gifts for most of those on my list.
Hand-crocheted copper chain necklaces by house brand Sirius Lux (you might have seen them on The Uniform Project)? Check. Handmade silver jewelry depicting wolves, dogs, dinosaurs and sharks by local designer Species of Thousands? Check. Handmade jasmine cream and bath salts (for mom, or grandma, or your bff) and pregnant-lady essentials from Portland's Angel Face? Check. Exquisite fingerless cashmere gloves with Swarovski sparkles by Elyse Allen (you have to see these to believe how pretty they are)? Check. Mammy wallets handsewn from vintage fabrics? Men's organic bamboo denim jeans and jumpsuits from Brooklyn's own SDN? Real NYC pigeon-feather art objects, encased in glass vials, with date and place found? Hand-silkscreened cards? Check, check, check.
Toss in (locally made, natch) silkscreened onesies for the tiny tots, and dresses made from vintage pillowcases for little girls, soy candles that smell like heaven, incredible handmade hoods with reflective stripes, perfect for keeping your favorite cyclist's head warm AND visible, and an assortment of beautiful vintage wares, and I can't think of a person on my list I can't shop for here. The icing on the cake? Mention The L Magazine, and Treehouse will donate 10 percent of your purchase to Brooklyn animal rescue groups. One-stop shopping, with love for the four-foots! IF you can't find everything you want at Treehouse, ask proprietress Siri to share her neighborhood knowledge: sister stores Sodafine, on the south side, Kill Devil Hill in Greenpoint, and Kaight in the Lower East Side all stock great vintage and/or amazing eco fashions, and Siri knows all the deets.
If you'd like to extend the gift-of-giving, and take a more ecological approach, don't forget online animal adoptions: manatees at AdoptAManatee.org, Yellowstone's wolves at NRDC's SaveBioGems.org (cheap enough for Secret Santa), or farm animals at FarmSanctuary.org. Perennial favorite Defenders.org (Defenders of Wildlife), which has long offered wild animal adoptions accompanied by stuffed animal versions of your chosen adoptee (perfect for kids) this year has introduced a line of eco-plush stuffed adoptees: they're made from a byproduct of soy food production, so are sustainable and renewable, and don't use up actual food.
One of the most sophisticated gifts you can give is art, no? On the top of my list, for any and all occasions, are the prints of Sue Coe, one of the most important political artists of our time. Her work has dealt with all manner of injustice, social, political and animal-rights related: her most affecting work looks at creatures in zoos, slaughterhouses, and laboratories. In keeping with her politics (and following the tradition of earlier graphic artists like Kathe Kollwitz) much of her work is affordable prints, sold through her gallery, Gallerie St. Etienne, on 57th Street. Stroll in, peruse, and purchase: many pieces are under $100, some are under $50.