Handmade Gifts from the Heart…of Tacoma

Take it from someone who’s not from ‘round here: the South Sound is beautiful. From its neighborhoods full of character to its iconic sites and monuments, this region of Washington cannot be beat for making memories and seeing new sights. With all of its natural beauty, vibrant neighborhoods and rich history, it’s not hard to see why so many local artists call the South Sound home.

TacomaArt clock

Where: ArtCo Crafts and Framing and Etsy
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Jason Steinberg sells a potpourri of creative works, ranging from prints of his popular “Tiny Tacoma” photography series to car decals and Tacoma-branded retail goods. “Tacoma is an incredible city for artistic inspiration!” says Steinberg. “For starters, the overall city architecture is beautiful — amazing stuff everywhere. Historic buildings. Cool houses. Way cool bridges. Dozens of small, iconic and often eccentric buildings. Murals. Statues. Graffiti. Docks. Steel. Glass — tons to look at everywhere. I’m always coming up with ideas for my next piece or photo series from my daily adventures in Tacoma.” You can find Jason’s photography, clothing and bumper stickers online as well as in Tacoma’s ArtCo Crafts; this South Sound artist welcomes custom orders and requests, as well.

Pepper Pot Polish
Where: Embellish SalonNearsighted Narwhal and Etsy

Mackenzie Putscher knows all about reflecting personal style. Her tongue-in-cheek nail polishes are bright and confident — sometimes a little outlandish and quirky — but always one-of-a-kind. The creative colors and patterns that Mackenzie imagines, which are inspired by books, movies, and her South Sound surroundings, are all about evoking a response.Pepper Pot Polish has had such success selling its beautiful polishes via Etsy, local farmers markets and select shops that Mackenzie is now expanding her brand. “I’ve started making lip gloss to compliment (or clash with!) my nail polish line, and have those online for purchase. In the next few months I will also be releasing loose eye shadows and possibly eye liner. I’m also currently collaborating with another great woman who makes amazing handbags. Together, we’re creating a travel makeup bag that will be sold with a couple of nail polishes and a lip gloss, perfect for the lady who plans on going on some super fun summer adventures. I’ve got a lot of products in the works!”

Pepper Pot Polish lip gloss

Cedar Street Design
Where: EtsyThe Pacific Northwest Shop and Constellation Art Gallery

Daniel and Melissa Metzler make carefully designed, hand-finished wooden boxes in Tacoma. The pair uses a precision laser cutter to make intricate box parts that are carefully assembled and finished by hand. These interesting, fun, beautiful boxes are crafted from a variety of woods and design approaches to develop single- and multi-layered boxes that combine lacy patterns and wood inlay. The pair uses only wood that has been cross-checked against a list of threatened species and woodlands. You can find the wood art that this couple creates online at Etsy, in-person at The Pacific Northwest Shop or the Constellation Art Gallery.

More Please Thank You
Where: Etsy

Decorative box

Every new high tide brings jewelry artist Jennifer Goad a fresh delivery of one-of-a-kind building materials. Jennifer makes wire art from sea glass, shells and other oceanic flotsam and jetsam. Jennifer designs simple jewelry that aims to highlight the organic, unintentional beauty of the beach glass she discovers along Washington’s coastlines. Her light, honest, timeless design celebrates her favorite town as well as the utility of our oceans. Each piece of sea glass has been tumbled in natural salt water waves, and Jennifer marvels at the way that nature is able to recycle discarded items into something so beautiful. You can check out the earrings, anklets, necklaces and rings that Jennifer currently has for sale on her Etsy shop. She will also be at Music and Art in the Park on August 8, 2015, for those who want to peruse her elegant sea glass jewelry in a more analog setting.

Lazy Porcupine
Where: Etsy

Bob and Olivia Kriva are putting a whole new spin on the aroma of Tacoma. The City of Destiny has become the inspiration for many of this creative couple’s candle scents. Made locally, the scents are inspired by the Kriva’s love of the outdoors. Layered and complex aromas are designed to evoke a place or an idea, and each candle is unique and exceptional. These handmade, dye-free, soy candles are truly unique, and come in scents like Shipwreck, Prairie Storm and Morning Coffee. The tins and labels themselves are not to be undersold, either; each scent name, tin and label is carefully designed before release, and the result is a smart and creative bit of Tacoma in a can. You can visit the Lazy Porcupine’s storefront on Etsy, and be sure to check back for updates — you never know when you could find a little Porcupine in a brick-and-mortar spot near you.

EarthNerd acorn art

EarthNerd Treasures
Where: EtsyUrban XChangeEmbellish SalonAmerican Ritual Tattoo, and Ephemeral Designs
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Dawn Curran’s art, jewelry and body care products are inspired by the city she loves to live in so much, Tacoma, as well as by nature and vintage designs. Using locally sourced supplies, Dawn harvests dandelion seeds and feathers found on front lawns right here in the Gritty City, and wood for her beautiful handmade necklaces and earrings are cut from the felled branches of trees in local parks. Dawn uses found or donated objects to create her expressive jewelry, as well as simple, natural ingredients to make her body care products. This local artist uses her knowledge of herbalism to create lotions, face oils, lip balms, beard oil and so much more; these potions are made using minimal ingredients and are free from synthetic additives and harsh fragrances. When Dawn isn’t out enjoying nature or shooting her longbow, you can find her at craft fairs around the South Sound. Catch EarthNerd during Urban Shopping & Cocktails (April 18–May 16, 2:00 p.m.–6:00 p.m.) as well as at Music & Art in Wright Park (August 8, noon–7:00 p.m.). Can’t make it? Visit her and her storefront online to learn more about her vintage and nature-inspired designs for every taste.

Joseph and Ronnie-Sue’s Awesome Handmade Stuff
Where: Etsy

Ronnie and Sue shaving kit

An active member of the USAF, Joseph Johnsonloves working with his hands almost as much as he loves coffee. It made perfect sense, then, that after he bought a lathe on Craigslist he turned an espresso tamper for himself. Today, using steel bases that he hand-selects, Joseph has made many beautiful tampers, shaving kits and other accessories for individuals and coffee shops around the South Sound. “I’ve been very selective about what I turn. I usually say that I let the wood tell me what shape it wants to be and use my tools to help it along.” Using repurposed wood, salvaged fromearthwise Tacoma, recycled materials from Richlite, Tru-Stone and shed antler, Joseph tries to turn his incredible hand-crafted orders after work each day. This craftsman works on spec, and loves to share photos of his work online and on his Etsy storefront. These make amazing, personalized gifts for groomsmen, newly-weds, the couple who has everything, and — of course — yourself!

All of these amazing artists are local, but this doesn’t even begin to cover them all. Mackenzie Putscher tells us about a few more.

Christy Reedy at Libertine Tacoma Gourmet Culinary Salts & Sugars makes delicious salt and sugar creations that make the perfect gift any time of the year. Brooke McLaughlin of AtlasPast has handmade handbags and cool cozies for beer cans in the summer. Kendra Varadi of KV Apothecary makes body balm. Visual artistRachel Heimbigner is showing several pieces at The Blue Octopus on Pearl Street, and she will also be selling her paintings, giclées, prints, cards and handmade jewelry at the Proctor Arts Festival.

If you know of any other local artists who are a cut above but didn’t make this list, please give them a shout-out in the comments section. Be sure to check out these local South Sound artists the next time you’re in a quandary about what to get that friend, couple, or relative who has everything. The odds are pretty slim that they don’t have any of this.