What is made by the hands often comes from the heart, and that truth is on display this holiday season as makers across Southwest Michigan unveil their bountiful inventory of handcrafted gifts. While it used to be easier to shop mass-produced items made around the world, this year’s supply-chain issues are delaying delivery times and causing shortages nationwide. With traditional shopping patterns disrupted, many consumers are employing a shop-local strategy to skip the lines and support small business. This December, Santa’s most reliable elves can be found in storefronts on Main Street or in a neighbor’s workshop down your street.
If you’re looking for a handcrafted gift made with love and local talent, here are seven ideas from Southwest Michigan:
You’d be hard-pressed to find a lady on your list who wouldn’t appreciate a new pair of earrings from Kimy Battista Art. Take a virtual stroll through this St. Joseph based artisan’s collection of beautiful clay earrings to find the perfect match for any style or budget. You can shop online in her Etsy shop, or find her handmade creations locally at Bound for Freedom and A Little Collective. This stay-at-home mom who uses the hashtag #naptimehustle is a frequent pop-up artist at Lazy Ballerina Winery and will also have a booth at the Bridgman Holiday Village Market on December 11. And for the real aficionados, you can join the Earring of the Month Club for $25 to receive a handcrafted (and seasonally fashionable) pair plus matching studs delivered to your doorstep.
For the outdoorsman in your life who appreciates quality craftsmanship, you can’t go wrong with a custom knife made locally by A Cut Above Knife Sharpening in St. Joseph. This veteran-owned and operated business offers a wide array of fixed-blade options including the Patriot Knife, Elk Skinner, and Chef’s Knife. Within the Patriot Knife series, you can also select from the Thin Blue Line and Thin Red Line collections, paying homage to police officers and firefighters respectively. According to owner Evan Crisler, “A Cut Above sources high-quality material for every component. Each knife has a purpose and I design the product specifically for that purpose, from the steel of the blade to the epoxy and pins used to hold the knife together.” And If you’re looking to restore Grandpa’s old pocketknife for a gift, quotes are also available for custom restoration.
Everyone appreciates a good collab, and two local businesses have teamed up to bring you all the delightful smells for this holiday season. At Raw Oats in Buchanan, you’ll find a line of skincare products that are as good for the planet as they are for your body. From clay masks to bar soaps, they have you covered in the skincare department and even offer a wide array of gift sets perfectly packaged for under the tree. The Harry Potter-themed gift set includes a fragrant soap fit for each house (4 total), a Hogwarts inspired fizzy bath soak, a soft Maurader’s Map headband from @shopcrazycraftlady to keep your hair back while you’re relaxing in the tub, and a plum scented “I Suspect Nargles” candle from Wicked Pop Candle Co. Hand-poured in Niles, the candles from this local business are soy-based, pop culture-infused, and female-powered with optimum fragrance levels to ensure the best scent throw. If you’re looking for seasonally appropriate gifts for the movie lover in your life, you can choose from candles inspired by Home Alone, Elf, or Christmas Vacation. Or, check out their collection of TV or literary-themed candles for a unique gift for any pop-culture enthusiast.
Fresh from the farm to your table, Payne Heritage Country Store in Galien has a wide selection of homegrown and handmade products including meat, dairy, fish, jams, syrups, and more. And during the holiday season, Ms. Connie Clause combines them all into beautifully wrapped gift baskets perfect for Christmas morning in your kitchen. For $50, you can purchase a farm fresh breakfast to feed eight, complete with eggs, bacon, cinnamon rolls, milk, pancake mix, butter, honey, maple syrup, and jam. Located in Galien, stop by the country store and take a farm tour on their one-of-a-kind horse drawn vehicles and horseless carriages. Starting at just $25, a variety of pre-made gift baskets containing food and decor from the store are ready for purchase and a corporate discount is available for 10 or more baskets. And if you want to gift the taste of home to an out-of-town relative, they’ll happily ship items anywhere in the U.S.
Handmade is an understatement for the culinary creations from Kara’s Kitchen in St. Joseph. Known for her delightfully decorated hot cocoa bombs, these adorable stocking stuffers come in a variety of flavors (white chocolate, milk chocolate, and peppermint) and can be customized for your little ones. And for $12, you can order a large hot cocoa bomb placed inside a mug personalized with the name of the recipient. If you have kiddos attending your Christmas dinner, consider ordering a chocolate pinata to add to the fun. Break the hard outer shell with a small wooden hammer to reveal the chocolatey surprise inside!
If you’re “dreaming of a driftwood Christmas,” the Sawyer-based artisans from Drifting Together on the East Side have you covered. Wreaths, sailboats, ornaments, and home decor are all made from driftwood found along the shore of Lake Michigan and hand-crafted into beautiful items for every season. Gift baskets are also available for the perfect Southwest Michigan gift and include a Michigan ornament, a driftwood sailboat, and a set of Michigan garden stones. Bring elements of the shore into your holiday decor and check out the beautiful creations of two neighbors who combined their love of crafting and natural elements into a growing business. Remind yourself warmer weather will return with driftwood designs that bring the beach inside.
If it’s the thought that counts, hand-selected gifts from handcrafted sources are the best way to spread joy and show you care this holiday season. When you purchase locally, you support homegrown artisans who pour their hearts into handmade treasures and build their businesses in Southwest Michigan.
Looking for handmade gifts for everyone on your list? You can’t go wrong with Buy Local Berrien’s Holiday Shopping Series sponsor, Forever Clean Soap Works on Cleveland Ave in St. Joseph. Shop handcrafted soaps, bath bombs, candles, lip balm and more in a festive, fun, and delicious-smelling setting!
About the Writer: Stacey Martin is a local author and freelance writer with a passion for promoting Southwest Michigan. She is the author of We Grow Kids Here and New Girl at Church, and the creator and host of “The Folks Back Home” podcast. She’s a former marketing executive and current Domestic Director of a house full of kids.