A truly great gift delivers more than just a quick "new stuff!" dopamine hit. When that new acquisition resonates with significance larger than the box it's wrapped in, that's when you know you've given (or gotten) more than just a pretty trinket.
One way to make a gift significant is giving locally sourced gifts. You know the drill: Giving locally keeps money in the community, supports diversity and innovation, and builds sustainability and self-sufficiency. But it also tastes, looks, feels and smells better than anything in a box Amazon hurls on your doorstep. Honest. Try it and see.
We'd like to think of this gift guide as not just a list of good things made by Orlandoans, but a list of Orlandoans who have made good. The ideas and experiences executed by these people enrich the city as much as they do the gift recipient, simply by being part of us. As the Grandma Party Bazaar, itself a brilliant Orlando-born idea, puts it: "Grandma Party is you and me and all of us making it happen." Granny has worked since 2005 to instill this keep-Orlando-weird spirit in us. Isn't it time we let some other folks pick up some of the hard work? Happy Holidays and lucky shopping.
LITTLE WILD BLOOM
Hairstylist-turned-floral designer Stephanie Forshee creates one-of-a-kind arrangements for all occasions. Her work is romantic without being sappy, using unusual plant materials and not just hothouse flowers. "One of my favorite things is taking someone's description of a loved one and turning it into a custom bouquet fitting of their personality," Forshee tells us.
Little Wild Bloom does floral design for events like weddings and parties, but also makes casual bouquets and arrangements for birthdays, anniversaries and other occasions. Customers can set up a standing order (this is what we'd recommend giving/wouldn't mind getting); Forshee is considering designing a monthly bouquet delivery service and a seasonal bouquet delivery option of four deliveries a year.
Custom lettering by local painter Hillery Powers is the ultimate in hand-tailored thoughtfulness. Powers creates one-of-a-kind murals, window décor, signage and backdrops – perfect for a nursery, kitchen, or party or holiday photos.
She designed a mural for Go Big Tees' one-year observance of Pulse in which her hand-lettered "Love Orlando" message was surrounded with a coloring book-style design which attendees could fill in. (Sounds like a great idea for a kids' room to us.) Her murals start at $250 and go up according to size and complexity.
Even if you don't know Powers' name, you probably recognize the "Local Love Orlando" map she created with Macbeth Studios a couple of years ago. She's since expanded it to a "Greater Orlando" map print, bringing in some neighborhoods and cities that weren't in the original, like Winter Park, DeLand, Mount Dora, Sanford and UCF. The Greater Orlando map, available on her website, is a better option for giftees who aren't staying put where they live just yet or for givers on a budget.
GO BIG TEES
Go Big is a family-run business where you can find the massively popular line of Orlando Shirts (illustrations keyed off local neighborhoods with cheeky slogans like "Ivanhoe? No, you da hoe" and "Thrills on Mills"), the FLA WTF? collection ("Florida: A Sunny Place for Shady People"), as well as new offerings from partner artists and organizations like Burrow Press, Secret Society Goods, Lemonhearted and Swan City.
You can also order shirts from the Orlando Strong collection that came out after the Pulse shootings, in which local artists created designs grappling with the ramifications of that terrible event.
Not only can you (within reason) choose the T-shirt style on which you'd like the design of your choice – short-sleeve, long-sleeve, tank top – Go Big will also work with customers to create custom designs of their own concepts.
Orlando beauty expert Amanda Cara is a minimalist.
Her desire to declutter led her to create a streamlined skincare and cosmetics line without extra packaging, without extra additives, without animal testing and without toxic ingredients. Cara sells her products online, at the College Park Farmers Market and at pop-ups around town (keep an eye on her Instagram to see where).
There's always something irresistible about makeup sets around the holidays, but rarely is every color just right. With Illuma, you choose each product and each shade to include in the palette – Cara's selection of magnetic cases and individual color pans makes it all customizable. If your giftee is all about eyes, focus on shadows and liners; more of a skin person? Include foundation, powder, blush and bronzer pans. Travel fiends might like the organic, plant-based mini skincare set of cleanser, toner and serum.
Even better, all of the Illuma packaging, with its patterns of palmetto fronds, ferns and monstera leaves, is peak Orlando.
NAKED BAR SOAP CO.
More green beauty in College Park can be found at the Naked Bar Soap Co. Jennifer Peets and Natasha Byrd-Gaylon opened the store (which has a brick-and-mortar outpost at 1520 Edgewater Drive) after Byrd-Gordon came up with DIY solutions to solve skin problems after her first child was born. Their soaps and body products are made in-house and pack powerful remedies in pretty, fragrant packages.
"Naked," they say, "means undisguised, blatant, and devoid of concealment." Naked Bar Soap's products are pure, plant-based, sustainable and all that saintly stuff – but they also smell and feel gooood.
We especially like the salt soaps – there are six to choose from, including tangerine-eucalyptus, Himalayan pink salt and lemongrass-rosemary – which lather up richly, unlike some small-batch "natural" soaps. An assortment of these would bring a smile to anyone's face; or try bundling together the cayenne-and-ginger muscle balm and coconut-and-honey milk bath for a one-two punch of relaxation for anyone you know who does too much.
Local self-taught artist Betsy Garcia made a sharp left turn (if not a complete 180) when she decided to start a line of paper goods rather than going to medical school. But it's working out well for her, and also for Orlandoans looking for community-made greeting cards, posters, notebooks and good ol' pinback buttons.
Bloomwolf's art prints illustrate cities from Ann Arbor to Washington, D.C., with plenty of Floridiana in between. Got a friend who loves to travel, or misses her hometown? There's probably a dream print for her here. Or maybe you know someone who's the type to still mail thank-you notes? You can choose whimsical greeting cards for an assortment of occasions here.
Find Garcia's goods online or around the state at festivals and maker events.
Try giving an experience, rather than a thing. Of the many fabulous local workshops going on these days, we most want to take one with Victoria "Macrame Momma" Bealke. Macrame Momma is hosting a kids' workshop in January and an adult workshop in February at Leu Gardens; keep an eye on her Instagram feed for other workshops and pop-ups. The plant hangers and wall hangings your giftee will take home are just the tangible expression of the fun of learning a new skill.
Speaking of experiences, Bealke has plenty to draw from: She's a third-generation Orlandoan with a background in art and psychology which informs her work with kids' educational workshops at Orlando Science Center and elsewhere, and she once worked as a pedicab driver. (We're not sure if gracefully dealing with downtown partiers has a direct influence on her Bealke's art, but they say it's all grist for the mill, right?)
If your intended recipient has one of those schedules that's simply impossible, Bealke also takes orders for custom commissions – check her site to make an appointment.