Union Square Holiday Market

I recently had the chance to visit the Union Square Holiday Market, one of the markets organized by Urbanspace. Of all of the holiday markets I’ve visited this year, this one is the largest – there are more than 100 vendors in all. There are many New York City-based makers at the Union Square Holiday Market, as well as some really neat items from outside the city as well. This article will focus primarily on the local makers.

Each holiday market I’ve visited has new, unique artists and artisans for me to discover. One of the first stalls I explored at the Union Square Holiday Market was that of Brooklyn-based DeLong Ceramics. Artisan Denise DeLong creates beautiful ceramic tiles and Christmas ornaments, with most having a New York City theme.

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I loved this tile. The colors somehow remind me of the city on a rainy evening.

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And I also love this one, with its subway setting. (You know me, I can’t resist things that are in some way related to New York City’s public transportation system!)

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I also discovered Insiders1, a Brooklyn-based company that creates bags and accessories incorporating urban photography. If you are looking for a creative gift with iconic New York images, Insiders1 is a great place to start.

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Citybitz also draws from New York City for design inspiration, as well as materials in some circumstances. Owner and designer Joan Huggard combines metal, glass, resin, photography, and other materials to create classic personal accessories such as cuff links, cigarette cases, and flasks. I loved this collection that draws from the iconic Penguin mosaics found in the 5th Ave./59th St. R Station.

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Another collection, called Manhattan’s Makeup, also caught my eye. These pieces incorporate rust and paint chips from New York City landmarks, including the Manhattan Bridge and the 2nd Avenue Subway Station. The colors are vibrant, just as the city is.

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I was enchanted by the cloth dolls of Hazel Village. Made of organic cotton, each doll is delightful, and you can buy a variety of costumes and outfits to dress them in. These dolls are guaranteed to inspire a child’s imagination.

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There was something so special about artist Eve Devore’s owl prints. Her business card asks, “Curious what you would look like as an owl?” The prints are colorful, magical, and full of imagination.

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I love this Empire Owl:

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And I’ve decided that this is how I would look as an owl. This is Java Bean Owl:

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Even though I was looking primarily for makers based in New York City, I couldn’t resist the special, whimsical poem mobiles of poziepoems. But although poziepoems’ owners now live in South Africa, they started their business when they were living in New York City, so they still fit my overall theme. Each poem extends over several pieces of wood, descending one from the other. The poem changes as the breeze causes the pieces to turn, as alternative words and phrases are on the other side. They’re such a unique gift idea, and I fell in love with them immediately.

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One of the things that makes the Union Square Holiday Market fun is that its location attracts musicians as well, like the one in this photo:

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And if you get hungry or thirsty as you shop, there are plenty of food and drink options available as well. I had a luxurious cup of hot chocolate from Brooklyn chocolatier Nunu Chocolates. Yum! (Their salt caramels would make a good stocking stuffer, by the way.)

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As the sun went down, I sampled a Belgian waffle from Wafels & Dinges – it was also delicious!

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How can you get to the Union Square Holiday Market? The easiest way to get to the market is by subway. Take the L, N, Q, R, 4, 5, or 6 train to the 14 Street/Union Square station.

Local Makers at the Brooklyn Holiday Bazaar

I’m always looking for fun, unique gifts made by local artisans and craftspeople. To that end, I recently attended the third annual Brooklyn Holiday Bazaar, which is organized each year by Brooklyn Makers. The Bazaar was held at 501 Union, in Gowanus, Brooklyn. The space was a little small for the number of people who attended, but that’s a great sign for all of the makers who were selling items there. As always, I have chosen some of my favorite things from the Bazaar to feature here, but there were many more great items for sale. (Check out the Brooklyn Makers website if you’re wondering what else is available.)

One of the first tables to catch my attention was that of Goose Grease. Goose Grease, which is owned by Brooklyn residents Juan Carlos and Anna Leigh Donado, sells sets of small wooden dolls. The wooden doll bodies are made by a carpenter in Bogotá, Colombia, through fair trade, and then local artisans paint each doll. The dolls are delightful, perfectly sized to spark children’s imaginations. There are even blank sets that you can paint yourself, or you can provide photographs and have a set custom painted. This first photograph shows their “Brooklyn Family.”

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I also loved this set, called “The Peacemakers,” including Harriet Tubman, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ghandi. Wouldn’t it be cool to see small children playing with these dolls?

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Finally, here are some examples of the custom versions the artisans at Goose Grease can create.

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Another maker with great gift options for children is Home Grown Books. This company publishes books meant to feed children’s creativity and imagination, using beautifully illustrated books on a variety of subjects. Many of the books are packaged thematically. For example, you can buy a set of books that relate to the them of “adventuring,” “play,””city and country,” or the “environment.”

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They also have board books with thick cardboard pages for younger readers.

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My third pick is a little different. Rescue Chocolate is a great company. Their chocolate bars are made in Brooklyn and are organic, vegan, kosher, and fair traded. The best part – their profits go towards supporting animal rescue organizations. Buying their chocolate bars can allow you to give two gifts in one, as they would make great stocking stuffers but also mean support for animal rescue!

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Brooklyn-based Blink Blink sells innovative gifts meant to stir creativity and interest in technology. They have several different circuitry kits that can be used to make everything from holiday cards to sewing and craft projects that light up. Want to interest children in technology while encouraging their creativity and imagination? Blink Blink’s kits are a fun way to do exactly that. Each kit contains several suggestions regarding how its components can be used, but those are just a jumping off point for project design.

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I’ve talked about the folks at Boundless Brooklyn before, but I was so excited to see them at the Holiday Bazaar as well. Boundless Brooklyn creates DIY water tower, billboard, and lifeguard towers.

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One reason why I was happy to see Boundless Brooklyn this time is that they had local illustrator and graphic designer Xavier Alvarez (In Prime We Trust) painting custom versions of their model billboards.

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Brooklyn jewelry and accessory designers Soluna Soluna brought fun jewelry to the holiday bazaar, with a New York City-themed twist: jewelry incorporating local area codes! Other pieces are geometric and unique, making perfect gifts from NYC.

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As an animal lover, I enjoyed the cat toys and other handmade items offered by Kitty Jones. These catnip-filled mice looked like they are sure to please the most finicky feline, and the scratch pads were thick and high quality. (Kitty Jones also sells replacement inserts for the scratch pads.)

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The Brooklyn Block integrates technology and fashion with their beautiful scarves. They start by taking video of a New York City Neighborhood. The video is then processed in code, and finally is printed onto each scarf. This example is the Manhattan evening skyline. The concept behind the Brooklyn Block’s designs is very cool, and the scarves are beautiful. Each neighborhood offers its only colors and patterns.

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My final pick for this post: Descendant Cider Company. The folks at Descendant Cider were offering samples of a few of their ciders, which were delicious! I’ve definitely found a new favorite. I tried the Pom Pomme Sparkling Dry Cider, which combines apples, pomegranate, and hibiscus flowers.

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The Descendant Dry Cider was crisp and delicious, with a strong apple flavor.

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Finally, I tasted Descendant’s Pair Cider, a combination of apple and pear that is aged in American Oak barrels. The Pair was a pleasant surprise for me. The oak barrels give the cider a rich, buttery taste, similar in some ways to a Chardonnay, but there is still that flavorful reminder of the fruit as well.

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All three ciders would make good stocking stuffers or the perfect hostess gift to bring to a holiday party. I’ll definitely be buying some myself!