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.

Grand Central Terminal’s Holiday Fair

It’s that time of year when everyone is shopping for holiday gifts, and New York City offers many options for completing your shopping list. One of my favorites is Grand Central Terminal’s annual Holiday Fair. This year’s Holiday Fair hosts 74 different booths, guaranteed to offer a variety of gifts for anyone you may be shopping for. The Holiday Fair takes place in Vanderbilt Hall, a convenient location.

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With 74 booths to choose from, I’ve chosen some of my favorites to focus on for this article. The first one to catch my attention was that of Danielle Gori-Montanelli, who makes jewelry, hats, and other accessories from high quality wool felt. Danielle’s designs are fun, colorful, and whimsical, with close attention to small details. Here’s one of Danielle’s hats. The detail work on this hat is delightful.

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She has some fun pins as well.

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My favorite pin was this one. And while I was talking to Danielle, another woman came up proudly wearing one of them on her coat lapel. She said that she had received so many comments about it!

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Finally here’s a picture of a sophisticated necklace made of black and white felt. I loved the architectural elements in this piece.

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Next, I found the booth for Nöel Nomad, which carries beautiful Christmas ornaments and decorations made by women in Kyrgystan. The ornaments are adorable–there are numerous different animals, as well as angels and nativity scenes. These ornaments would make great gifts and stocking stuffers.

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One of my favorite thing at Nöel Nomad was the nativity scene, complete with yurt! Look at the lovely embroidered details on the yurt.

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Another favorite: With Love, From Brooklyn. This shop focuses on artisan foods and other items, with the focus on products made in Brooklyn. The booth had so many things to choose from: Mast Brothers chocolate bars; Fatty Sundays chocolate covered pretzels; Field Trip beef jerky; illustrator Claudia Pearson’s New York-themed tea towels and coffee cups; Salty Road salt water taffy; caramels from Liddabit Sweets; The Jam Stand’s delicious jams; and spreadable bacon from The Bacon Jams. Yes, I just said that–spreadable bacon jam. I tasted it. Although I was skeptical, it was actually delicious! (I’m sure I left a few Brooklyn-based businesses out–my apologies!) But they definitely had some great stuff!

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One fun product at With Love, From Brooklyn was W&P Design’s Carry On Cocktail Kits. If you know someone who enjoys cocktails, these kits would make unexpected and fun stocking stuffers.

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One final fun thing from With Love, From Brooklyn: Boundless Brooklyn’s DIY Model Kits, including the ubiquitous New York City water tower. These kits have recently been featured in the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. There are also occasionally gallery shows, with artist-painted versions of the water towers. Here’s a photograph of a completed (but unpainted) water tower.

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In another row, I discovered The Owl Workshop. One side of the booth had adorable organic cotton baby clothes, many with New York-specific screen-printed designs.

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On the other side, there were tiny handmade outfits and accessories for dogs.

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Just down from this stall was Verrier Boutique’s handcrafted paper items, included prints (both framed and unframed) and delightful sparkly cards. Verrier Boutique is the brainchild of mother-daughter team Ashleigh and Jude Verrier. If you are looking for a unique greeting card for birthdays or holidays, these cards would do the trick for sure! And the prints are bright, fun, and creative. (I particularly loved the New York City-themed Christmas cards, one of which is featured below.)

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As I thought I was getting closer to the end of the Holiday Fair, I found MarieBelle New York Chocolates, which are made in Brooklyn. MarieBelle’s chocolates are sumptuous–rich and creamy. And they are presented in a way that makes them appealing, perfect for gifts (or for your own eating pleasure, as they’re hard to resist). MarieBelle’s signature ganache chocolates are screen-printed with edible cocoa butter designs; each pattern signals a different flavor, but also turns them into works of art.

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MarieBelle is also known for their gourmet hot chocolate:

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And, for stocking stuffers, MarieBelle has delicious chocolate bars. One version has sophisticated packaging and comes in flavors like Japanese Macha, Choco Banana, and Espresso. The other is playful and features saucy vintage pinup girls!

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Finally, in the very last booth, I found another treasure, called Emma. Emma has no website, but her work is amazing. Everything in her shop she made by hand, either using crochet or knitting. She has beautiful scarves, hats, and headbands in a variety of soft, colorful yarns, but she also had some unique hats and neck pieces that are avant-garde, truly works of art. I thought I would feature of few of those special pieces here.

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While you’re at Grand Central, make sure that you allow time to explore. The Terminal has beautiful architectural details, and there’s a food court with some delicious food and drink options on the lower level Dining Concourse. It’s also a good opportunity to see the model train exhibit at the New York Transit Museum’s annex, which is free.

Because the Holiday Fair takes place in Grand Central Terminal, it is easy to get to by public transportation. The 4, 5, 6, 7, and S subway lines all stop at Grand Central, as do numerous buses. You can also take the Metro North Railroad.