The holiday season is here, and we’re all searching for the perfect gifts for the special people in our lives. If you’re hoping to reach beyond mass-produced gifts for something unique and customized, local businesses have plenty to offer. From art finds and experiences to fine jewelry to delicious gift baskets, get ready to shop!
Give a Gift of Creativity
Experiences often make the best gifts. For art enthusiasts, consider a gift card for an in-studio workshop at family-owned Dots & Doodles. Classes are available for ages three and above and work for all skill levels from novice to pro. The studio workshops offer a full-service art-making experience painting a canvas or creating pottery.
For another fun gift idea, choose a Doodle Box. Each box includes between four and six major themed projects along with bonus projects, games and tutorials. Doodle Boxes also provide table papers to cover the work area, watercolor paper packs, canvases, brushes, coloring utensils and paints.
Founded by local glass artists Kathleen Mulcahy and the late Ron Desmett in the early 1990s, Pittsburgh Glass Center (PGC) is an innovative nonprofit glass art center focused on fostering community. The onsite shop displays a wide variety of handmade works created by the PGC community of glass artists. Choose from blown, flameworked, fused, cast and coldworked jewelry, vessels, sculpture and tableware. No two pieces are the same and every purchase supports both PGC and local glass artists, strengthening the community.
For an at-home project, consider a Glass to Go kit. Options include mosaics, suncatchers, steppingstones and additional designs with instructions. Kits are available for children and adults. Pittsburgh Glass Center also offers connections to local artists for commissioned projects in jewelry, engraving, sculptures, mosaics and more.
Make It Personal
The brainchild of Sarah Nelsen, Atlas Art was born from her personal struggles with depression.
“I was going through a difficult time,” said Nelsen. “Suffering from postpartum depression, taking care of a newborn with special needs and living with my parents while we worked on a fixer-upper house—I was overwhelmed.”
Her husband also worked the night shift as a nurse in the VA Hospital. “I felt like I didn’t have time to breathe, so I started getting up around 4 a.m. to write and draw,” she explained.
A graphic designer by trade, Nelsen began sharing her thoughts and drawings on a personal blog. As she gained followers, her neighbor asked her to design a card for a friend going through a traumatic experience.
From these beginnings, Nelsen opened Atlas Art in February 2021, offering DIY art kits and cards aimed at specific situations connected to mental health and wellness. Each DIY Art Kit includes everything needed to complete the art project and also includes self-reflection questions.
“Being busy with our hands allows us to relax and reflect,” said Nelsen. Kits include child- and adult-appropriate themes.
For a deeply personal gift, Care Kits include six cards focused on encouraging themes including strength, endurance, direction and hope. The large, heirloom-quality cards feature original art and an inspiring message. Fully customizable, the Care Kit cards are sent out one card at a time for six months. The kits come with an oak card stand, stamps, labels and envelopes. Gift cards are also available for workshops.
Anyone on your guest list who thrives on personalized T-shirts, hats, sunglasses or even face masks? Underground Printing has you covered—plus you get to play designer. Choose from numerous T-shirt styles for men, women and kids. Or choose a Polo-style shirt, hat, face mask, sunglasses or mugs and create a customized design.
Through screen printing and embroidery, your designs transform into unique gifts bearing your individualized touch. Choose from preset templates or create your own. Complete the design by adding color and messages or whatever you choose. Work on your outstanding designs online or in the shop. Then surprise your friends and family with your newly found talent!
Gift a Touch of Pittsburgh
The women who own love, Pittsburgh focus on sustainable practices and support of local artisans. Owners Kelly Sanders and Monica Yope are self-proclaimed champions of ‘local.’ Pittsburgh-born and completely in love with the city, their charming shops (downtown and Mount Washington) only carry items from local artists and people within the community.
Choose a gift to thrill your favorite people by creating a gift box or subscription box from the locally sourced products in the shop. love, Pittsburgh wares also include apparel, home accents, stationery, food and beverage, toys, jewelry and dogdannas for pets.
When you can’t decide on one gift, fill a basket up with your loved one’s favorite things. Named one of the top 10 gift companies in the country, Basket of Pittsburgh has been sharing the spirit of Pittsburgh through customizable gift baskets to lucky recipients around the country since 1984.
Popular choices include the Classy Christmas—a red leather basket with red and black houndstooth fabric filled with scrumptious treats including DeLallo Italian Foods. Chocoholics on your gift buying list will fall in love with the Chocolate Lovers basket. Choose from one of the many baskets online or contact the custom design team to create your own masterpiece.
Find Something Unique that Sparkles
A goldsmith, platinum smith and jewelry designer by trade, Amy Klein McGinley opened So Me as an outlet for talented artists across diverse media. With no two pieces alike, finding a unique gift for your loved one is easy in this Allison Park shop.
For the kids, you’ll find cute items like a ladybug clock, temporary tattoo packs and PJs. Pieces for homes include pottery bowls, handcrafted soap dishes and gorgeous stained glass panels. Create your own gift basket filled with delicious treats like vanilla-mint body butter, vintage lip tins, candles with aromas like vanilla and tobacco and more. Apparel and accessories round out options for gift ideas.
If you’re looking for jewelry for a special someone, you’ll delight in a vast selection of handmade rings, necklaces, bracelets and earrings.
The owner of Joden Jewelers, Joe Murawski, turned down college scholarships in favor of attending gem school in Los Angeles. He returned home to Grove City with a degree as a graduate gemologist and opened Joden Jewelers before his 20th birthday. Now, 51 years later, he’s still matching people with the jewelry of their dreams.
“I tell people, if you saw our store from the outside, it wouldn’t look different than any other jewelry store,” said Murawski. “But as soon as you see the inventory, it looks very different.”
Different indeed. Joden’s boasts 30 pieces of the exquisite collection of Queen Victoria’s favorite jewelry by Carlo Juliana. “The V&A Museum in London has 18, we have 30,” said Murawski.
Joden also houses the largest collection of authentic antique jewelry between Chicago and Philadelphia. With such an extensive collection available, you won’t just find an unusual piece for your loved one—you’ll discover a fascinating back story.
With a manufacturing facility on premises, the options for custom-designed pieces are endless.
“We can make anything you can dream up!” said Murawski.