Time of the season: Barry Gamble of the Cotati-based ChronoArt has created innovative timepieces that have struck a chord with clockwatchers everywhere.
Our annual guide to great gifts made close to home
OK, it smacks of bumper-sticker sentimentality, but these days more and more people are seeking ways to think globally and shop locally. You don’t have to be an impassioned WTO activist to see the benefits of supporting independently owned businesses. So, hey, pass the eggnog and seek out the perfect gift made close to home. From the local color of the North Bay showcase calendars by photographer Robert Janover (marketed by True Images; $10.99) to those bright yellow Zappy Jr. electric scooters ($495) manufactured by Sebastopol-based Zap!, from the comfort of Mishi Apparel’s natural cotton fashions (201 Western Ave., Petaluma) to the rich bounty of locally produced wines and gourmet delicacies, there is something here for every taste and budget.
Here are a few new ideas, and a couple of old favorites, to start you on your merry way. Text by Paula Harris, David Templeton, and Greg Cahill.
Art for Life
Putto & Gargoyle Everything in Putto & Gargoyle is created locally with oodles of character by owners Gerrie Walker and Peter Lu. Look here for whimsical garden angels and gargoyles (made of cement), fence-post filials, candleholders, cube pillows, handmade stationery, planters, vases, wall sconces, and colorful dishware, such as their colorful two-tone tumblers and bowls. Many items cost less than $20. One popular gift idea is the “amorini” little ceramic faces designed to be hung on the wall ($8 each). 7202 Bodega Ave. (across from the library), Sebastopol. 707/829-8701.
Wood He Could Bubinga, wenge, paduak, and zebra are not all exotic animal species–they are, in fact, unusual woods from Brazil, South Africa, and beyond. For years now, Healdsburg resident Carl Hegerhorst of Pine Fall Ranch has crafted these beautifully hued woods (along with others, such as African mahogany, birch, and oak) into all manner of household and garden items–everything from butcher blocks to bat houses. This is one gift idea with some staying power. A small bread board runs $5, a custom picnic table will set you back a bit more. Or how about a redwood birdhouse for $20? Hegerhorst can be found at local crafts fairs or at his workshop. 8349 W. Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg. 707/433-2913.
Terra Mira Jewelry “Terra Mira,” explains Anna Holstedt, “is a Latin phrase. It means Miraculous Earth.” Gazing upon row after row of Holstedt’s one-of a-kind jewelry creations–on display this bright fall morning at the Marin Farmers’ Market–it’s clear why she’s chose Miraculous and Earth for the name of her thriving business. Each earring, pin, and pendant is a tiny miracle, a colorful collage of found items (antique watch parts, foreign coins, sterling silver fairies, and starfish) and treasures from Nature (pearls, semi-precious stones, bones, and metals).
“In designing and making these pieces, I try to have fun,” says Holstedt, a graduate of the California College of Arts and Crafts, and an accomplished fine artist as well, “I try to be as playful and creative as possible.”
That is fairly clear. Examine Holstedt’s “Wine Lovers Earrings.” Tiny purple clusters of grapes and glowing green leaves, made of European glass, are linked together, almost randomly, with multicolored beads, sterling silver charms, and unusually shaped stones. Every pair of earrings is unique.
It is somewhat fitting that Holstedt’s handmade artworks are sold, almost exclusively, by hand. Every Thursday and Sunday, she can be found peddling her wares at the Marin Farmers’ Market, and also at the Napa Farmers’ Market when it’s in season. Though she’s preparing to begin selling her jewelry on the Internet, Holstedt prefers the personal one-on-one experience of the open-air markets. “I like to meet people in person,” she says with a laugh. “I like to talk with people about my work. I love watching people’s eyes as they stop and look at these pieces, and then look closer and closer. I like to think people discover something about themselves in my work.”
For more information, call Holstedt at 415/519-9230.
Plush Comfort If you harbor visions of sinking into a plump, inviting custom-made chair as a comforting antidote to holiday mania–oh, or providing that experience for a loved one–read on. At R.S. Basso you can order an overstuffed chair or sofa for half of what you’d normally pay elsewhere in the Bay Area. Founded by the husband-and-wife team of Mary Li and Ron Basso, the showcase stores are filled with handsome finished furniture in all styles. It’s all here: resplendent throw pillows, lush fabrics, and elegant living-room fixtures. With stores in Sebastopol (186 N. Main St.), Healdsburg (115 Plaza St.), St. Helena (1219 Main St.), and the Corte Madera Town Center–Basso’s has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a reupholstering business. A sofa has a base price of $895, and customers pick the fabric, modify the depth and height, and vary the firmness with the amount of down and feathers they choose. 707/829-1373.
A Crack Up The smoothness, solidity, and infinite fragility of glasswork seems to have a universal appeal. Maslach Art Glass in Greenbrae specializes in hand-blown and specialty cut glass. This year’s glassy gift ideas include hand-blown marbles, glass eggs, and Italian hearts–all priced between $12 and $100. 44 Industrial Way, Greenbrae. Call for showroom hours. 415/499-6400.
Over in Sonoma County, HomeBlown Glass Co. of Sebastopol features glassworks by local artists, including unique perfume bottles ($45), paperweights ($14 to $100), ornaments, hummingbird feeders, and artful martini glasses. 7108 Bodega Ave., Sebastopol. 707/824-8242.
Clockwatchers For many years now Barry Gamble has been quietly designing and creating unique contemporary clocks that are crafted in Cotati and sold worldwide. Under the label ChronArt, Gamble’s strobe clocks, binary clocks, Roman digital clocks, and others feature digital art and polarized light–such as the TimeWave clock for $450. For smaller budgets, Gamble offers the Eventide clock for $99. His timepieces also appeal to celebrities. One of the favorites among celebs, ranging from former Tonight Show host Johnny Carson to the late Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, is the unusual Audocron clock, which softly and sweetly chimes to the minute when touched while emitting a band of light–“like a spaceship taking off.” It’s available in 24K gold for $159 and silver plate for $129. “Chime clocks are very gifty,” say Gamble. “These are things that people love giving other people.” 1/800 328-1895.
Chickaluma What could be more down-home Petaluma, former Eggbasket of the World, than a craft outlet named Chickaluma? Or maybe the name reflects that the outlet features work by local chicks (talented women artists from Petaluma). This new, eclectic craft mecca is located off the beaten track, in downtown Petaluma’s waterfront answer to San Francisco’s SOMA district (according to some locals, anyway). Chickaluma features locally crafted kids’ furniture, chenille pillows, cuddly toys, art glass, jewelry, pottery candles, and other gifts. Stuck for an idea? How about a unique watercolor of the Petaluma Valley. 260 Water St., Petaluma. 707/763-7477.
Bright idea: Handcrafted candles from the Napa Valley Candle Factory and Gift Shop can light up the holidays .
All Lit Up Imagine filling your home with the holiday-licious scents of bayberry, cinnamon, pine, and nutmeg. The Napa Valley Candle Factory, which for 20 years has made some of the finest pillar-style candles in the area, right on the premises, has a winter selection that’s sure to warm hearts and homes. In addition, the company has holiday packs of three tiny floating candles ($5.95 per set) in seasonal themes like miniature poinsettias, pine cones, and holly sprigs. If you’d prefer a candleholder, they have painted votive cups. Or how about a Santa Claus candleholder ($6.95)? Let a little flickering into your life. 3037 California Blvd., Napa. 707/255-0902.
Body and Soul
Polish That Bod In the interest of science and skin care, Sebastopol entrepreneur Karen Ciesar took hundreds of baths laced with all manner of experimental additives that may have been natural but weren’t always aesthetic before she came up with her patented Body Polish. “Some were great and some were gross,” she recalls with a laugh. One day, she finally hit on an age-old combination that could be adapted for modern use in the tub or shower: a blend of aromatic concoctions of essential oils, organic oils infused with herbs, and sea salt–in one jar to be scooped out by the handful and slathered onto moist skin. The sensual goop also boasts such intoxicating ingredients as eucalyptus, rose geranium, ginger, lavender, and tangerine (depending on the blend). Body Polish is blended and packaged in Sebastopol. Available in three ayurvedic blends: for calming; for cooling; and for enhancing circulation. Individual eight-ounce jars cost around $16, or around $45 for a three-pack for the holidays, including one of each blend. Available at Milk and Honey, Whole Foods Market, Community Market, Oliver’s Market, Petaluma Natural Foods, and Petaluma Market. 707/575-3609.
Say ShiKai Santa Rosa-based ShiKai has developed natural skin and hair products for 20 years–all formulated and produced on-site at its local facility. The philosophy of owner Dr. Dennis Sepp, an organic chemist, is to emphasize high-quality, safe ingredients while giving consideration to the environment and animal rights. Pamper yourself–oh, yeah, or a friend–with fragrant lotions, such as Yuzu (Japanese citrus scent), loaded with aloe vera, vitamin E, and wheat-germ oil. Or add some moisturizing bubbles, in fragrances like French Vanilla and Cucumber-Melon, to your bathtub or shower ritual. ShiKai also makes gentle nonsoap shampoos and conditioners to get your mane in shining health for the holiday parties. The company’s latest product line is a selection of anti-aging skin care that promises to improve texture and appearance. Available locally at Trader Joe’s, Longs Drugs, and Whole Foods Market. For details, call 800/448-0298.
Osmosis Some folks just relish being packed up to their chins in warm wood chips and enzymes. The unique Japanese heat treatment offered at Osmosis keeps ’em rushing back for more. The relaxing dry bath uses fragrant cedar fiber, rice bran, and enzymes. The unusual body treatment may be just what your boss needs to unwind. Osmosis–which Travel & Leisure magazine recently named one of the best day spas in America–also offers full-body massages, either indoors or outside in Japanese-style pagodas at the facility’s location in Freestone. It’s like receiving a massage–Swedish/Esalen, shiatsu, polarity, acupressure, or deep-tissue massage–in your own private greenhouse. The 75-minute outdoor massage takes place in one of two fully enclosed light-filled pagodas. An enzyme bath and outdoor pagoda massage is $155, just a bath is $65, and just a massage is $90. In addition, Osmosis has recently begun offering aromatherapy facials using Jurlique, an organic line of products from Australia, for $90. Gift certificates are available for individual treatments and combinations. 209 Bohemian Hwy., Freestone. 707/823-8231.
Lavender Hill Spa Why not give yourself and your sweetie both a relaxing treat? Lavender Hill is a spa garden for couples that’s promises to unknot all those niggling tensions and relax minds and spirits. With bathhouses nestled into a terraced garden hillside, the spa offers massages, bath treatments, and facials in a serene environment. For something unusual, try the new La Stone Therapy massage ($75 for an hour). This massage technique uses heated and cooled polished stones to stimulate and condition the circulatory system and to enhance relaxation; and the warmth of these hot rocks is just perfect for those rainy winter days. 1015 Foothill Blvd., Calistoga. 707/942-4495.
Rubber Ducky Soap Co. They’re soft and sudsy. They’re creamy and clean. But the hand-made soaps of the Rubber Ducky Soap Co. are also so delightfully aromatic, so lusciously colorful, they often inspire people to actually salivate with hunger. Made in flavors like Orange Spice, Lemon Chamomile, and Bubblegum, these candy bar-like soaps–not to mention the peppermint lip balms and pear-scented lotions–truly look and smell good enough to eat. “I wouldn’t recommend it, though,” laughingly says owner Kelly Smith, who began making her all-natural soaps five years ago because, in her words, “it looked like fun.” Previous to that she worked for an advertising agency, never dreaming she’d one day become a full-time soap-making entrepreneur. “It was like the heavens opened up. A big finger pointed down at me, and a voice said, ‘You. You right there. You will be . . . a soap maker.” Smith now distributes through her web site (rubberduckysoap.com), as well as hand-selling her products at various farmers’ markets around the area. Though the soaps are technically cooked up in San Francisco, most of the herbal ingredients are literally made in the North Bay, grown out on the coast, in Pt. Reyes and Tomales. Made from olive, palm kernel, hemp, and coconut oils, the soaps are excellent for people with dry skin. So what about that name, the Rubber Ducky Soap Co.? Where’d that come from? “I have a youthful mind, I guess,” says Smith, “which might explain soap that smells like bubblegum.” 415/564-9935.
Rosemary’s Garden The term herbal apothecary conjures up all kinds of delicious aromas and healthful home remedies, and that’s just what Rosemary’s Garden, a fragrant little store in Sebastopol, has been offering since 1972. Many of the herbal products are grown in Sonoma County–and there’s a lot of choice, from essential massage oils to herbal teas to aromatherapy bath products. Let your nose be the judge. Current gift ideas include teapots, aromatherapy diffusers, essential-oil gift packs, eye pillows, candles, and hydrosol mists. 132 N. Main St., Sebastopol. 707/829-2539.
Mishi Apparel Is there a woman on your gift list who loves warm, comfortable cotton clothing that feels good, looks stylish, and wears well? Silly question. So, get thee to Petaluma’s Mishi Apparel, the local outlet with the great window displays that is still producing the simple, well-priced natural cotton garments that have earned the store a nationwide reputation. Mishi Apparel started with a simple “Field of Dreams”-type idea in 1981: Create comfortable women’s cotton clothing with a stylish edge and buyers will follow. They sure did. All of Mishi’s cotton clothing, including jackets, pants, tops, and dresses, is designed and hand-dyed in an abundance of colors in Petaluma. Designs are cut from shrink-to-fit patterns. Most of Mishi’s clothing is sewn in Sonoma County. The local outlet features the latest designs plus past-season discounted merchandise. Mishi is also a terrific place to pick up accessories–the selection of earrings alone is worth the trip. 201 Western Ave., Petaluma. 707/778-1441.
Weave It “When people come in here they go crazy and want to buy everything,” raves one staffer at Susan Hayes Handwovens. Established in 1982, this working studio (you can watch the weavers in action) offers Marin’s largest selection of handwoven clothing and accessories for women. Customers can help custom-design items, such as jackets, shawls, and scarves, selecting from more than 100 colors. The fabrics are silk blends or luxurious chenille. Hats are $32, scarves are $78 to $86, and clothing ranges in price. The priciest item is a jacket for $365. For the home, the store also carries handwoven pillows costing $37 to $39. 80 Fourth St., Pt. Reyes. 415/663-8057.
Le Boudoir Petaluma designer Annette Marie Juilly has created an artful retail oasis on Petaluma’s Kentucky Street, where she showcases her custom-designed and off-the-rack range of casual and sophisticated fashions. She will guarantee your outfit will have a great fit and tons of coordination possibilities. She does special-occasion outfits for weddings and other events, using high-quality fabrics from around the world. People who own her clothing don’t have to worry about someone showing up in the same thing. 122 Kentucky St., Petaluma. 707/781-9350.
Virgin Nuts Olives aren’t the only oil-producing crop of the wine country. The California Press, a Rutherford-based biz, produces virgin toasted nut oils from the first pressing of the fall harvest to enliven many a salad or pasta preparation. Choose from toasted walnut, almond, filbert, pistachio, or pecan. Or select the ceramic gift collection ($120), which features a wax-topped bottle of each oil packaged in handmade earthen bottles crafted by a Napa Valley potter and cradled in a gift box with recipe cards. Or consider the holiday gift collection with five packaged oils in eight-ounce glass bottles ($89). For details, call 707/944-0343.
Photograph by Michael Amsler
Chocolate Wine Brother and sister team Brent Madesen and Anette Yazidi still can’t believe they now own the same chocolate factory they used to enjoying visiting as children. In 1991, the pair bought the Napa Valley Chocolate Factory, established some 40 years ago, and turned it into a wine and chocolate mecca. Now called Anette’s Chocolate Factory, the business excels in chocolate wine sauces created by blending fine wines (and now also liqueurs) with the very best chocolate for a decadent dessert topping. Individual bottles of Cabernet Chocolate Wine Sauce, Classic Port Chocolate Wine Sauce, Amaretto Chocolate Liqueur Sauce, and Orange Chocolate Liqueur Sauce are $16. A gift of four is $36. For kids and those in AA, there’s an alcohol-free Belgium Dark Chocolate Sauce. They also make ice creams and a line of candy, including nougat, caramels, wine truffles, beer brittle made with Mendocino Red Tail Ale, and a new line of chocolate bars ($2.50 to $3.50 a bar). Mmmm. 1321 First St., Napa. 707/252-4228.
Hot-Pepper Jams Red and green, the traditional Christmas colors, are also colors of the county’s best pepper jams. You might have to chase these down at a local farmers’ market, but they’re worth the search. A sassy gift to send to a friend or bring to a party. Perfect for friends who love chilies, dancing, all things from New Mexico, and cream cheese and bagels, too. William Adamson, the owner of Happy Haven Ranch in Sonoma, has been making and marketing his spicy red and green hot-pepper jams since 1984. “It has a different flavor than jelly,” Adamson explains. “It’s all natural, and I don’t use any food coloring.” A 11-ounce jar is $3.50; three jars are $10. Make an appointment to visit the ranch by calling 996-4260 for mail order.
Splendid Bites Steaming latte is good. Steaming latte accompanied by a dunkable delectable is even better. Petaluma-based Splendido Biscotti (whose anise biscotti recently won a major taste test award) has eye-catching carnival box and beribboned gift sets for the holidays. The variety packs, containing flavors like almond orange, pistachio cranberry, and various hand-dipped chocolate-coated lovelies. Gift boxes range from $15.50 to $24.90. Also, Splendido has just introduced a new concoction called Bocciolo, tasty biscotti morsels containing layers of bittersweet chocolate. Fire up the espresso machine! Available in fine markets. For details, call 888/778-6399.
Local flavor: Cheryl Richburg, owner of Napa Valley Traditions, offers a unique line of bottled wine jellies.
Wine Jellies Cellarmaster’s Wife brand wine jellies let you taste a bit of Napa County wherever you happen to be. The jellies come in six varieties: cabernet, merlot, charbono port, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and Gewürtztraminer. They are conocted by Cheryl Richburg in a commercial kitchen within Napa Valley Traditions, a store that specializes in locally made items. Richberg recommends using the wine jelly as a condiment: Spread it onto crackers as an hors d’oeuvre, scoop onto scones. or even use it as a meat glaze for your next roast. Large jars are $5.50, small are $2.50; a gift set contains four jars in different varieties for $10. Available at Napa Valley Traditions, Main and Pearl streets, Napa. 707/226-2044.
Robotic Riot Young experimenters and budding roboticists will appreciate Marin County’s Mondo-tronics’ Robot Store Web Catalog, which features more than 300 robot kits, books, and software. In its own workshop, the company produces Muscle Wires–which actually shorten in length and contract like real muscles when electrically powered, and can lift thousands of times their own weight. A Space Wings kit, a small electrical package, features Muscle Wire in two giant wings, at a cost of $19.95–way cool! Or go the whole way and get the kit, all the necessary wiring, and a book on muscle wire, containing more than 15 different projects that will keep your bored kids busy for weeks, for $59.95. 1/800-374-5764.
A-Mazing Puzzles It would be more than accurate to call Larry Evans and Nancie Swanberg “multitalented” or “multidimensional,” since these long-associated Petaluma artists have their fingers in multiple metaphorical paint pots–and in multiple dimensions as well. As for Evans, the award-winning architectural artist is also something of a legend as a creator of mazes. He’s crafted more than three dozen books over the last 20 years, fashioning eye-boggling mazes that are far beyond the usual two-dimensional boundaries of most similar books. His work is often compared to that of the optically eccentric M. C. Escher, though Evans began drawing his labyrinthine visions long before the Escher craze hit America. His newest is appropriately named The Super-Sneaky, Double-Crossing, Up, Down, Round & Round Maze Book (Klutz; $12.95). It’s a great gift idea that will appeal to anyone who enjoys having his or her mind bent around backwards and twisted like a balloon animal.
Ceramic Critters Petaluma sculptor David Furger has created a fanciful world filled with ceramic critters that act as tiny ocarinas. Brightly glazed and wonderfully whimsical, these affordable (mostly $20)–and interactive–sculptures are a real hit with kids. A great way to buy your children one-of-a-kind knickknacks while teaching them that fine art can be fun. For adults, Furger also offers a variety of sculptures–including clay, metals, wood, and stone–and custom pieces. 707/762-8916.
Cubbyhouse Former Healdsburg Mayor Carla Howell, longtime owner of Cubbyhouse children’s store in Healdsburg, opened her second Cubbyhouse (this time in Santa Rosa) last year. The stores serve as unofficial outlets for handmade baby quilts. The heirloom-quality embroidered, pieced, or tied quilts, backed with cotton flannel, are a must for that special infant on your holiday gift list. Prices range from $50 for a wall hanging quilt on up. Call ahead for availability. Cubbyhouse also offers a selection of baby blankets, bibs, festive kids’ clothing for the holidays, and baby’s first Christmas ornament. 107 Plaza St., Healdsburg (707/433-6861); and 2410 Magowan Drive, Santa Rosa (707/568-6568).
Stocking Stuffers Searching for a little something extra to tuck into that sock or pillowcase? How about a ticket for a show at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts (707/527-7006) or the Marin Center (415/499-6400)? For those seeking some live-entertainment action, both these venues offer a wealth of choices, from stand-up comedy to stylish symphony to drop-dead famous celebs. LBC also features a special dinner preceding some shows. Call for prices.
Budding chefs and those in search or a little Wine Country ambiance might be turned on by a gift of cooking classes at Ramekins cooking school in Sonoma. For an even yummier gift, throw in a night or two’s stay at the school’s quaint bed and breakfast (707/933-0451).
Finally, a gift certificate for a soothing local spa–such as Alles European Day Spa in Santa Rosa (707-573-3068), Mount View Spa in Calistoga (707/942-5789), or Renaissance in San Rafael (415/453-0225)–will always be most appreciated. And face it, who couldn’t use a deep, muscle-melting massage, especially during holiday mania?
From the December 7-13, 2000 issue of the Northern California Bohemian.