Think about the handmade gifts you’ve received in your life. How did they make you feel? Was it a luxury to wear that warm wool sweater your grandma made you? How cool and chic did you feel when your dad refinished that Danish teak chair?
We’re blessed with thousands of talented makers/artisans from coast to coast in Canada who create high-quality wares as beautiful as they are useful. With talented folks like Randy Jespersen hand-forming Olive snowboards or Sonia Chhiniji and Fouad Farraj producing clean-burning Woodlot candles, there are so many great reasons to shop local.
The indomitable Coco Chanel once said, “Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it’s not luxury.”
We spoke to each of these five Canadian companies who are designing, making and promoting Canada’s handcrafted economy and made our picks for best gift. After all, the holidays are on the way, so why not consider gifting some local luxury this festive season?
“To be competitive in our market, we always need to be evolving. Long story short, we need to build the equipment, tools and machines in order for us to build the product… We pride ourselves on sourcing our materials from Canada and North America. We work with a team of talented local designers and illustrators to build our brand.”
Maker(s): Randy Jespersen (founder/skateboard product design + development) and Geoff Kramer (snowboard product design & development)
Based in: Edmonton
Why we love it: Olive is custom, Canadian and clever. While many companies send production overseas, Olive proudly hand-crafts small lots of snowboards (in the 100s) in their Edmonton workshop using machinery/technology they custom built to craft their boards.
Time it takes to make one item: Anywhere from three hours to 40 hours depending on their client’s needs and level of specialization.
Gift worth giving: The Hunter – this sexy, woody-panelesque board decorated with a buffalo illustrated by Calgary artist Karrie Arthurs. With a poplar base, wide nose and tapered tail, the Hunter is made for deep powder.
“We are inspired by not only historical items but also contemporary work too. We design, fabricate and make everything in-studio. We also strive to create modern, clean work that’s graphically exciting.”
Maker(s): Alexx Boisjoli
Based in: Toronto
Why we love it: Inspired by everyday and old domestic objects this ceramic and textile studio creates cheeky yet functional mugs, tumblers and tea towels.
Time it takes to make one item: A tumbler or mug takes about two weeks from initial sketch to final prototype.
Gift worth giving: The sperm whale mini-tumblers. The matching cups carry an imperial cup of coffee/wine/tea and when clinked together form a sea-foam green coloured whale.
CAMP Brand Goods
“We live the lifestyle we are promoting with our brand so it comes across naturally. Everything has got to pass the ‘would we wear it’ test.”
Maker(s): Leslie McNeilly and Connor Gould
Based in: Calgary
Why we love it: Outdoor clothes that prove outdoor enthusiasts don’t have to be clad in in Gortex or ratty clothes. Reminiscent of those camping trips with your besties, CAMP Brand Goods creates comfortable, warm clothes bedecked in simple, retro designs.
Time it takes to make one item: Designed in Calgary, made in the US and printed in Vancouver, new product makes it to to market in about four to six weeks.
Gift worth giving: The Night Sky Crewneck pays homage to the stars with a simple Moonrise Kingdom-like insignia. The creamy sweatshirt is made from partially recycled materials that are pre-aged resulting in a mega-soft fleecy hug in every wear.
“We have leveraged our brand to educate our customer on the differences between waxes, and why we choose not to work with certain ingredients. We hope to make it really easy for customers to find toxin free products for home and body that feel and look good.”
Makers: Sonia Chhinji & Fouad Farraj
Based in: Vancouver
Why we love it: Family ties that bind. The coconut wax, clean burning candles made by Woodlot were inspired by both Farraj and Chhiniji’s family experiences: he used to make soap/candles from his uncle’s leftover olive oil and she learned to hand roll cotton wicks from her grandmother.
Time it takes to make a batch of candles: 24 hours
Gift worth giving: The “Try before you Buy” tea candle set. Sample all six of Woodlot’s candle scent combos from the sweet, soothing Rekindle candle to the woodsy Cascadia there’s a scent for everyone in this set.
“Our minimalist furniture is not trendy or disposable – through our use of superior materials and joinery our collection is timelessly adaptable to ever-changing decor styles.”
Makers: Jerad Mack and Shane Pawluk
Based in: Edmonton
Why we love it: This Edmonton furniture company balances functionality and sophistication. Though the aesthetic of IZM furniture leans towards simple, clean modernist design, their tables, chairs and dressers mesh well with any decor theme.
Time it takes to make one item: A bench takes four days, a chair three days and a dresser six days (all approximate).
Gift worth giving: The Eyeful Coffee Table. With geometric legs, a fair-sized, smoked glass top and low profile, this is the perfect centrepiece for your living space.