As tempting as it may be to fill your virtual cart with shiny new items or succumb to the loathsome peer pressure of Black Friday, we’d like to remind you that San Antonio is a fully functional stomping ground for holiday shopping. In an effort to support local creatives and small businesses alike, we combed the city for unique gift ideas and came up with a tight list of 10 we’d be more than happy to unwrap.
1. Comal Ye Faithful Holiday Sweater from BarbacoApparel
Hyperlocal humor, Tex-Mex culture and taco worship are a few of the secret ingredients that flavor BarbacoApparel, a niche operation that couldn’t have been born anywhere but San Antonio. Established in 2014 and run collaboratively by a team of four friends — designer Nydia Huizar along with co-conspirators Matt Contreras, Richard Diaz and Catherine Contreras-Sanchez — the company routinely strikes chords with Alamo City residents and “Texpats” alike with T-shirts, totes, prints, stickers and pins that wryly celebrate things many of us grew up on: breakfast tacos, fideo, conchas, Solo Serve, Handy Andy and the Donkey Lady among them. This year, the company expanded its scope with the launch of Tortilla Press Screen Printing — a development that’s allowed for experimentation with new designs and product types. In addition to unsurprisingly popular face coverings printed with tacos or apt messages like “Cuídate” and “Miss y’all,” the quirky quartet recently unveiled its first holiday sweater. “We’ve been wanting to feature a comal in our lineup for a few years now,” Huizar told us. “Matt thought doing a play on ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’ would make for a funny holiday design.” The resulting “Comal Ye Faithful” design is thoughtfully inclusive of both tortilla camps: “I wanted to make sure both corn and flour were represented and used them in the pattern,” Huizar said. $30, barbacoapparel.com.
2. Get Bent Metal Works Robots from Mockingbird Handprints
If your holiday shopping plans include supporting local makers and small businesses (and we hope they do), Mockingbird Handprints should surely be on your list of spots to visit — either online or in person with safety protocols in place. Owned and operated by local textile artist Jane Bishop and located in the Blue Star Arts Complex, the shop is brimming with a curated assortment of paintings, jewelry, ceramics, pillows, scarves, cards and more, all created by local and regional artists. On a recent visit, more than a few giftable treasures caught our eye, including chunky ceramic candelabras by Diana Kersey and statement jewelry by Lorena Angulo (both of whom have earned Editor’s Picks in our annual Best of San Antonio issue) and fuzzy squid dolls crafted from upcycled sweaters by Amy Jones. However, nothing tempted us more than the Get Bent Metal Works robots built from salvaged steel scraps and found objects by Hondo-based artist Shawn Corder. Ranging considerably in price and size — from $20 for a tabletop model to $500 for a four-foot-tall automaton — they seem ideal for sci-fi fans and artsy nerds both small and large. $20-$500, Mockingbird Handprints, 1420 S. Alamo St., #C112A, (210) 262-6698, mockingbirdhandprints.com.
3. Hecho en Tejas Gear from Choice Goods Gallery
Since relocating to San Antonio back in 1992, California native Robert Tatum has left marks all over the city in the form of murals stretching from Ace Mart Restaurant Supply in Southtown to Mellow Mushroom pizzeria in Stone Oak. Populated by graphic patterns, references to sci-fi and pop culture, and anthropomorphic critters — from gun-toting birds to beer-drinking armadillos — his work packs in humorous juxtapositions and cross-cultural mashups. Street-smart and playful in equal measures, Tatum’s aesthetic is on full display at Choice Goods Gallery, an exhibition space-retail hybrid in the Blue Star Arts Complex. A recent complement to his signature TX Grown Brand, Tatum’s new Hecho en Tejas line of T-shirts, trucker hats, stickers, patches and pins stars Señor Horsepower — a cigar-smoking woodpecker that riffs on both the iconic Hecho en Mexico logo and a 1930s-era car-culture mascot named Mr. Horsepower. “I’m a parody artist … [and] a Califas/Tex-Mex artist,” Tatum explained. “That’s what I do, because that’s who I am.” While the whole Hecho en Tejas line is giftworthy, there’s something extra-special about the leather wallet crafted by San Antonio-based Gonzalez Handmade with sporty red topstitching and even a chain loop. $5-$50, 1420 S. Alamo St., #103, choicegoodsbrand.com.
4. Holiday Ornaments from Feliz Modern
As its name suggests, San Antonio success story Feliz Modern is a contemporary gift shop that aims to conjure happiness — and succeeds with flying colors. Appointed with poppy home accents, T-shirts, prints, puzzles, jewelry, pet toys, puzzles and cards you’re unlikely to find anywhere else in town, the Olmos Park boutique and its younger sister in the Pearl are trusted sources for giftables year-round. A photographer-turned retailer with a keen eye for design and decor, co-owner Ginger Diaz turns up the volume for seasonal occasions, and Christmas is no exception. Sourced from near and far, Feliz Modern’s assortment of holiday ornaments seems capable of warming even the Grinchiest of hearts. Among the tree-ready baubles currently up for grabs are vintage-inspired luchadores, drag queens, tacos, avocados, whiskey bottles, PBR beer cans, Staffordshire dogs, royal felines and plenty in between. If you can only pick two, our votes go out to the “Tacos Before Vatos” dangle from beloved San Antonio brand Very That ($8) and the hand-painted glass bust of late Supreme Court Justice and notorious “good trouble” maker Ruth Bader Ginsburg ($16). $8-$25, Feliz Modern, 110 W. Olmos Drive, (210) 622-8364, felizmodern.com.
5. Houseplants from Chica Verde
Evidenced by the cringe-worthy term “plantfluencer” (Instagram influencers who traffic in #plantporn), many millennials have learned what their parents and grandparents already knew: adding greenery to your living spaces can bring you joy and maybe even give you purpose. One year before Nylon published an oft-cited article on this topic (title: “Why Are Millennials Obsessed with Houseplants?”), Valerie Reynolds opened the doors to her quaint Chica Verde in Dignowity Hill. After building up a dedicated following with her verdant and eclectic mix of succulents, tillandsias (air plants), ceramic planters, garden decor and unique gifts, Reynolds moved Chica Verde to Monte Vista at the onset of the COVID-19. Reopened in June with strict limitations on capacity, her thoughtfully arranged shop feels like a breath of fresh air — even through one of the colorful face coverings she sells. Beyond the expected — small succulents sprouting from ceramic pots and salsa tins — Chica Verde’s got holiday shoppers covered with smartly priced wind chimes, candles and incense kits sure to smudge out the lingering scents of quarantine. $8-$48, Chica Verde, 2314 San Pedro Ave., chicaverde.net.
6. Pandemic Print Portfolio Project from Southwest School of Art
Once we can finally look back at the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ll hopefully be able to sift through all the muck and misery to recognize some of the remarkable artwork created in 2020. An unexpected side effect of quarantine, sheltering in place gave artists of all disciplines the time and freedom to rekindle shelved projects, experiment with new concepts and respond creatively to the unraveling world around us. The Southwest School of Art’s Pandemic Print Portfolio Project falls somewhere in this odd equation as it collects new prints by six esteemed San Antonio artists: Margaret Craig, Juan de Dios Mora, Leigh Anne Lester, Chris Sauter, Kathy Sosa and Gary Sweeney. But don’t expect conceptual interpretations of spiky COVID molecules: preliminary artist sketches reveal subject matter as varied as felines (Craig), layered botanicals (Lester) and mechanized beasts (Mora). Packaged in a nifty folio created by Keri Miki-Lani Schroeder of San Antonio-based Coyote Bones Press, the collection is limited to a run of 50, only 38 of which are available to the public. $1,500, Southwest School of Art, 300 Augusta St., (210) 200-8200, ssaprintproject.com.
7. Patches from Lunchroom Anxiety
Launched in 2016 by San Antonio native Bronte Treat, the one-woman operation Lunchroom Anxiety aims to rekindle some of the Western glamour of celebrity tailor Nudie Cohn and his cultish “Nudie Suits” — over-the-top getups covered in rhinestones and chain-stitch embroidery. Working authentically on a 1927 Singer chain-stitch machine, Treat creates covetable patches that put a contemporary spin on the Cosmic Cowboy aesthetic (think stars, planets, mushrooms and yellow roses). Unsurprisingly, Treat’s patches been spotted on musicians and bands ranging from San Antonio honky-tonker Garrett T. Capps to Austin rockers Band of Heathens. While Treat’s labor-intensive patches (each one takes between four and five hours) make for truly original gifts, she also does custom embroidery and recently collaborated with Mario Guajardo (of local apparel company Richter Co.) and Pearl Beer on a collection of bags and heritage-inspired workwear. $38-$105, Broadway News, 2202 Broadway, lunchroomanxiety.com.
8. Revolutionary Women of Texas and Mexico from Trinity University Press
Rightfully generating buzz in advance of its publication date, Trinity University Press’ forthcoming book Revolutionary Women of Texas and Mexico: Portraits of Soldaderas, Saints, and Subversives assembles a dream team to profile 18 women who “revolutionized their worlds.” Edited by Kathy Sosa, Ellen Riojas Clark and Jennifer Speed, the collection is built around the oft-overlooked women heroes of the Mexican Revolution but also celebrates the Virgen de Guadalupe, nun and writer Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, labor leader Emma Tenayuca, iconic painter Frida Kahlo and 14 others through the eyes of authors including Sandra Cisneros, Carmen Tafolla, Elaine Ayala, Laura Esquivel and Amalia Mesa-Bains. Set for release on December 9, the book also includes a foreword by renowned Civil Rights activist Dolores Huerta, an afterword by beloved local scholar and professor Norma Elia Cantú, and original artwork by Kathy and Lionel Sosa. $15.99-$19.95, tupress.org.
9. Wreaths from San Angel Folk Art
If you’ve ever visited San Angel Folk Art around the holidays, you’ve likely encountered one of proprietor Hank Lee’s flamboyant wreaths. Exuberant reflections of the pioneering Blue Star gallery’s eclectic sensibilities, these one-of-a-kind creations combine whatever Lee might have on hand — which is generally a lot. Built atop sturdy grapevine bases, they come to life with vintage Mexican dolls, glittery garlands, figurines, flowers, bells, tchotchkes, baubles and assorted oddities Lee collects on his world travels. Although they may not be in everyone’s price range, these whimsical concoctions are time-consuming (Lee estimates he’ll be able to crank out about 10 more between now and Christmas) and are frequently peppered with bonafide collectibles. $250-$350, San Angel Folk Art Gallery, 110 Blue Star, (210) 226-6688, sanangelfolkart.com.
10. Zenú Earrings from San Antonio Museum of Art
Thanks to a compelling collaboration between the San Antonio Museum of Art and the local reproduction company BoneNE, jewelry enthusiasts can adorn themselves in the style of the Zenú, an ancient civilization known for symbolic statues, intricate textiles and exquisite gold ornaments. Working with a pair of 9th-century filigree earrings held in SAMA’s Art of the Americas Before 1521 gallery, BoneNE employed 3D printing technology and lost-wax casting to duplicate the pre-Columbian treasures in sterling silver ($225) and brass ($75). $75-$225, San Antonio Museum of Art, 200 W. Jones Ave., (210) 978-8140, shop.samuseum.org.
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