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Ready, made, go! 

Talented local designers do all the work creating special one-of-a-kind gifts for everyone on your list. All you need to do is sit back and bask in the praise.

The 13th Floor Pottery

Lisa-Marie Campbell’s wares—toasting glasses, teapots and mugs, trays and bowls—draw on distant celebrations such as Day of the Dead, which she witnessed on trips south.

“They had those incredible shrines all over the place and those absolutely bizarre little skeletons done up with flowers and hats,” Campbell says of sights and symbols in cities from Juarez, Mexico, to New Orleans. “They’re really expressive and happy and doing everyday things.”

Her work calls to mind Tim Burton films and Edward Gorey illustrations, but Campbell’s medium—hand-built and thrown pottery you use—and her message—“Eat, drink and be merry, tomorrow we die,” she says—sets her work apart.

Using techniques such as scrafito (scratching back into a piece painted with a brilliant black “decorating slip”), she animates her wares. They’re a “celebration of life rather than a mourning of death.” No better sentiment can be given this holiday.

Turnstile Pottery, 2207 Gottingen, 431-2529, 2-5pm Fridays. Halifax Farmers’ Market, 1469 Lower Water, 7am-1pm Saturdays. $20-$70.

28 Toes

Every cat has a character. Every pooch, a personality. Just ask their owners.

Michelle St. Onge understands this well. The printmaker runs 28 Toes, a pet portrait business named after her cat Taboo because “he has an extra eight toes.” For each portrait, she collects photographs from owners or takes her own shots, then illustrates the image, reducing it down to its strongest elements. “I’m not going to put all the information. I’m actually there to edit the information.”

This artist distills the essence of your pet, revealing it in up to four colours on silk and cotton canvasses. “Personalities come out, this little inkling of a character.” St. Onge tried composite portraits but people wanted their own pet done. “It’s all custom and people hunt me down.” Those “people” include set decorators on the recent Alicia Silverstone flick Candles on Bay Street, shot in Halifax.

Remedy Spa, 1701 Barrington, 425-7586. Metro Dog Wash, 6021 Cunard, 422-9364. By appointment at Creative Crossings, Studio 3, 2526 Agricola, 405-3662, $160- $425.

Armstrong Fox Textiles

Lesley Armstrong and Anke Fox’s garments are wearable sensory experiences.

Women and men’s scarves, shawls and coats all invite touch. “Texture we like very much. I guess we’re just compatible,” Armstrong says of one of the “common values” at the heart of this two-year-old creative partnership. Another is natural and harmonious colour, inspired by life along the rugged, diverse Nova Scotian coastline. “We like the idiosyncrasies,” Armstrong says.

“We do a lot of hand-finishing, like washing and felting and doing other after-treatments,” Fox says. “Even if you do five in green, each one varies in the texture because maybe one was felted a little more than the other.”

Veteran weavers and designers, Armstrong and Fox know materials. Alpaca wool, especially. “It’s very soft—wool is also very soft—but this has a silky feel to it, which makes it really luxurious,” Fox says.

Prepare to be seen and touched.

By appointment, 466-8395, $110-$340.

Ear Candy

Remember Licorice Allsorts? Soft, chewy squares of layered colours, black and white cylinders, thick discs with blue sprinkles, and so forth.

“They look great with jeans,” says Tracy Currie, creator of Ear Candy jewellery, particularly the blue sprinkled circles. “And they last really long—they get better with age—because the sugar crystallizes and stabilizes.”

That natural process plays a big role in Currie’s creations. “They’re not going to melt on your neck, or stick.” Weather factors in too: humid weather causes candy to sweat so Currie does her curing in cooler, dryer weather. “I have several different coatings that I use. They’re like my secret recipes.”

For three years Currie’s worked on the various treatments, while seeking out new candy for her earrings and pendants. She uses Hubba Bubba, Jelly Bellies and, her newest additions, Pez and Chupa Chups.

Argyle Fine Art, 1869 Upper Water, 425-9456. Sweet Jane’s, 5431 Doyle, 425-0168. $10-$18.

Holey Sheet Tote Bags

Natalie Slater’s instinct has done her well. While living in PEI, she collected “random sheets” on a second-hand shopping trip, took a sewing night course and, behold, the first Holey Sheet Tote Bag was born.

A self-confessed Star Wars nerd, Slater has tapped into the potent combination of pop culture and simplicity. “I think the Star Wars sheets must’ve been the highest-selling sheets of their time because every single guy that sees says, ‘I had those!’”

The Saint Mary’s business (studying marketing and entrepreneurship) student’s bags bear the brands of GI Joe, Strawberry Shortcake, Smurfs, Battlestar Galactica and more. Originally, Slater expected women to buy them for themselves. “Apparently girls keep buying them for the guys,” she says.

Slater knows not to underestimate the power of nostalgia. “They’re a comforting little thing,” she says of her totes, which have endured stuffings of textbooks, library books and groceries without popping a thread.

Lost & Found, 2383 Agricola, 446-5986, $20.

Leave Your Hat On

Milliner Thea C. Crawford specializes in the hand-blocked hat. Before she sculpts her felt hats, for example, she soaks them in hot water. “When you do block them, it’s almost like butter.” Because of the heat, she wears thick rubber gloves. Still, she maintains a fine touch.

Crawford also uses straw, buchram (for her top hats), fabric and feathers. She puts twists on traditional hats, appealing to today’s fashion-conscious, who eschew the old rules governing style, pattern, colours and gender. “The last two fedoras I made went to women.” Men are returning to the bowler, driving and paperboy caps thanks to Crawford.

Besides working three months of the year at the Stratford Festival in Ontario and studying celebrity, fashion and royal trends, Crawford says, “I live to people-watch,” especially Saturdays at the Farmers’ Market. “I get to see a lot of different walks of life. I get to see how they’re wearing things.”

Halifax Farmers’ Market, 1469 Lower Water, 7am-1pm Saturdays. Swanki Guru, Purdy’s Wharf, 1949 Upper Water. $50 and up.

Lucky Ducts

At his table in the Halifax Farmers’ Market, Laurie Morrison hears the tale retold: “I gotta tell you about the time I did this with duct tape.”

Morrison goes one step further than the slapdash repair job. He uses the adhesive to make purses, wallets, ID and coin holders, employing all grades of duct tape—industrial, utility and professional. “The industrial makes a fine wallet.”

Strength and durability attracted Morrison to the material, but he soon discovered the wide spectrum of colours to be matched up—orange and blue, green and brown, fluorescent pink and more—made for all sorts of creative possibilities. He also uses a camouflage style and a glossy black “NASCAR 400MPH tape.”

Morrison uses no stitching or glue. The tape cures itself. “I only use Duck brand . I was stuck on 3M for a little bit but it just doesn’t hold it as well.”

Halifax Farmers’ Market, 1469 Lower Water, 7am-1pm Saturdays. $5-$25.

Orphanage Clothing Company

Orphanage was born of a collector’s appetite and a designer’s sharp eye when Kim Munson made a party dress from classic t-shirts four years ago. Since then, she’s scoured thrift stores to truck stops for raw material—old rock, biker and tourist tees—to cut into new tops for women and men. “There’s so much nostalgia with t-shirts—shows you’ve been to, places you’ve been, bands that don’t exist anymore,” Munson says.

Munson combines images, logos and text from various tees into a single new piece. In 13 original designs, there’s the Annie Tee and “the Hilton Scoop, a really low, skanky t-shirt” for women. Men, especially band members searching for unique onstage wear, choose from tees and stenciled vintage button-downs. She’s working with denim and wool now too.

Besides students, she says, “I sell a lot to tourists in the summertime who are looking for Halifax kitsch.” Everyone wants to take home an orphan.

Orphanage Clothing Show. Stage Nine, December 14, 7-9:30pm. Elsie’s, 1530 Queen, 425-2599. Junk and Foibles, 1533 Barrington, 422-7985. $30-$45.

Soap Girl

How easily we forget our feet, great toilers that they are, especially with the season’s endless errands and frequent festivities. Soap Girl (AKA Sarah Crawley) revives them with the Dancing Feet Spa Kit that combines spearmint and peppermint into a “foot fizzy, foot soap and foot butter. also has a natural pumice stone.”

Crawley also offers an ocean-themed spa kit, drawing together her Atlantic Sea Breeze Soap, Tub Therapy (three types of salts) and a bath bomb. “A lot of people will use those three things to make up a kit to send to someone who used to live here.” According to Crawley, men go for the subtle ocean aroma.

With its black cherry smell and translucent chunks of colour in a creamy base, the Beach Glass Soap takes you back to summer and your favourite beach, a little light to shine and warm you all through the cold, dark winter.

Pumpkin Village, Halifax Shopping Centre. $4-$20.

Colleen Wolstenholme

Fioricet, Dilaudid, Paxil, Xanax. If those names weren’t recognizable as drug brands, we might mistake them for names of semi-precious stones. For sculptor and jeweller Colleen Wolstenholme, pills “have a jewel-like quality.”

Wolstenholme casts the pills (especially the anti-depressant and psychopharmacological) in sterling silver and sets them in earrings, bracelets, necklaces and rings. Having done this for more than 10 years now, she’s amassed and documented many varieties, making molds so she can add them to her line. “People will send me their pills too.”

Originally the artist created the jewellery as wearable commentary on the history of “constraint”— physically and symbolically—that women have faced through the wearing of jewellery. Other people may identify with the pill-jewellery as they used to, or still do, take the drugs. A spectrum of associations arises.

Wolstenholme’s wearable meds have caught the attention of people all over the world, most recently a small fashion design house in Paris.

AGNS Gift Shop, 1723 Hollis, 424-4303. Lost & Found, 2383 Agricola, 446-5986. $40-$200.

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