Local exports 

With the gift-giving season looming, we are beset with the need to find the “perfect” gift. Unfortunately, gift-giving fever can keep us up at night. How often do we find ourselves caged inside the mall with the rest of the masses, searching, sifting, deliberating and, well, settling for something expedient, something thoughtless?

Dare to avoid the mall, to turn away from the chains and to look into something truly unique, maybe romantic, perhaps even benevolent. Here are just a few samplings of alternatives offered by local artists, artisans and shop owners. Remember, it really is the thought that counts!

Handclams Inc: Handbags and Purses

Conceived at a dining room table, these handheld brainchildren are an extension of the creative voice of avant-garde artist Renee Vincent. Known for her feminist and insouciant style, Vincent (with the creative help of Carol Ann Dunning) has reduced her wall-sized treasures to pint-sized totables.

Rock ’n’ roll meets haute-couture with a side of the vaguely bizarre, Handclams bags are the epitome of style. Each purse is custom-made and crafted. Sleek to funky, these cigar-box bags are utilitarian artworks. You can bet that anyone carrying a Handclam will be the only kitten in the room with a Cary Grant carryall or a Tracy + The Plastics tote. The Tom Waits bag is our personal favorite. Whatever your specification, Handclams can produce it — and with a flair that will make its owner stand out in any situation. They might be the perfect gift for any hipster or fickle accessory lover.

“I love fashion and art,” says Vincent, “This was inevitable … I think it is cool to make art that people can wear.” From the look of these bags, it seems that Vincent has managed to disseminate a little style all over our fair town. Make requests early! Prices range from $40-$80. Visit the Website at: www.geocities.com/handclams/1.html.

Music Castle: Guitars/Lessons

Don’t just give your loved ones the gift of music — give them the gift of making music. Creativity is priceless, and Tim Flaharty, owner of the Music Castle, 28856 Woodward Ave. in Royal Oak, knows the deal.

Selling guitars that start as low as $129, Flaharty has seen many happy faces pass through his quaint little shop. There’s something special about shopping at a small business like this. Flaharty takes pride in each of his sales. He professionally adjusts all of his guitars before he hangs them for sale.

“There’s nothing worse than waking up on Christmas morning to a guitar that is completely unplayable,” he explains.

In addition to helpful attention to detail, the Music Castle chips in two free lessons with each guitar sale. And touting a staff of rock, jazz and classically trained guitar and bass teachers, the Castle offers a comfortable atmosphere and a genuinely lovable staff.

“A good teacher will make it fun,” says Flaharty. “It’s the best kind of entertainment — it’s supposed to be fun … it doesn’t have to be a career choice.”

Fully stocked with all the accoutrements (amps, strings, tuners, capos, picks and a wide variety of rental equipment), this shop is the answer to all of your musical queries. Gift certificates are available. Call 248-543-5070.

Love’s Labour Won: Millinery

Local milliner Suzette Mariotti is as sweet as they come. Blessed from an early age with myriad talents, Mariotti has found her niche as a hatmaker.

“I love looking at the great styles of the past and reinventing them to use today,” she says.

As a result of her functional fashion sense, Mariotti’s works span from Russian kokoshniks-style tiaras to 1930s formal hats to playful knit berets and caps. Her all-original styles have a truly striking appeal.

Mariotti, who began sewing and knitting at the age of 8, developed exacting skills. But after completing a course titled “Working with Wire” at the Stratford Festival in Canada, her fascination with period pieces and elaborate headdresses reached a zenith. Her designs are uniquely delicate, and the possibilities are boundless.

“My business focuses on special occasion and vintage/historical-style hats, combined with bridal headpieces and veils,” she says.

“Of course, my custom items always start with a consultation … my motto is, ‘Anything you can dream up, I can make.’”

Prices range from $40-$200. Contact Love’s Labour Won at 248-549-0788 or visit the Website at www.llwon.com.

Tracee Miller: Fine Artist

If beauty could transcend the body and reflect upon a canvas, then the works of Tracee Miller are a magic mirror of loveliness. Her paintings are nothing short of inspirational. Beautifully provocative, her works have a surreal and dreamlike quality that sometimes shadows an inner disquiet. From the gazer to the true art critic, one cannot help but look fixedly upon her paintings and wonder exactly what they are saying.

“I hope it provokes people, but it never says one particular thing.” says Miller, who, inspired by the nostalgia and beauty of vintage photographs and movies, has harnessed the matchless tastefulness of alabaster-skinned starlets and the warm fuzziness of old family photos. Having gained steadfast popularity over the past few years, Miller’s work is highly collectable. Miller will custom-make anything, as she adores the rich history behind a heartfelt commission. This, folks, is a gift from the heart. Miller can be contacted at 248-842-3646. Prices range from $150-$800.

Dolly Rockers: Clothing & Accessories

Cara Lundgren, owner of Dolly Rockers, 22626 Woodward, has a fascination with the 1960s and ’70s.

“The originality and fearlessness of rock stars from that era really inspires me,” she explains.

Dolly Rockers opened two years ago but has already garnered a reputation as one of the hippest places in town to buy clothes and accessories. It features an array of “rocker chic,” high fashion and the comfortably cool. And knowing that Lundgren’s blood, sweat and tears go into every painstaking detail makes the patronage all the more rewarding. All of her pieces are hand-selected and ordered in small numbers, so as not to inundate the local scene with carbon copies.

The store offers a casual atmosphere. No Muzak here. There’s a 99 percent chance of accompaniment of bad-ass tunes for your listening pleasure. A trip to Dolly Rockers can be a quickie stop-in or an all-day adventure. Prices start at $15. Gift certificates available, Call 248-547-DOLL for further details.

Beads SRO: Bead Shop/Jewelry Making

Who knows your loved one better than you? It isn’t that weird kid with the headset at Old Navy … performance fleece, schmformance fleece: Give something you make yourself.

Nestled between Royal Oak favorite Corner Coney and the railroad tracks, Beads SRO is a teeny business with a magnificent selection.

Owner Lisa Grix knows a beautiful thing when she sees it; she has been collecting beads since she was 5. She opened her first business in 1989 and has developed a loyal following of artisans and enthusiasts. Her handcrafted works are only a sample of the dazzling pieces that can be made from items in her store. With a variety of beads that range from colorful casual beads to rescued vintage and Filipino pod beads to Nepalese metalworks, whatever you are looking for, she’s probably got it.

If you don’t have the time or inclination to make something yourself, there’s a variety of premade items and trinkets.

Or perhaps you’d like to give the gift of creation. Beads SRO hosts a “Basic Bead Stringing and Jewelry Design” class through Royal Oak Continuing Education (call 248-435-8400 for class schedule and tuition rates). Beads SRO is located at 207 W. Fourth St. Call 248-542-1348. Gift certificates available.

Soaps/Beauty Products: 5th Element

Elegant soap gift baskets are a time-honored classic for moms, sisters and aunts. But this year, in your pursuit of olfactory bliss, consider a natural alternative: 5th Element Products. The beauteous creation of herbologist Debra Chaffins, 5th Element carries a wide variety of handmade herbal soaps and bath products. Leaving the corporate world only a few years ago in her quest to create a small business, Chaffins has created her own line of enticing products. 5th Element’s soaps are all natural and lovingly handcrafted by Chaffins herself, and boast charming, whimsical names such as “Glitter Diva” and “Lemon Tingle.” Chaffins has also created an innovative line of shampoo and shaving bars as well as lip balms, candles, massage and essential oils, and a bevy of gift packages. This season, she will be offering holiday-themed soaps such as: Gift of the Magi, which contains real frankincense and myrrh; and Candy Cane, a red and white striped peppermint concoction. Additionally, the effervescent and nuturing Chaffins is always on hand to share her vast knowledge of herbal skin care and therapeutic herbal remedies. 5th Element is at 33 N. Washington, Oxford. Toll-free orders at 866-835-5858, or visit the Website: www.5thelement.com.

Charities/Holiday Cards: Huntington’s Disease Society of America

You are going to buy Christmas cards anyway ... why not help out in the process? Huntington’s Disease is a little-known, but debilitating disease that affects over 50,000 Americans and their families. HDSA not only funds research and compassionate care for those suffering from HD, it protects the misuse of genetic information and is committed to patient’s rights. This year, HDSA is offering a variety of personalized holiday cards as a seasonal fund-raiser. This is your chance to truly give. To order call: 800-900-6906 or visit the Website at www.hdsa.org.

Eve Doster is the Metro Times listings editor. E-mail edoster@metrotimes.com

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