The antidote to uninspired “Made in China” holiday gifts this year could be something a little closer to home. The Twin Cities has a flourishing community of artists and artisans making beautiful things that combine great design with quality workmanship and plenty of heart. Here’s a sampling of home goods crafted by local makers:

For purists

Kate Ellis makes elegant, pure beeswax candles in her home in south Minneapolis using wax from the hives at her family’s fourth-generation farm in Barrett, Minn. Beeswax has a light fragrance that smells like warm honey (with slight variations, depending on the floral source the bees foraged on), making these candles a thoughtful alternative to the more headache-inducing varieties popular around the holidays. Candles made of 100% beeswax also burn slower than petroleum-based candles, and the natural gold color warms up any room. Ellis’ Old Mill Candles are available in solid tapers, pillars, votives and seasonal pine cones, from $6 to $35 at the Foundry Home Goods, 322 W. 48th St., Mpls.

For hip friends and family

Playful, soulful and oddly life-affirming in their ambiguity, portraits by Minneapolis artist Lisa Luck are the perfect gift for hip families and friends of all kinds. Painting on pigmented paper in gouache, Luck does everything from five-minute pop-up portraits at local events to scheduled sittings in her studio or at a client’s home. Events and bookings at her website, Daughters and Suns ( or via e-mail Pop-ups start at $25. Sittings are $275 and up. Gift certificates available.

For ‘where are my keys?’ types

Everyone has stuff — keys, phones, jewelry and loose change — that needs a safe landing spot. Megan Corcoran and Maxine Milikan Hult at Northwind Supply make a leather catchall that holds it all and has the hallmark of an appreciated gift. And since the brass snaps at the corners come undone for flat packing, it’s also great for frequent travelers. All of the leather used in Northwind’s personalized products is upcycled or reclaimed and made completely by hand at their studio in northeast Minneapolis, which is owned by Softline Brand Partners. Available in five colors with optional hand-stamped personalization. Leather Snap Valet Tray, $25 at Northwind Supply.

For positive thinkers

Rainbows, infinity loops and the use of nontraditional materials such as paper, wood, paint and fabric are a recurring theme in St. Paul fiber artist Mandi Smethells’ wall hangings. Informed by her time working for local modern furniture company Room & Board, she brings a contemporary sensibility to her wrapped and woven sculptures, which add texture, dimension and interest to a space. Small hangings start at around $85 at Mandi Smethells (

For sophisticates who love Scandi style

Louise Gray is a Minneapolis-based maker of heirloom contemporary quilts that combine modern designs and sophisticated color palettes with traditional quilting techniques. Founded by Alexandra Gray Bennett and Jocelin Johnson, Louise Gray quilts are so admired that they’re often hung on the wall, like a work of art. The company makes all their textiles locally, using natural cotton and linen fabrics that are soft and machine-washable. A new tabletop line reflects their refined quilt aesthetic and includes several tea towel designs that make chic and affordable hostess gifts. Tea towels $30. Quilts between $195 and $495 at Louise Gray (


Laurie Junker is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer.


Craft Bash

What: A holiday market featuring handmade goods by more than 70 Minnesota makers of home goods, ceramics, jewelry, fashion and more. There will be artisanal food and beverages to sample, along with live craft demonstrations. Hosted by the American Craft Council.

When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 7; preview party 6:30 to 10 p.m. Dec. 6.

Where: Hennepin Made and Parallel Café, 145 N. Holden St., Mpls.

Cost: Free for Dec. 7 market; $25 for Dec. 6 preview party ($20 for ACC members).