2013 gift guide: Handmade
La Chamba black clay soup pot
Handmade in Colombia, this black clay soup pot is natural and unglazed. Use it on the stovetop or in the oven, or even the microwave. The pot keeps such an even heat it cooks beans to a velvety texture. Soups seem to gain flavor too. And it is handsome enough to bring straight from the stove or oven to the table. From $49.95, at www.mytoque.com.
Doug Margerum Amaro
Doug Margerum, winemaker and co-owner of the Wine Cask in Santa Barbara, has produced one of the first — if not the first — American amaro, an Italian-style digestivo. Made from fortified wine infused with botanicals and herbs, Margerum's complex amaro is aged outdoors in casks. Drink it after dinner or as the bitter component for a Manhattan. $50, available at Margerum Tasting Room, 813 Anacapa St., Santa Barbara, (805) 845-8435.
Biscotti from Boncora
Bonnie Tempesta helped introduce the biscotti to America. Now she's back with her impeccably light, crisp almond and almond-chocolate cookies. A 1-pound gift box is $28 plus shipping and comes beautifully wrapped. Boncorabiscotti.com.
Watts Tower tea towels
Stylish flour-sack towels from the atelier of Miss Fruitfly are silkscreened by hand. Your dishes will gleam with Los Angeles pride. Sold at various artisan fairs and for $14 from www.etsy.com — search for Watts tea towels.
Navarro Vineyards helped introduce the wine club concept in the 1970s. Now the second generation is doing the same with really remarkable goat cheese from its Pennyroyal Farm. A six-cheese sampler is $66 at www.pennyroyalfarm.com.
Cutting board by the Wooden Palate
These cutting boards made in Los Angeles by woodworkers Ryan Silverman and Eileen O'Dea will stop you in your tracks. End grain, in walnut or fumed oak, they're eminently useful but beautiful enough you'll want to keep them out on the counter. Note too: The wood is reclaimed and repurposed or else sustainably harvested North American hardwoods. From $395, at various retail outlets and at www.thewoodenpalate.com.
Jose Regueiro black walnut cutting board
This large cutting board made of edge-grain American black walnut is a thing of beauty, handmade by artist and designer Jose Regueiro in his Michigan studio. It's 14 by 22 inches and 21/2 inches thick, and lies flat and won't shift. An heirloom cutting board. $195, at www.joseregueiro.bigcartel.com
Glassell Park artist Bari Ziperstein said she's inspired by Finnish patterns and the California desert in creating her Bzippy & Co. collection. The mash-up of influences can be seen in her heavy stoneware coasters, hand-painted circles or hexagons that can be stacked on a table. $45 for set of four at Individual Medley in Atwater Village, theindividualmedley.com; ReForm School in Silver Lake, reformschoolrules.com; Fifth Floor in Chinatown, fifthfloorgallery.com; Platform in Highland Park, theplatformexperiment.com; the O.C. Museum of Art Museum Shop in Newport Beach, ocma.net; and BKB Ceramics in Joshua Tree, bkbceramics.com/home.html.
Gindo's Spice of Life hot sauce
This locally made hot sauce is the house hot sauce for Umami Burger and a favorite of chefs around the city, including Michael Voltaggio at Ink and Ralph Johnson at the Pikey. It packs a flavorful yet spicy punch that doesn't drown out the flavor of food. Made from locally farmed hot peppers and infused with black lava, Himalayan and Alaea sea salts, options include original, jalapeño poblano, honey habanero and extra spicy. $10, at www.gindosspiceoflife.com.
Assorted pickles from Bruce's Prime Pickle Co.
Chef Bruce Kalman left the Churchill in West Hollywood to start his own gourmet pickling business, and the results have all the right vinegary snap. Garlic Dill Horsey Cukes, Sweet Cab Onions, Bloody Mary Asparagus, Cucumber Kim Chee, Curried Cauliflower and Chi-Town Giardiniere are all locally sourced and hand-packed. They can be mixed and matched for the perfect pickle-lover package. $11.95, at the Cheese Store of Silverlake, 3926-28 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 644-7511.
Pick up a ceramic pot by Mount Washington designer Tracy Wilkinson and there is no doubt the tactile vessels are built by hand. Edges are jagged and glazes are uneven. Bottoms, stamped with her initials, feel scratchy. Most notable: handwoven basket-weaving accents that reach toward the sky. Small hanging planters begin at $60 and larger utensil pots begin at $150, at www.store-la.com.
Working in her Glassell Park studio, artist Bianca D'Amico combines succulents, air plants, ferns and feathers with a tiny cast of characters to create delightful worlds. A female figurine might be walking her dog or refreshing plants with a watering can. Small terrarium ornaments start at $7, most larger hanging terrariums are $30 to $65, custom glass planters start at $150; sold through her Chaparral Studio website or through retailers, also listed on her site, chaparralstudio.bigcartel.com.
Gluten-free dog cookies from Rosie's Barkery
You're careful about what you eat, so why not make sure your dog eats right too? Local bakery Rosie's Barkery has created a line of grain- and gluten-free treats including bacon and honey, peanut butter, apple pie and organic pumpkin party flavors. A portion of sales goes to help dog rescue foundations. $7 to $16.99, at www.rosiesbarkery.com.
For the person who has everything and doesn't really want anything else? How about pretty soap. The soaps, made by DWC, are scented with essential oils and created in small batches from organic materials such as mango butter. The stamp on the wrapper reads: "This product was handmade by the women of the Downtown Women's Center. 100% of the proceeds from this product will help fund vocational training and support services for homeless and low-income women in downtown Los Angeles' Skid Row Community." $7 to $10, Downtown Women's Center Cafe & Gift Boutique, 438 S. San Pedro St., Los Angeles, www.etsy.com/shop/MADEbyDWC.
Survey Heather Taylor's vibrant embroidered linen table runners, place mats and napkins, and you won't be surprised that the Los Angeles designer would move on to something more tactile: weavings. Her new small weavings, roughly 5 by 8 inches, are offbeat artworks made in Los Angeles. $250, at heathertaylorhome.com.
Los Angeles designer Annabel Inganni has expanded her Wolfum line of pattern-rich designs to include drinking glasses, coasters, picture frames and groovy ornaments, all hand-printed on Baltic birch. We could see the deer, giraffe or chimp hung on a wall as a cool bit of handmade happiness long after the holidays have passed. $22, at wolfum.com.
For the devoted composter in your life — or the person who should be — there is the Tigger Countertop Compost Bin. The 13-inch-long wooden box is made with off-cuts, remnant pieces recycled by the workshop of Marina del Rey furniture craftsman Cliff Spencer. Keep it on the counter and stow eggshells, coffee grounds and other kitchen scraps until you're ready to toss it all in the composter outside. Each box has a lidded stainless steel pan that lifts out for easy cleaning. $125, at store.cliffspencer.net.
Designer Emily McDowell's line of quirky tea towels are a light way to decorate your kitchen or to give as a gift. Prints include cheeky recipes — one proclaims the green smoothie as the food item of choice for Los Angeles — as well as food photography tips. All are drawn in McDowell's distinct style, with charming typography and bold colors. $20, at www.emilymcdowell.com.
Soccer players with style have met their match. This sleek black leather ball from Killspencer was created by Los Angeles industrial designer Spencer Nikosey and is handmade in the company's Silver Lake store. There are footballs, bats and other gear too. Can be used for games or to display. $400, at Killspencer in Silver Lake, (213) 484-0888 or www.killspencer.com.
Black boa snake boxing gloves
Raise their game with these black boa snake boxing gloves, also available in painted anaconda snakeskin, by Los Angeles designer Elisabeth Weinstock. It takes a week for a local boxing glove manufacturer to handcraft each pair. "But I don't recommend them for boxing. They are art!" says the designer. $1,450, at www.elisabethweinstock.com.
The Axo bowls are more like small trays — diamonds in your choice of walnut, ash or mahogany, all crafted by designer Brendan Sowersby of the L.A. studio 100xbetter. Specify your wood choice in the notes section of the checkout cart, or do what we'd do: Order three sets — one of each wood — then give the bowls in mixed hues and grains. $85 per set of three, at 100xbetter.com.
Painter Kat Hutter and ceramist Roger Lee maintain separate artistic careers, but lately they also have been blending their talents for an interesting collection of graphic pottery that ranges from coffee drippers to large vases, designed with striking forms and a modern palette. $38 to $400, katandroger.com (click on "Retailers" for a list that includes General Store in Venice and Platform in Highland Park).
Bak kwa (Singapore-style pork jerky)
The USDA disapproves, but visitors to Asia are often struck by an insatiable urge to smuggle back boxes of bak kwa, a sweet pork jerky best when toasted lightly over a flame. Bak kwa is often given as an extravagant holiday gift. At the newish Fragrant Jerky, the Los Angeles area finally has a bak kwa to compare with Singapore's best. From $6.95 for 4 ounces at the store, 8930 Mission Drive, Rosemead, (626) 329-2779, or at www.bbqbeefjerky.com.
Trufflebert Farm hazelnuts
They're organic, they're sustainable and they're certified by Oregon Tilth. They're roasted to about a minute and a half short of full incineration. They are also about the most delicious hazelnuts you will ever taste, almost coffee-like in their intensity. You could order giant bags of them online from trufflebertfarms.com, but they're $9 a pound plus shipping with a minimum order of 10 pounds. Or you can pick up handy 1-pound jars for $15 at Mozza2Go, 6610 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 297-1130.
It's salt. It's chipotles. It's chipotle salt, made by the renowned restaurant La Casita Mexicana. It smacks whatever you choose to sprinkle it on with a sweetly smoky heat. Were you planning to sprinkle some on your next steak? Good idea! Pick up a jar of house-made mole while you're there. $3.99, at La Tiendita Mexicana, 4034 Gage Ave., Bell, (323) 773-4030.