Northwest gift guide

The Olympian

There's no gift that's more personal than the one you make yourself. So let's warm up the woodshop, power up the sewing machine and - hey! Come back here.

All right. We get it. Homemade is nice but who has the time? So here’s the next best thing: gifts made by your neighbors right here in the South Sound. Not only will you get the satisfaction of keeping it in the family, you’ll also be supporting the local economy by buying directly from the creator or in a locally owned store.

In Olympia, one place to start your quest is the Farmers Market, which offers a one-stop shopping experience with dozens of vendors selling locally made products from jewelry to soap. The market remains open 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 19, then it will be open for one last holiday hurrah from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Dec. 22-24 before shutting down until April.

When the market isn’t open, Olympia’s downtown shopping district offers a slightly less locavore selection, but you can still ferret out a wide variety of items with a go-local theme.

Here are some things we’ve found in local stores.

Ever get the feeling the shampoo market is where unwanted perfumes go to die? You’ll never be wrongly scented again when you visit Archibald Sisters in downtown Olympia. The gift store has more than 100 different fragrances to squirt, sniff and then add to body washes, lotions, shampoos, colognes, massage oils and other personal care products. The most popular fragrance: Oly Girl, a blend of coconut and “Rain” (a light floral scent reminiscent of gardenias). Prices start at $3.50 for 2-ounce bottles of some products and range as high as $30. Archibald Sisters, 406 Capitol Way S., Olympia, 360-943-2707,

Nikki McClure isn’t just an artist, she’s an industry. The exacto-wielding paper cut artist’s work can be found all over the country but especially in her hometown of Olympia. McClure’s original art sells in the four figures, but you can get her books, calendars, cards, notepads, posters and shirts at less lofty prices. You can see her full selection at but just about every bookstore and gift shop within 1,000 miles sells her ubiquitous calendar. New this month: her illustrated cookbook. (See related story on cookbooks in this section.)

Olympia artist Christine Malek uses new and recycled fabrics (she’s big on old sweaters) to make her plushies – stuffed animals and monsters that spring from her imagination and into the waiting hands of kids and adults. Ranging in size and price ($18-$28.50), the colorful, tactile bears, owls, beavers and odd creatures delight and comfort. The creatures can be found at both Olympia Food Coop locations and at Matter Gallery. Matter Gallery, 113 Fifth Ave. S.W., Olympia, 360-943-1760.

It’s been 15 years since Rosana Hart put out her 125-page paperback, “Twelve Walks Around Olympia.” While some of the information is out of date, this is primarily a historical touring book and not much has changed in that department. It contains 12 hikes, most with maps, that will bring you face to face with some of Olympia’s historical homes and take you to the geological oddities of the Mima Mounds. Jane Laclergue, owner of The Fireside Bookstore, says it’s still one of her best sellers. $12. The Fireside Bookstore, 16 Legion Way S.E., Olympia, 360-352-4006.

Olympia-based Capitol Land Trust conserves the precious open spaces of the South Sound, whether they be streams, forests, or farms. Their 2011 calendar features nature photographs made on the lands the trust has either purchased or accepted conservation easements for. The photographs, shot by members of the Olympia Camera Club, feature wildlife, trees, water and one glorious sunset. $12 at The Fireside Bookstore in The Olympian Hotel building on Legion Way.

You can smell Buck’s Fifth Avenue before you even go inside. And that’s a good thing at this downtown Olympia store devoted to spices. If you arrive while owner Anne Buck is making one of her spice kits, she might be a little teary eyed. Some of those powders pack a potent punch. Case-in-point: “Taste the Pain” ($14.95). It features seven different types of chili powder in small tins and one silver spoon all nestled in a larger tin. Buck’s other kits come in a variety of types and flavors (curry, pepper, salt, Indian, mushroom) and range $15-$32. Buck’s Fifth Avenue, 209 Fifth Ave. S.E., Olympia, 360-352-9301,

Bill Evans sells a wide variety of items from all over the region at his one-of-a-kind Pacific Northwest Shop in Tacoma. Art, food and wine fill the Proctor District space along with soap from Yelm, mints from Chehalis, pottery from Shelton. New this year are topographically themed housewares he’s had made for his store. The maps take in the Sound and surrounding communities – including newly minted Joint Base Lewis McChord. ($4.50-$16.50) Pacific Northwest Shop, 2702 N. Proctor St., Tacoma, 253-752-2242,

Years ago (and if you were lucky), a walk on the Washington coast would reveal a treasure from across the Pacific: the seemingly fragile but long journeyed Japanese glass float. The women behind Tacoma’s Bella Balls take a modern interpretation of those storm-tossed orbs. Glass artist (and 1979 Lakefair princess) Diane Hansen and designer Lesli Jacobs-McHugh create three sizes and types of their Bella Balls ranging in price from $28-$80. Designed for gifting, the 3- to 5-inch balls come in a tremendous variety of colors and each is stamped with a silver fig leaf and giftwrapped. Hansen says they can be as important or whimsical as you like. The orbs are metaphors for life, she says: we are stronger than we look. Bella Balls, 747 S. Fawcett Ave. Suite B, Tacoma, 253-627-0183,

Fife-based Honey House Naturals employs a workforce of bees (and humans presumably) to make their skin care products infused with beeswax, royal jelly, jojoba oil, shea butter and other ingredients. The products, formulated to make your hands, lips and body smooth and silky, come in a variety of fragrances and are packaged in colorful, bee-embossed tins.

The products, ranging from a “bee bar” to “lip butter” run $5.95-$14.95 at the Laughing Lotus – a store loaded with gifts from around the world. And Fife. Laughing Lotus, 3013-B Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253-627-0522,

At Olympia’s State of the Arts Gallery, currently holding its Deck the Walls holiday group show, the products, ranging from a “bee bar” to “lip butter,” run $4.95-$12.95. State of the Arts Gallery, 500 Washington St. S.E., Olympia, 360-705-0317,

At Tacoma’s Vino Aquino, you can have a custom-made wine label slapped on one of 20 different varieties of Washington wine. Co-owner Dana Galagan said she makes labels for customers who are celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and other special events. Customers decide on the text and often provide photos. “People are always excited to receive this. We get a lot of repeat customers.” Wines range $11.95-$19.95 and the label is an additional $3 per bottle. A case discount is offered. And the best part? The process takes 20 minutes in person or you can email your photos and text to Vino Aquino, 4417 Sixth Ave. Suite #1, Tacoma,, 253-272-5511

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541