It can be tricky trying to find that right small item to pop into a stocking or give to a co-worker or acquaintance. Sure, you can buy something from the dollar bin at Target (and hey, I'm not knocking that choice; I'm guilty of it myself). But this holiday season, consider looking to local businesses that satisfy that need by churning out beautiful, vintage, or just plain quirky odds and ends that will be truly unique and appreciated.
Have a go-to local shop for small, last-minute gifts? Leave a comment below this article online at rochestercitynewspaper.com.
Circuit Breaker Labs
For more than a decade now, Amanda Preske has been turning circuit boards and other old hardware into works of art. "It started when my brother gave me an old circuit board that didn't work anymore," she says. Preske, who has a background in chemistry and a love for art, took the tiny pieces and suspended it in epoxy resin.
After the viral content website Upworthy featured her work last year, Preske saw sales skyrocket. Soon, she was making necklaces, cufflinks, earrings, pins, and key chains for people around the world.
Many of her pieces — at first glance — can appear to be a subway map or just an intricate design of lines and dots. "I love that you can't tell where it came from when you look at it," she says.
Only about 30 percent of old electronics are recycled, on average — something Preske says she wants to change. She, with the help of a few assistants, currently works with local businesses and colleges to re-purpose their old, unusable electronics into her artwork. Pieces range between $20 and $40 and can be bought online or at several local craft shows.
MakabreArt describes its work as "Not for the faint of heart." It's true for some — but not all — of the art, which ranges from dark and unusual to classic pieces featuring Rochester icons. The shop incorporates the Flower City logo into many of its pieces, mixing the star design into a skull, an octopus, flowers, and Susan B. Anthony. In addition to prints on paper (and even slabs of wood), users can request buttons of their favorite designs.
MakabreArt can be found online at etsy.com/shop/MakabreArt.
Making the Nest of It
Denise McGuire says her life was changed by a clothespin. It happened shortly after her kids (and foster children) had all left home and McGuire was looking to start her own new chapter in life. "I suddenly had this big gaping hole and needed something to fill the time," the longtime teacher says. "I just started creating things and started helping friends with weddings, and before I knew it, it turned into a business."
McGuire uses patterned paper, fabric, and maps to customize clothespins (from the tiny to the chunky), paper clips, buttons, and Christmas ornaments. McGuire defines her style as mixing colors and patterns in ways that feel vintage but with a modern twist. One of her designs made the front page of Etsy shortly after she opened her shop in 2011. "It made me realize the potential of something that was so simple," she says.
The holidays and wedding season are her busiest times, she says. Many brides and grooms request custom pins to hold up photos or place cards. She'll often use maps to personalize the items with locations that are important to the couple.
Like Circuit Breaker Labs, McGuire recycles — a lot. "I hate throwing things out," she says. Every little scrap goes to use, from the pieces themselves to the packaging (all handmade). McGuire also makes sure some of her items are priced low enough for young children to buy as gifts for parents or teachers. "There's nothing like the excitement a kid gets when they're using their money to buy something for someone special," she says.
Find McGuire's work at etsy.com/shop/MAKINGtheNESTofIT.
National Teen Set Outsider
Rochester punk zine National Teen Set Outsider has been around since 2010 and in recent years has branched out into a small buttons business. A lot of the pins are produced in sets: "Cool Smokers" has a range of celebrities, like John Waters, Britt Ekland, and Lemmy, dangling cigarettes from their mouths; comic books; punk icons; "I Hate the 90's"; and a (self-explanatory) X-rated run Teen Set timed with an issue featuring Ron Jeremy. A couple of solo buttons go for a more topical approach — "zombie" Nancy Reagan, and Johnny Cash featuring the viral phrase "Cash me outside."
You can find Teen Set selling buttons and zines pretty cheap at different places around Rochester, or online at etsy.com/shop/rochesterteenset.
Wolfgang Vintage Wares
This husband and wife duo self-describes as treasure hunters in what others often consider "trash." Justin and Sarah scour through second-hand shops and garage sales for items to rescue from a dusty corner and either polish up or revamp into something totally new and inspired.
In their Etsy store, Wolfgang Vintage Wares, they have nearly 50 vintage buttons — from old movie buttons for "Indiana Jones" and "Mrs. Doubtfire" to phrases like "Bald is beautiful" and "Let's get together." Since they're constantly hunting for new material, their stock and offerings vary.
Wolfgang Vintage Wares can be found at etsy.com/shop/WolfgangVintageWares.