First, let us say we have nothing against technology. Although the Planned Obsolescence Sweepstakes seem to be raging with particular fervor this season, we have no doubt that a Chocolate Zune Wireless GPS MP3 RAZR Videophone would be a dandy gift for any right-thinking American consumer. But for this year's Holiday Guide, we decided to steer clear of mass-produced, trillion-units-sold, must-have items in order to focus, mostly, on some quieter pleasures: the intrinsic value of gifts dreamed up and constructed by individual humans.
Remember those lumpy clay ashtrays and rickety magazine racks you made for your parents when you were a kid? Undoubtedly amateurish, but your folks cherished them just the same because, well, they knew the artists. And that's part of the appeal of the handmade Florida gifts we're looking at in this issue; these are one-of-a-kind objects made by people you may very likely get to meet, whether at a gallery, at a studio, or at this week's Atomic Holiday Bazaar, which Cooper Levey-Baker reports on in our lead story.
The difference between what a kid makes and what these people devote their lives to making is, of course, vast — take a look, for instance, at the pendants from Zen Glass or the intricate woven jewelry at Art Tarts or those extraordinary pots by Russ Gustafson-Hilton. But still, whether we're talking a $40,000 handcrafted motorcycle or a $10 cork reindeer, these gifts share with our old lumpy ashtrays a unifying trait: an inimitable human touch.
Elsewhere in this year's guide, we follow two Creative Loafing writers as they make their own effort to find human connection during the holidays, despite the challenges of being alone or having to explain for the umpteenth time what Hanukkah is, and how to spell it. And as always, Leilani Polk rounds up as complete a list as you'll see anywhere of carol sings, lighted boat parades, multiple Messiahs and other events where humans will gather to celebrate just for the sake of celebrating. And she also gives you a few hints on good places to shop.
Happy Handmade Holiday!
The Handmade Holiday Guide