Five Tbot Favorites From Renegade LA: There's Still Time!
If you’re anything like me, by now that holiday cheer you were feeling last week that had you ordering Christmas blend lattes at Starbucks and buying red poinsettias on sale for $5.99 at Trader Joe’s, has quickly turned into holiday anxiety as the to-do list has gotten longer and the countdown to the Big C (or H—Chag Urim Sameach!) has gotten shorter. One carton in, and you’re sick of egg nog; you’ve just barely trimmed the tree and already brown pine needles are beginning to appear between the twinkle lights and your favorite ornaments. Dumbfounded, you’re now wishing you had sprung for the “keeps it green” preservative liquid the Christmas tree guy suggested you buy. Ella Fitzgerald, Christina Aguilera and Mariah Carey’s holiday albums (also Charlie Brown’s Christmas) have been playing on repeat as you’ve managed to keep the ensuing existential crisis from looking for a parking spot at the Grove or Beverly Center at bay. You’re avoiding Target like it’s a TSA line during Thanksgiving by trying to convince yourself that waiting for Amazon to deliver toothpaste or even toilet paper would be better than facing the crowds. Luckily, you’ve gotten most of your shopping done, but there’s still the office Secret Santa party at the end of the week and the White Elephant party your bestie decided to throw before everyone leaves town. You still have no idea what to get your Dad who is impossible to shop for anyway! Phew! Okay, maybe that’s just where I am at this stage in the holiday gift-giving game. Thanks to another fabulous craft fair that took place last weekend called Renegade LA, I think I might be out of the woods!
Over 250 local artisans took over Grand Park in downtown LA offering up their exquisite hand-crafted originals to the masses of holiday shopping hopefuls determined to cross another loved one off their lists. With an impressive collection of products covering home decor, art, accessories, bath, body, food and fashion, Renegade LA made finding that special something like shooting fish in a barrel. That’s exactly how I felt as I wandered from stall to stall swiping my credit card simultaneously feeling the pressure of yet another holiday shopping season begin to subside.
For those of you who missed the craft fair last weekend, not to worry, I’ve put together another TBOT Top Five Favorite list—Renegade Style. There’s still time to order gifts from these incredible artisans and support our local economy. Much like the skilled workers I came across at Unique LA, these five stood out amongst the talented crowd selling useful innovation with tasteful panache.
I gave an enthusiastic round of applause(forgive me) to Clap Clap Stationary for their elegant greeting cards and refined sheets of wrapping paper. Rich vibrant pastel and jewel-tone colors create enchanting floral prints and animal scenes illustrated to perfection. Though the cards and paper are modern the quality of the illustrations seem referential, reminding me of when my mother would read Paul O. Zelinsky’s Rumpelstiltskin to me while I stared at the pictures mesmerized. Graphic designer and illustrator Mimi Kim is the owner of the company and sells a variety of cards, notebooks, calendars, wrapping paper and other paper products. Who doesn’t need great cards and wrapping paper all year round? Quaint and humorous, her designs are stylishly sophisticated.
JONES COUNTY ROAD
I want you to close your eyes and picture in your mind the last time you were at a campfire. Maybe you were roasting marshmallows over a fiery blaze of stacked, crackling wood. As vivid as the image is, you can also imagine the smell of the logs burning—giving off that distinct and pungent fragrance. What if I told you there was a company who created a soap that inexplicably smelled just like a campfire? Jones County Road Ryan Rogers (founder) and Laurel Randolph (practitioner) have done that and so much more. They use only natural soaps and essential oils free of chemicals, synthetics and dyes to make their handmade products. The Wild smells like sprigs of rosemary and orange zest while the Woodsman smells like Patchouli flowers and cloves. I was sold when my nose met the knock-your-socks-off Alpine bar of soap! It was like sticking my face inside a Christmas tree—just delightful. Whether it’s soap, shower gel, lip balm or beard oil, Jones County Road adeptly captures the essence of heavenly scents.
HENDLEY HARD GOODS
It was on my second go-round of the craft fair that I spotted these gorgeous slabs of wood dangling from hooks like cured Italian hams on a butcher line. Dark and light woods in innumerable shapes and sizes, boasted all their perfect imperfections that large machine manufactures would typically discard as unsellable. Master woodworker and owner of Hendley Hard Goods, Gwen Gunheim has utilized the natural beauty of fallen trees and reclaimed salvage woods—knots and all. “The objects I craft are intended for use, for care, and to be with you for a lifetime,” says Gunheim. “They are intended to be shared with your family and friends, to be gathered around, to connect over.” For those Curb Your Enthusiasm fans, let’s just say, Ms. Gunheim has a lot of respect for wood. It’s evident in every one-of-a-kind, hand-carved, sanded, polished and shined cutting board, spoon, or platter she makes.
I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it: I love do-gooder fashion! There is nothing more chic or en vogue than supporting a group of indigenous artisans working to create a thriving global economy for themselves. The carbon footprint reductive, socially conscious company Est Wst Collective has paired recycled materials with hand-woven textiles hailing from weavers in Nepal and India to create fashion-forward satchels, electronics carrying cases, wallets and even notebooks. The clean design elevated by the soft natural leather details gives their bags urbanity. Versatile and unisex, the ethically responsible and environmentally sustainable bags offer “an authentic alternative to conventional fashion.”
I fell in love with the architectural beauty of HYworks Jewelry about a year ago when I met owner and designer Hyun Yu at another craft fair. I was so pleased to run into her again and see how her collections have evolved. As a professional fine artist and graphic designer, she masterfully constructs contemporary pieces using unconventional materials that challenge the norm while still being wearable. The atypical geometric shapes and colors found in her Dots collection vs. the simplistic manipulation of gold in her Paper Clips collection only confirm the breadth of her artistic talents and unique point of view. I could hardly catch up with her due to the number of women clamoring for the Long & Thin earrings found in her Clay Collection. My personal favorite is the Bubble collection. Hand-blown glass balls, some singular and some arranged together like a three dimensional Joan Miro abstract painting. If you’re looking to make a subtle or impactful statement, you’ll find both at HYworks.
CHRISTMAS BONUS! One more find that I just had to share.
On our way out of Renegade LA, my dear friend grabs my arm, excitedly points to a stall and yells, “drinking chocolate!” We make our way over to what seems to be the busiest stall in all of Grand Park—loads of people sampling and leaning in to learn what makes Cacoco so special. Far from your average hot cocoa, this drinking chocolate honors the traditions established by the ancient Mayans and Aztecs when the medicinal benefits of consuming chocolate were being harnessed. The ethically sourced, unroasted cacao beans are blended with organic superfood herbs and spices instead of the dairy and sugar that have compromised the versatility and overall integrity of the bean. Owner and co-founder (or Chieftain as he calls himself) Tony Portugal explained that much like alcohol, chocolate is a stimulant, but instead of being a depressant, it energizes the mind and body causing one to become more alert and euphoric. As a person who doesn’t even like chocolate I was hesitant to try it, but being a good sport in the end, I’m glad I did. With four unique flavors to choose from(The Original, Midnight Mystic, Global Warrior and Fire Walker) I was impressed with the complexity in flavor—as if I tasted a fine wine admiring the bouquet or fall of its legs. After my friend and I bought all four flavors Tony suggested we enjoy our drinking chocolate as James Bond would—shaken not stirred.