Dec 15, 2021 etc
Every year, in every Aotearoa magazine, I see the same gifts recommended over and over. But while I love a Curionoir candle, Baina towel, or Arnold Circus stool as much as the next girl, and while your present receiver might love those too, it never hurts to look a little further afield.
Like, you can’t go wrong with a bucket of Maldon sea salt flakes ($57), a fancy lighter ($43), this candle shaped like a tomato ($44), or a vintage movie poster from Posteritati — the Polish and Japanese designs are a good place to start.
The best thing I’ve bought myself this year is a vintage paua shell articulated fish bottle opener. Mine was from a secondhand shop, but you can find them on ebay easily enough. The woman who sold it to me said it was “a real conversation piece”.
For something cheap, I like to buy friends foot peel masks — this one from Hikoco ($8) is good. They’re disgusting and so satisfying.
Looking for something cheap that looks like it isn’t? How about a pair of Norweigan wool socks ($15) from the army surplus store. Or this Kmart lemon squeezer ($6), which is probably my most commonly purchased gift — it’s weight makes it feel more expensive and impressive than the price tag.
For the party girls in your life, buy Marlowe Granados’ debut novel Happy Hour ($25) from your local independent bookstore. For something sweet, Fudge from Akaroa is always a good call — I recommend the creme brulee flavour, or passionfruit. And donate to People Against Prisons Aotearoa.
What about me, you ask. What’s on my wish list? A Contax T3 camera, Floral Street’s Arizona Bloom perfume “inspired by the flora and fauna of desert landscapes”, and sheer gloves — I like the ones from T Label the best, though Etsy has some good dupes. I also have my eye on half a dozen garments from Ruby’s new extended sizing range. Tragically I’m not intergenerationally wealthy, but if I were I’d buy myself a Claudia Kogachi painting and give everyone I love a Star Superette wine club subscription ($195/mo).
But it’s not just about me, so I’ve surveyed a few dozen friends, acquaintances, and Tāmaki-based artists and artisans on their favourite gifts to give or receive. Happy gift-giving!
Director Veronica Crockford-Pound recommends the M.N Black Picnic Bag ($165) which she says is perfect for socially-distanced picnics and makes a great on-set bag. Her partner, photographer and cinematographer Joseph Griffen, says support local makers like Monmouth Glass Studio — he recommends their sculptural glass vases.
To pair with the vase, theatre artist Alice Canton recommends a bunch of flowers from Kensal while writer and bookseller Manon Revuelta recommends florist Isadia. Ever chic, Manon also suggests hand-embroidering garments for family and friends, “just their name or initials, or even a message, embroidered inside the collar or hem adds a nice personal touch to an otherwise standard gift — socks, teatowels, anything made of fabric really.”
Film and theatre maker Nahyeon Lee says the best gift she’s bought herself recently is the soothing, luxurious Hakudo Rain room perfume from Public Record ($95) evoking a Japanese island after rainfall.
Bookseller Surinam Reddy recommends Sam Te Kani’s debut erotic story collection Please, Call Me Jesus ($30). Word is it’s very hot and beautifully written.
Hair and makeup artist Jemma Barclay recommends this matte pink sonic toothbrush ($169). “It looks good, it’s super sexy and super effective.” It also comes in black or white.
Artist Selina Ershadi has always cherished gifts made by the giver over something bought, even something small and imperfectly made, though she acknowledges not everyone feels comfortable or confident making something and so finds a thoughtfully chosen book meaningful and enduring too. “One book that I’m definitely going to gift someone these holidays is Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass. This book reminded me of the difference between taking and receiving, the importance of reciprocity and of not taking more than we need. Kimmerer shares a memory of a family ritual where she and her siblings would give their dad wild strawberry shortcake for his birthday. She writes: “he thought wild strawberry shortcake was the best possible present, or so he had us convinced. It was a gift that could never be bought. As children raised by strawberries, we were probably unaware that the gift of berries was from the fields themselves, not from us. Our gift was time and attention and care and red-stained fingers.”
For the home, Green Party parliamentary staffer Pearl Little recommends a Maison Balzac carafe ($95) from Maman. DJ and broadcaster Jess Fu swears by pothos plants. She says they’re really hardy and grow well, and recipients can also pass the gift on by propagating the cuttings should they desire. Actor and writer Saraid De Silva says a candle from Sybs ($28) would make a perfect Christmas gift. Her favourite scents are Kōwhai or The Woods. Poet (and Metro astrologist) Tayi Tibble suggests this weed lava lamp. ($59.95)
For the keen gardener in your life, interior designer Katie Lockhart endorses this moon planting calendar ($12) and activities coordinator Freddy Matariki Carr recommends this grow-your-own-oyster-mushrooms kit ($35).
Filmmaker Judah Finnigan recommends a Headspace subscription (69.99USD/yr), a gift voucher to The Facialist, or if the person you’re buying for definitely has a region-free blu-ray player, the World of Wong Kar Wai Criterion Collection Box Set ($215).
Designer Michael McCabe recommends hiring Winnie Edgar Booty and Zoe Booty through their personal writing and recording service The Long and Short of It. They sit and listen to you or a loved one share your life story, they record these memories and edit for clarity, then print and bind them into a book, of which you can order as many copies as you like.
For kids, filmmaker Charlotte Evans suggests commissioning a bird or animal painting from Erin Forsyth. Writer and bookseller Cait Kneller recommends a vintage Polly Pocket compact. Model and stylist Crystal Lim recommends the Moomin novel series by Tove Jansson.
Filmmaker Alexander Gandar loves to set a treasure hunt. “I’m really into the idea of gifts as experience, and writing a series of cryptic clues that your partner or parents or best pal have to solve on Christmas morning in order to find their own gifts is a pretty neat experience. It can be as expensive or as affordable as you like, and some of the more successful ones I’ve done are with lots of little things I know that person likes. It sounds child-like but that’s why it works – what’s Christmas for if not rediscovering your inner greedy child (or, if you’re setting the hunt, your inner megalomaniac).”
Radio broadcaster and 95bFM Breakfast host Rachel Ashby suggests ordering a custom knitted vest from Alice Duncan-Gardiner or jewellery from Dangerous Goods. Filmmaker Lula Cucchiara also recommends jewellery, her brand of choice is Vania Truchsess.
Researcher and writer Litia Tuiburelevu would give someone special the Tavake Breast Plate by Tongan artist Helena Kaho from Moana Fresh gallery ($199.75). A handmade breastplate made from up-cycled domestic plastics, reminiscent of early 20th century pique jewelry in the Pacific, it can be worn on the body or displayed at home.
“For a bougie gift to shower love to arts administrators with expensive taste and tiny salaries”, gallery director Vanessa Mei Crofskey suggests the Emma Jing green silk draped yoryu top ($299). Fashion designer Emma Jing herself says if she could give or receive one gift this holiday season it would be a spa pool.
When I first met my boyfriend, filmmaker Tom Augustine, he had just come back to Tāmaki after living in Texas and working at a cowboy boots store, and I saved his number in my phone as Tom Cowboy. Keeping true to this moniker, he recommends this felt hat (470USD) and these goatskin boots (450USD) from Allen’s Boots in Austin. Add a couple hundred dollars for international shipping. Alternatively, Tom covets a mint condition full battery lime green Gameboy colour with a Pokémon Blue cartridge in its original packaging. The first year we were together (and the third) he rented out a cinema and played a film I’d always wanted to see for just the two of us, so you could also do that. Tom’s mum, primary school principal Jo Augustine, recommends a sun lounger.
Writer Anna Rankin says “less for the notion of ownership more for the love of and respect for books my father assiduously pressed a personalised stamp, replete with name, address and telephone number into a dark ink pad then the blank, first page of each of his books within his library. We surely know that to lend a book is to willingly never see it again so perhaps one’s name inscribed within its covers functions for the recipient as a reminder of friendship and memory – a gift that keeps on giving, or haunts, rather. It remains a thrill to discover inside the cover of a used book a name from which to infer all manner of possibilities and lives, deduced from the penmanship or appellation itself. I would like a bespoke, ornate ex libris with serifs and intricate flourishes of my own; see stampcity.co.nz. Alternatively, an exquisite matching lingerie set from the thoughtfully chosen wares at Underlena.”
Filmmaker Hash recommends booze and cigarettes.