Holiday Gift Guide: Shop early, shop often, shop local

First, the anti-consumerist movement urged activists to exchange Black Friday for Buy Nothing Day. It was DIY or die, which meant a sad death for those not creatively inclined. Cyber Monday was nothing more than media milking online retailing trends because they were tired of coming up with new Black Friday stories. Then came Small Business Saturday. We were told it was OK to shop, as long as we shopped locally at the small mom and pops. And the holidays got a little more festive again because giving gifts really is fun, and people love presents.

This season, web placards reading "If you really want to Occupy Wall Street, do your holiday shopping at a small, independent merchant" are all the rage. If everyone actually took this advice to heart, the change they’re blaming President Obama for failing to achieve on their behalf might actually happen. But let’s face it, not everyone finds fighting traffic and crowds to get to small businesses a festive way to spend their last few vacation hours of the year. That’s why Etsy.com is such a happy compromise. There are 85 local vendors alone registered as part of "The Office Area Crafters" team (www.etsy.com/teams/6784/office-area-pa). Full disclosure: I am one of them.

There are also plenty of other vendors who can be found via searches for website or zip code. And as if I hadn’t been spending enough time on Etsy.com already, the handmade and vintage indie shopping site just released a new iPhone app that makes mobile browsing and bookmarking and shop maintenance so easy it ought to be illegal.

A search I did of the zip code 18503 preparing for this week’s issue resulted in 1,919 items for sale in Scranton. Among the items I added to my favorites are fresh, metal jewelry designs by Sharon Fiorini, inspiring prints by Christine Medley, Indulgent Apothecary’s "circulation stimulating" handmade paprika soap, and Sam Nardelli (Heart of Purple)’s lomo camera tribute prints.

Sure there were some scary clowns and a few items likely to appeal only to those with mom jeans in their dresser, but you’ll also find some edgier items like the sexy throwbacks at Nevermore Vintage or Brooke Wandell’s original, fine art oil paintings ranging in price from $30 to $3,200. Among the other items I noted were quilted baskets, works in fused glass, photography, baby items, letter press stationary, cute retro aprons, magnet sets, and even a variety of pancake mix. Most items are finished and ready to ship, but others are made to order or accommodate custom specifications and require some lead time. Be sure to check out the public discussion thread at The Office Area Crafters page. Other online resources are Handmade in PA, a community blog run by the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen, and indiepa.com.