Let's face it: There are few things more stressful during the holidays than walking into a chaotic store and searching for a gift that's unique, thoughtful and cheer-inducing....and then coming out with a pre-packaged gift in a very scuffed box.
Thankfully, dear reader, it doesn't have to be that way! Our world is home to many amazing artists and artisans on Etsy who explore the depths of their imagination to produce beautiful, quirky, ingenious handmade pieces that make for thoughtful gifts. We don't talk enough about how wholesome it is that, in 2022, there are still people who set up workshops in garages, around kitchen tables and in spare rooms not only to satisfy their creative urges and make some extra cash, but also to make people happy—often leaving behind entire careers to do so. They obsess over details, communicate personally with customers and can customize items on the spot—pretty much the perfect setup to guarantee holiday and Christmas morning happiness.
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Wondering how you can find and support these artists and gift their one-of-a-kind creations? Allow us to present our 12 Makers of the Month—artisans, designers and outside-the-box thinkers who are passionate about their craft and completely inspiring to those of us who love to, well, create.
We checked in with each maker to find out how they got started, why they do what they do and what inspires them to keep crafting during the hectic holiday season. Without further ado, meet our Makers of the Month!
1. The Modern Mapmaker
At a glance: Karen, a paper cutting artist based in Charlotte, NC, creates intricate maps by hand, using just an X-Acto knife.
Origin story: "My very first hand-cut map was created in 2003 as part of my architecture thesis. I created another piece for myself that was 6 x 8 feet and decided to list it on Etsy. It circulated many design blogs, sold and accidentally kicked off a business! I've been creating maps full-time since that first sale."
Why she loves holiday creating: "I love creating handmade gifts for people's loved ones. My maps can be customized using any city or location, so customers choose places that tell their unique story. There's a memory behind each map."
Gift pick: 4x4 Custom Miniature Hand-Cut Map, $84
Her mind-blowing process: "My work is completely handcrafted. No computers, no printers. I draw in the city grids, then hand-cut with an X-Acto blade and erase any marks that are left. It's a tedious process that I've perfected over the years."
2. The Statement Maker
At a glance: Shamika, who is based in the Bronx, NY, creates dazzling statement pieces, from earrings to rings, that'll steal the spotlight at any holiday party.
Origin story: "I've always loved statement earrings because, no matter what you're wearing, you'll stand out. But certain metals irritate my ears, so I began making my own with gold plating. People always loved them, so I started my jewelry shop and named it after my oldest daughter, Sahara. I'm a project manager in the utility industry and a dance mom, so I make pieces on nights and weekends."
Why she loves holiday creating: "I love the holidays! It's such a sentimental time of the year. When someone gets a gift that someone took the time to find, I want them to have an amazing experience—from the time they open the beautiful box to the first time they see a unique piece."
Gift pick: 18K Gold Twisted Rope Ring, $28.80
Kids know best: "Kids are really honest, so I always ask my daughter what she thinks of a piece before I put it on the store. She'll tell me, 'Mommy, that does not look good. No one is going to wear that.' If she doesn't approve, I won't sell it."
3. The Concrete Designer
At a glance: Rheal, who is based in Oakland, CA, is known for his otherworldly creations in concrete, resin and stained glass, like jewelry holders in the shape of open hands.
Origin story: "I make art for myself, but I consider what I've been doing for the past eight years to be artisan work. I started by making coasters out of concrete because it's cheap and accessible. They sold well, so I used latex mold to create a catchall in the shape of cupped hands—and it sold even better. I built the business on that foundation."
Why he loves holiday creating: "I have an extra-long holiday season because local stores that carry my stuff will send Christmas orders in August. People usually start shopping on my Etsy shop in November. So it's madness. I don't eat or sleep; I just work. But it's great because, in January, I get to take a flight somewhere warm and relax."
Gift pick: Resin Hand Catchall with Rose Quartz and Gold Leaf, $40
Why concrete housewares rule: "Concrete has been around for thousands of years, but there have been so many advancements that we're now in a refinement stage. People will touch my planters or coasters and can't believe they're so strong yet so delicate and smooth."
4. The Bold Bead Artist
At a glance: Amanda, who is based in Grand Rapids, MI, and Boise, ID, hand-beads intricate jewelry, including earrings and necklaces, that pay homage to her Native American culture.
Origin story: "I am Potawatomi and Ottawa. My sisters and I would go to powwows and stand in awe of vendors showing their beautiful specialty jewelry and beadwork, but we couldn't afford it. No one in my bloodline passed down bead-making, but through our tribe, there were always people willing to teach. My 7-year-old nephew even taught me peyote stitch! At first I was making jewelry for myself, but I decided to put myself out there, and it grew and grew."
Why she loves holiday creating: "Knowing that someone found my art beautiful enough to give it to a loved one always puts a smile on my face. This year, for the first time, I was excited to put together a holiday collection of one-of-a-kind pieces with rare beads."
Gift pick: Wabshka Waskonédo (White Flower) Lilly Authentic Potawatomi Bead Earrings, $135
Looking to generations past: "When you see Native women in old photographs, they're wearing big jewelry—pieces that have stood the test of time and are now in museums. I'm inspired by them, but also by modern art and fashion. I love making something bold and fresh."
5. The Cocktail Aficionado
At a glance: Mary Stuyvesant, based in Los Angeles, concocts craft cocktail kits and salts for easy (and tasty) drink-making at home or on the go. Bonus: Her cocktail infusion bags work great for mocktails too—just add them to flat or sparkling water!
Origin story: "I used to tour with bands and worked in tech, so I traveled a lot for work. On airplanes and in hotels, it can be hard to get a good craft cocktail, so I started making cocktail infusion bags with natural fruits, flowers and herbs. With an infusion bag, you can have a great old fashioned, a sexy vodka soda or just some tasty water while you're traveling."
Why she loves holiday creating: "Everyone likes a little holiday cheer, and my infusions make fantastic stocking stuffers. They're super cute and filled with farm-to-bar ingredients."
Gift pick: Cocktail Kit Infusion Bags, starting at $17.59
The art of multitasking: "I often half-watch movies while I am making infusions and packaging. Guardians of the Galaxy or pretty much any Marvel Movie or Star Wars movie are my favorites."
6. The Ceramics Queen
At a glance: Based in Urla, Turkey, Elif Cesur Gokalp creates colorful ceramics with quirky designs.
Origin story: "I graduated from a fine arts academy, where my major was jewelry design. Later I worked in a boutique that needed assistance for ceramic production from time to time—and I loved it. You can create anything you want without boundaries. A couple of years back, I found myself no job and decided to try ceramics again. My boyfriend posted photos of my work on social media, and the feedback was great. So we decided to open an Etsy shop!"
Why she loves holiday creating: "I'm always thinking of unusual, funny and unique designs. My main goal is to put a smile on people's faces. When my customers leave reviews about loving their items, I've accomplished my aim."
Gift pick: Ceramic Simit Bread Mug; $82.83
Fresh air breeds creativity: "I love being in nature. It gives me the freshest, best ideas, and you can see that in my designs."
7. The Prints & Patterns Pro
At a glance: Karina, who is based in Louisville, KY, creates colorful and playful art prints, holiday cards, calendars and tote bags that add a pop of fun to any setting.
Origin story: "I was waitressing and modeling in New York when I broke a finger and couldn't work for a while. Drawing is something I've always done for myself instead of buying art, so I spent time practicing and showing my work at craft fairs. I love depicting women doing the little things that they love—running, walking their dogs, riding bikes—and I hope people can see themselves in my art."
Why she loves holiday creating: "I like the challenge of making something that will last. That's why I started making calendars. Unlike Christmas cards, which get thrown away, the art print for each month is meant to be torn away and framed when the month ends."
Gift pick: 2023 Calendar With Wood Stand, $30.00
Staying cozy: "In order to draw, I have to be in my onesie, on my couch, with my dog, zit medication on my face, ashy and super comfortable. I have to be all the way in couch potato mode!"
8. The Quirky Crafter
Rosa Grillo Butler of LittleToadstoolShop;
@thelittletoadstoolshop on Instagram
At a glance: Rosa, who is based in Southbourne, England, is known for her handcrafted felt ornaments, decorations and jewelry—all created with a dash of whimsy.
Origin story: "I've always been very creative. Growing up, I often made bead necklaces and handmade presents for all my family and friends on their birthdays and taught myself to sew. I started my Etsy shop after having my second child and leaving my job as a project manager. My grandfather, who died when I was only one, was an incredibly talented Italian tailor, so I like to think there is a little bit of his craftsmanship in me!"
Why she loves holiday crafting: "Christmas is that time of the year when loads of ideas start to flow in my brain, like a magic influx I can't stop. There's something special in knowing that my decorations are all over the world on people's Christmas trees. My creations travel more than I do!"
Gift pick: Toastie Christmas Felt Ornament, $11.31
Crafting playlist: "Although I've always been a grunge girl to the core, I've recently discovered a passion for jazz. It helps me relax whilst making my little creations. But when I create Christmas ornaments or crafts, I pretty much always listen to a nonstop vintage Christmas compilation."
9. The Self-Care Specialists
At a glance: Husband-and-wife team Laith and Jenn Salameh of Mooresville, NC, create vegan, preservative-free, cruelty-free and eco-friendly skincare products that are all about cleansing and relaxation. Cue the spa music!
Origin story, as told by Laith: "It started as a hobby. My wife, Jenn, has had really bad acne her entire life and nothing was working for her, so she did research on natural remedies and developed what is now our Face Salve. It worked for her! Then I developed an underarm rash from harsh deodorant chemicals, so she developed something for me that worked great. Our friends and family urged us to list the products on Etsy. They sold well, and that's when we started to take it seriously as a business."
Why they love holiday creating: "When people send gifts to their loved ones, they usually know what that person would like. And the fact that they choose our products, and allow us to be a part of whatever occasion it may be, really warms my heart."
Gift pick: Exceptional Self-Care Kit, $89.59
Dream team(work): "We love being around each other and working with each other, but we had to figure out what each of us is good at and can focus on. Jenn, who is an electrical engineer, spearheads the production side of things. She's the chemist who comes up with recipes. I have an MBA and a finance and marketing background, so I focus on sales, communication and managing. The key has been talking things out and keeping our business and personal lives separate."
10. The Master of Minimalism
At a glance: Hyun, who is based in Marina Del Rey, CA, is a graphic designer-turned-jewelry designer with a background in sculpture and printmaking. Her geometric necklaces (like her beloved DOTS necklaces), earrings, hair pins and brooches are all about "simplicity with a touch of playfulness"!
Origin story: "For as long as I can remember I have loved making things. As a kid I just knew what made me happy, and that involved hands-on creation. After working as a graphic designer for many years, I had a strong desire to create my own designs. One day, for a distraction, I took a jewelry-making workshop and realized how good it felt to make something with my hands. After producing in a 2D environment for so long, it was really refreshing to work with objects that I could touch and manipulate into wearable pieces."
Why she loves creating: "After graduating college with a liberal arts degree, I went back to study fine art full time and realized how vital creating is in my life. That time was magical, one of the most important periods in my life, because creating helped me find myself. Through making I learned to trust myself. It was such a liberating feeling to finally know, I mean, really know that I am capable."
Gift pick: Bun hair pins in assorted colors, starting at $51.90
How inspo strikes: "It's hard to know when inspiration happens. I just know when it does—when I get goose bumps on my arms. During the process of making, one design influences another and the next one arises, and so on until the whole collection is born. I like to think each collection has its own soul."
11. The Dentist-Turned-Candy Maker
Carol Brown of Brown Sugar Chocolate
At a glance: Carol whips up allergy-friendly (think: gluten-free, nut-free, corn-free and egg-free) artisanal chocolates and other sweets in her Hickory, NC, home kitchen. And she's a formerly practicing dentist. (Yes, you read that right!)
Origin story: "I'm one of those people with multiple food allergies. I would often get chocolate as a gift but could never eat it myself because of my allergies. Things got better when I realized that I could make my own chocolates and caramels, avoid all the scary allergens and still bring the party. So the experiments began. Before long, I was making some pretty good stuff without added gluten, corn or corn syrup, eggs or strange additives. Today I especially enjoy working with bright colors and custom combinations."
Why she loves holiday creating: "I love helping people find just the right gift for their family, friends and co-workers. I have so many customers ordering year after year who tell me that my chocolates have become part of their holiday tradition. My customers are what I love most about creating for this time of year."
Gift pick: 6-Piece Gluten-Free Artisan Chocolate Bon Bons, $15.95
An unexpected combo: "Most people are quite surprised to learn that I am a dentist, though I stopped practicing dentistry to homeschool my son and daughter. Once I found chocolate, there really was no going back!"
12. The Whimsical Knitter
At a glance: Violeta, who is based in Kaunas, Lithuania, is known for her colorful crocheted or knitted animals and stuffed toys based on kids' drawings.
Origin story: "When I was little, I made many toys for myself. My mother taught me how to knit and crochet, so I started creating clothes for my toys. Later, when my kids started making crazy drawings, I got the idea to make toys out of them. Now I play with toys all day."
Why she loves holiday creating: "I love Christmas and joke that I am one of Santa's helpers because I'm always working. I love when parents send me pictures of their happy children with a toy I made. It's a sweet moment."
Gift pick: Knitted Fisherman, $52.67
Biggest obsession: "I can't go to sleep until I release my inner artistic dragon! I want to create cute things every day that make people smile. The more smiles, the better the world."