It’s that time of year again. Holiday products are in the stores and commercials are starting to appear, and soon everyone will be asking what you want as a gift. That new welder or 3D printer might be too pricey, but how do you get something you might actually like if you don’t have rich friends?
Shopping at small businesses can have a big economic impact. There are plenty of handmade stores on etsy.com and other spaces on the internet that offer cool gift ideas at good prices, while offering the opportunity to help small businesses. Most people know someone that makes some kind of knick-knack or whatchamacallit. If we diverted just part of our holiday spending to those small companies, we would be directly helping to boost the local economy. For this holiday season, try buying from friends for friends. Here is a list to inspire you to shop small.
Product: Circuit Board Keychain
Company: Circuit Breaker Labs
Owner: Amanda Preske
Broken circuit boards find new life as jewelry and accessories, thanks to Circuit Breaker Labs. Owner and artist Amanda Preske combines her love of science (she has a Ph.D. in chemistry) and making to create a line of products for the geek at heart. The circuit boards are sourced locally and occasionally include components that did not meet manufacturers’ specifications. Preske seeks to prevent these discarded materials from being dumped in a landfill and hopes that, by presenting her work, she can encourage people to recycle responsibly. Each piece is handmade in her Rochester, N.Y. studio. She uses a durable epoxy resin as a sealant, which also acts as a lens to magnify the circuit board.
Product: Math Keychain Wallet
Company: Crooked Smile Creations
Owner: Ally Krapfl
Crooked Smile Creations is a handmade shop that specializes in accessories for an active life. Each accessory is designed and handmade by Ally Krapfl in her Tampa, Fl. studio. Every accessory is designed to provide you with a fun and convenient product for keeping your necessities together in one place on your busiest day.
Product: Floppy Disk Notebook
Company: Its Bits N’ Bytes
Owner: Hollie Olsen
Its Bits, N’ Bytes creates customizable, handmade books and jewelry using everything from recycled/upcycled tech to mixed media and traditional materials. The company’s unique items can be personalized to feature names, sayings, images, or logos.
Product: Quarks Print
Company: We Love CMYK
We Love CMYK is a small-but-mighty design and print studio with an affinity for all things quirky. Its superpower is delivering archival quality and unique print on a selection of media—ranging from resin-coated satin to traditional cotton canvas. One particular series, titled “Subatomic Ecology,” features a classic minimalist textbook aesthetic.
Company: Neurons Not Included
Owner: Randy Green
Neurons Not Included is a small family business located in Allen, Tex. The company motto, “gifts for people with IQs higher than that of a ham sandwich, which rules out a surprisingly large part of the population,” gives you a good idea of the types of products they carry. You’ll find a great variety of items designed for STEM students, teachers, and practitioners.
Product: Programmer Mug
Owner: Matt Schrier
perksandrecreation is a designer and maker of humorous, unique coffee mugs. A dye sublimation process is used to permanently imprint lasting messages on each cup. Personalization is available for all products. Any coffee-loving programmer who has had their hands deep in C++ code (or any other code, for that matter) will appreciate this ceramic coffee mug. And yes—they are dishwasher- and microwave-safe.
Product: Laser Warning Tie
Owner: Bethany Shorb
This is a fun choice if you love entertaining cats with laser pointers, have a laser cutter at your maker space, or innovate anything that goes pew, pew, pew! Class II through Class IV laser products must carry this symbol—from dollar store laser pointers to DARPA weapons from the future.
Cyberoptix Tie Lab was started in 2006 after owner Bethany Shorb identified a market for creative-yet-sophisticated neckwear. With over a million neckties printed by hand (with no automation, machines, press, or even clamps!), this Detroit-based business is committed to making life a little better for those whose tastes don’t lend themselves to traditional ties. Notable designs include an SIR test board, graph paper, oscillator waves, and a snippet of BASIC code from a Commodore 64.
Product: Space Art Print
Owner: Rachel Bradley
Founded in 2015 and based in Pasadena, Calif., RBWordDesign crafts quality paper goods featuring a unique take on classic subjects—engineering, space, biology, and bibliophily. With a Master’s degree in Evolutionary Biology, Rachel Bradley brings together humor and a technical eye to create “art in real life,” as presented in greeting cards, art prints for the home or office, and other paper goods.
Product: High Voltage Pillow
Company: WFrancis Design
Owner: Mark Ellison
“Luxury Homewares—Nothing More, Nothing Less” is the motto of WFrancis Design and the company sure lives up to it with its edgy designs and craftsmanship. Based in the beautiful state of North Carolina, the team at WFrancis spend their days knee-deep in fabric and tinkering with designs so you can enjoy modern homewares as much as they do.
Product: Electrical Engineering V Neck
Company: Grammatical Art
Owner: Natalie McCasling
Grammatical Art combines owner Natalie McCasling’s love of science, correcting people’s grammar, and sarcasm into witty prints and wearable art. Everything in the shop is meant to make people smile and inspire pride in their love of geek chic. In addition to these designs, proceeds from special autism-inspired merchandise go to an Arizona non-profit school for children with special needs.