Kiwi Cool: Shopping For New Zealand-Made Souvenirs

When you go to the other side of the world, you want to bring back a few things to show for your trouble. Visiting New Zealand with my 1-year-old daughter, and with nephews at home in America, I became obsessed with finding them something actually made in the country. A stuffed kiwi bird or lamb toy, a merino wool baby blanket, or a fun T-shirt would do nicely, and I wouldn’t mind some jewelry or something small for our apartment either. In all of the cities I visited in New Zealand, I was impressed to find stylish, playful and innovative boutiques and vendors creating beautiful and unique home design, fashion and other Kiwiana. There’s enough Kiwi cool shopping that you might end up wishing you had a bigger suitcase.

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Flotsam & Jetsam (Auckland) – A cross between an antique store and a hipster Restoration Hardware, this collection of colorful and covetable home items will make you contemplate a move to Auckland. Visitors from farther away might find interesting vintage, repurposed and retro home wares from New Zealand and all over the world. Check their Facebook page for details on the latest stock.Nelson Saturday market (Nelson, South Island) – New York City has street fairs and markets pretty much every day of the year if you look hard enough, but all too often, you find the same cheap tube socks, fried cheese and dough concoctions, and hodgepodge of junk. My expectations weren’t high for the weekly market in the arty town of Nelson on the top of the South Island, but after a quick walk through, I was glad I didn’t have too much cash to spend, as there was so much to buy. On a given weekend, you might find model airplanes crafted from soda cans, gourmet gluten-free tacos, and more knitwear than you can shake a sheep at. Local band performances, cooking demonstrations, or even a flash mob add to the festive atmosphere.

Pauanesia (Auckland) – This small shop is loaded to the gills with all things antipodean (a Brit term for a place on the other side of the world), with an emphasis on home textiles such as Polynesian-print tablecloths. If you have a little one to shop for (or just enjoy stuffed animals), consider one of the charming Kiwi “chaps” made from vintage and salvaged fabrics and send them a photo of your bird out in the world. You can also find a nice assortment of Paua shell jewelry, key chains, and other odds and ends much more thoughtfully and well-made than your average gift shop.

Iko Iko (Auckland and Wellington) – What drew me into the Wellington store was a window display of Dear Colleen‘s cheeky “Dishes I’d rather be doing” tea towels with “dishes” like Ryan Gosling and Mr. Darcy-era Colin Firth (get it?). I could have easily spent hours inside poring over the whimsical items, like a kiwi bird cookie cutter, Buzzy Bee cufflinks, or a CD from the Wellington Ukulele Orchestra. It’s full of things you don’t really need but really want, plus fun takes on everyday items.

Abstract Designs (Wellington) – You might call these artisanal cardboard cutouts. Abstract Designs makes creative sculptures and jewelry with a very local flavor. Perhaps you’ll pick up a 747 plane kit for the airplane nerd in your life, a pop-up building replica to remind you of your stay in Wellington, or a cruelty-free moose trophy head for your wall. Their designs are sold in many museum gift shops as well, but there’s a full selection at their Wellington studio and online.

Hapa (Christchurch) – Pop-up businesses have become the foundation for the new Christchurch after the 2011 earthquake. The Re:START mall is the best example, built out of shipping containers and housing a mix of “old” Christchurch shops in temporary digs and new shops. There are several stores in the mall selling New Zealand goods, but Hapa stands out for their many beautiful and clever items, like a bear bean bag chair or a knitted “fox stole” scarf. Best of all, many goods are made or designed in Christchurch, so you can feel good about supporting the local economy.

Texan Art Schools (multiple stores in Auckland) – Don’t be confused by the name, it’s a play on the fact that it carries work from graduates of “tech(nical)s” and art schools. Texan Art Schools acts as one-stop shopping for dozens of Kiwi artists and designers, with an eclectic mix of home items, fashion and jewelry. You’re sure to find something unusual and authentic here like a set of Maori nesting dolls or a retro camper wall clock.

Photo from Auckland’s Queen Street shopping arcade. More “Kiwi Cool: New Zealand for the Unadventurous” to come.

California cooking classes teach artisanal, local food-crafting

cooking classesCooking classes are nothing new, but how about learning how to roast your own coffee beans, brew beer at home, or even prepare a roast chicken from scratch, including catching the bird? The Southern California-area Institute of Domestic Technology brings farm-to-table eating to a new level with workshops focusing on hyper-local food-crafting of everything from dairy products to artisanal mustard.

Classes are currently posted for March and April, with a few more on the schedule for early summer. Most workshops are around or under $200 including ingredients and lunch, and held at or near the Institute’s headquarters at Mariposa Creamery, north of Pasadena. The coffee roasting class will be held on April 28 with fees of $95 for supplies and snacks. The classes are a tasty way to take a piece of California home, and learn how to eat locally, wherever you are.

Photo courtesy Institute of Domestic Technology Facebook page.

Undiscovered New York: Handmade in Brooklyn

Brooklyn remains one of the more fiercely independent places in all of New York City. Although the Borough was officially incorporated into the greater city in 1898, it has long-rivaled its more popular neighbor Manhattan across the river for the tallest buildings, the most impressive parks and museums and for the ingenuity of its residents.

One of the more visible artifacts of this competitive spirit and creativity is Brooklyn’s love affair with all things handcrafted, artisanal and one-of-a-kind. What is it about Brooklyn that makes it so creative exactly? Call it a symptom of the pride Brooklyn’s residents have for their unique brownstone neighborhoods. Or chalk it up to the high creativity of the area’s many transplants from around the world. But whether it’s made-from-scratch pickles, chocolate or beer, a lovingly crafted musical instrument or quirky piece of jewelry or hooded sweatshirt, the labors of Brooklyn refuse to be homogeneous.

And what about you, dear reader – are you looking for a one-of-a-kind gift or souvenir from your visit to the Big Apple? Does the prospect of some handcrafted beer make you thirsty? Perhaps some custom-made cologne, perfume or clothing is more your style? Grab the next subway out of Manhattan: this week’s edition of Undiscovered New York is handmade, straight from Brooklyn. Click below to read more.
Handmade Gifts
They say smell is the sense most closely associated with memory – Brooklyn scent-makers at D.S. & Durga seem to have taken the idea to heart. The pair of budding smell-smiths have been producing small batch handmade colognes and perfumes since 2007, sourcing plant extracts, resins and oils from around the world. Stop by one of their Brooklyn retail outlets and pick up a custom made bottle for yourself.

While D.S. & Durga are playing around with notes of scent like citrus and ginger, the craftsmen at Sadowsky Guitars have a very different kind of note-making in mind. Though New York has a long history as a center for guitar-making companies, the team at Sadowsky operates out of a small store in Brooklyn. They have produced custom guitars, basses and audio products for such musicians as Adam Clayton from U2 and Lenny Kravitz. If it’s good enough for these accomplished axe-handlers, guitarists everywhere can bet there’s a custom guitar there waiting to built just for you.

Independent Fashion
When it comes to clothing, Brooklyn’s got a style all its own. Men and women alike swear by local clothing chain Brooklyn Industries. They stock a wide range of quirky bags, outerwear, t-shirts and dresses to suit the most discerning fashion-lovers. It’s gotten so popular you can now find retail outlets well beyond the chain’s Brooklyn home in locations as far away as Chicago and Portland.

If customization is your thing, look no further than Brooklyn favorite Neighborhoodies. The clothing chain, which lets customers design one-of-a-kind hooded sweatshirts and t-shirts emblazoned with personal messages and imagery, first got its start in this most creative of Boroughs. This isn’t your boring old iron-on we’re talking about here – the letters can be hand-stitched onto any clothing item and can include graphics like guns, monkeys and thunderbolts.

Free-form Food
As was noted in a recent article by the New York Times, Brooklyn has become ground zero for one of the country’s most interesting and creative artisanal food scenes. Passionate foodies and chefs are making just about every kind of foodstuff imaginable from scratch, including items like chocolate, cheese and pickles.

But it doesn’t stop there – beer lovers should make sure to try out one of the Borough’s several local brews. Local favorites include Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Brewery, where visitors can take a tour and to sample a few of their recent specialities, or the Brooklyn brewers at Sixpoint Craft Ales. Meanwhile, the small-batch pickle makers of Wheelhouse crank out seasonal experimental pickle flavors like Champagne Vinegar Spears as well as standbys including Big Bang Okra and Top Shelf Beets.