Angela Gleason shows gift seekers the art of DIY at the Tannery's Jewelry Toolery.

Every year about this time, the same question comes around: What are the best gifts in Santa Cruz this holiday season? As creators of the annual Santa Cruz Weekly Gift Guide, it’s time we came clean: We have no freakin’ idea. C’mon, we can barely get our own gift shopping done in time for our various cultural gift-giving holidays! 
 
So how do we, every year, put together the all-knowing and endlessly useful wellspring of amazing ideas that is the Gift Guide? Well, we know the right people to ask—namely, the artisans, businesspeople and other experts who make and sell those very gifts right here in the Santa Cruz community. 
 
This year, because we believe in giving credit where credit is due, we decided to pull back the curtain on our gift guidance and showcase not only the best gift ideas locally, but the people who bring them to us—and, by extension, to you.
And once again, we’ve included a broad range of gift picks—from the artistic to the practical, from toys to clothing to jewelry to crafts to books and more—and where to find them. Happy hunting, and special thanks to our own, no-longer-secret Gift Guide elves.
 
 
DIY Jewelry
Angela Gleason, Jewelry Toolery
Tannery Arts Center, 1050 River Street, Studio #101-2, Santa Cruz; 831.566.6766
 “It’s an ancient tradition, ornamenting the human body,” jewelry sculptor and Cabrillo College professor Angela Gleason says. “I like to make little sculptures and put them on my body.” Gleason will be teaching do-it-yourself jewelry-making sessions this Thanksgiving weekend in her unique style. Gleason likes to make glasses, necklaces, broaches and earrings out of things she finds—record vinyl, game pieces and metal scraps. She made a rosary out of bingo pieces and another that has a birth control pill for every Hail Mary.
Her Friday DIY workshop at her Tannery Arts Center studio will teach earring-making, and her Saturday “Trash to Treasure” session will cover a wider variety of pieces. The way Angela sees it, give someone a ring, and they’ll have a gift for a friend, but show them how to make them one, and “they’ll have gifts forever.”
Gleason says her session offers an alternative to people who don’t want to buy something mass-produced, when they can instead rediscover something discarded. “Why would you throw something away?” Gleason asks. “The closer it is to the trash can, the more I like it.”
 
Surfers and Zombies
Wendy Mayer-Lochtefeld, Capitola Book Café
1475 41st Ave, Capitola; 831.462.4415
For her gift recommendation, Capitola Book Café co-owner Wendy Mayer-Lochtefeld chose to represent for two very different sides of Santa Cruz. One is Frosty Hesson’s memoir Making Mavericks ($16.95); the legendary Santa Cruz surfer’s life story got a film version in the form of Chasing Mavericks, but the book is Hesson’s Hollywood-free, first person account of his troubled childhood, his surfing redemption and his incredible friendship with Jay Moriarty. Hesson recently did an event at Capitola Book Café which packed the store, allowing Mayer-Lochtefeld to get a firsthand look at the enormous interest locally in Hesson’s story and philosophy. Her other pick is S.G. Browne’s I Saw Zombies Eating Santa Claus: A Breathers Christmas Carol ($14.99), the holiday-themed sequel to his darkly comedic novel Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament. The story picks up from the end of Breathers, introducing elves and IKEA (which zombies, it turns out, love—and is anyone really surprised?) to the mayhem. “It’s kind of a hoot,” she says. “He used to live in Santa Cruz, so when he wrote Breathers, he set it here.” 
 
City Cruiser Skateboard
James Harness, Play It Again Sports
4770 Soquel Dr, Soquel; 831.475.1988
Everyone loves a throwback. That’s why small “penny style” skateboards, which are modeled after some of the sport’s original shapes, could be a perfect fit for someone who wants to be able to stash their board in their backpack. “These were among the first skateboards in the seventies, and now they just came back around,” Play It Again Sports manager James Harness says of the plastic City Cruiser boards ($49.99). “I think the appeal is that they’re really small. You can carry around, and you can put them in a bag. And they come in really bright colors.” Harness began working at Play it Again just before Christmas six years ago. He says the sports store has experts in many different fields, making it a perfect spot for people who don’t know exactly what want to buy for their young, energetic relatives, but are open to suggestions. “It’s one of the more fun paces to go Christmas shopping,” he adds, “because everything here is hands-on.”
 
The Cuppow
Jorah Roussopoulos, Mountain Feed and Farm Supply
9550 Highway 9, Ben Lomond; 831.336.8876
How do you buy something for the hippie cousin who answers only to the gods of reusable goods? The Cuppow ($8.99), available at Mountain Feed and Farm Supply, is BPA-free and turns Ball mason jars into travel mugs. “It’s the best stocking-stuffer in the world,” says Jorah Roussopoulos, co-owner of Mountain Feed in downtown Ben Lomond. “Who wouldn’t want that in their stocking?’ Roussopoulos started Mountain Feed and Farm Supply eight years ago with his wife Andi to provide the tools for every step of the food production—from planting the first seed, all the way through the canning process. Mountain Feed also carries dehydrators, kitchen items, juicers and mushroom kits ($19.99 to start your own batch of fresh oyster mushrooms). And during busy holiday season, customers looking for the best stocking stuffers even get to drink piping-hot, complimentary hot apple cider. As for the Cuppow, it looks a little like a sippy cup for grown-ups, but it’s made in the USA and perfect for friends who are always on the go.
 
Girlfriend Ties
Terra Lynn, Wallflower Boutique 
103 Locust Street, Santa Cruz; 831.426.3526
For the woman who loves clothes, but is sick of mall blandness, Wallflower Boutique is brimming with potential. The idea behind the store was to create a space for small designers, many of them local, to sell their hand-designed, inexpensive items. Owner Terra Lynn, herself a designer and seamstress, opened it in 2010 with little business experience, but she appears to be doing just fine. Most of the items in Wallflower walk a line between hippie chic and girlie. Lynn’s gift idea is from local designer Vicky Nam, the “Girlfriend tie” ($44). “They’re made out of vintage silk ties. They’re super unique and different,” Lynn says. “Vicky takes an old men’s tie, then she folds them into these pleats and they kind of curves around. It’s like a woman’s tie. It’s a nice way to make something old into something better.”
 
Urban 200
Stephanie Phippen, Spokesman Bicycles
231 Cathcart St, Santa Cruz; 831.429.6062
With so many bike shops around, Spokesman in downtown Santa Cruz—with plenty of gear, clothing, friendly service and, of course, bikes—continues to be a standout. One product they carry that truly shines is a bicycle light from Monterey-based Light and Motion, the Urban 200 ($99.99). Manager Stephanie Phippen says Light and Motion began by making diving equipment, and the company’s background gives their shiny silver light a certain durability people can count on. “It’s really sleek and sturdy, well-made,” says Phippen. “You get 200 lumens for $100. That’s a lot of lumens.” California law requires cyclists to ride with a front light at night, and this device also has an amber light on either side to increase the cyclists’ visibility to other drivers. “More lights is always better than less when you’re out there on the road,” Phippen says.
 
‘Lion in the Box’ Jewelry Boxes
Linnaea Holgers James, Artisans Gallery
1368 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz; 831.423.8183
Marguerite de Angeli’s 1975 book The Lion in the Box is a holiday story about a box delivered to the home of five children while their widowed mother is at work. They are jokingly warned that they shouldn’t open it, because there might be a lion in the box, but luckily, what’s inside instead turns out to save the family’s Christmas. The book left an impression on Artisans owner Linnaea Holgers James in her childhood, and she used its title as the name of her own special boxes—jewelry boxes, in this case, which are sure to contain nothing more terrifying than lion earrings. She started handcrafting the boxes four years ago, after noticing how customers often complained of not being able to find jewelry boxes that artfully (and properly) displayed their jewelry. Unexpectedly, they took off, and about a year and half ago she took it to the next level. “Before it was just kind of one-offs,” she says, “but then I came up with set designs.” Those designs, which can be seen both in the store and at lioninthebox.com ($120 and up), include themes that range from Asian influence to vintage Americana to the natural world—birds, flowers, mermaids and much more. She’s sold 40 in the last year alone, which is a lot of side work for both her and her husband, who handles the woodworking. Designed to sit on a dresser or hang on the wall, the boxes are a unique Santa Cruz item that’s getting quite a bit of notice. 
 
Books About Books
Casey Coonerty Protti, 
Bookshop Santa Cruz
1520 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz; 831.423.0900
Bookshop Santa Cruz’s Casey Coonerty Protti realizes it’s pretty meta for a bookstore owner to recommend a book about bookstores, but both of the anthologies she suggests as gifts for local readers this season—My Ideal Bookshelf ($24.99), edited by Thessaly La Force, and My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read and Shop ($23.95), edited by Ronald Rice—speak to the importance of books themselves, and could there be a better time (*cough* California ranked 49th state in education *cough*) to be talking about that? In My Ideal Bookshelf, contributors ranging from Malcolm Gladwell to Alice Waters to Patti Smith to Chuck Klosterman discuss their favorite books and the effects those books had on them, with artist Jane Mount’s hand-drawn book spines as accompaniment. 2, just released last week, features more than 80 writers paying tribute to their favorite indie bookstores. It also has two important local connections, in that Watsonville author Laurie King selected Bookshop Santa Cruz as her favorite, while Palo Alto native Ann Packer chose Capitola Book Café. “Laurie has been such a friend to Bookshop,” says Protti. “That she can talk about how Bookshop Santa Cruz shaped her experience, it’s a real honor for the store.”
 
Tobbles Balancing Toy
Sheryl Guidera, Kaleidoscope
828 Bay Avenue, Capitola; 831.475.0210
Sheryl Guidera loves toys that make kids think, but says it’s hard to find ones that engage them before they turn two. “There’s not a lot of baby toys,” says Guidera, who’s owned Kaleidoscope, a toy destination with learning games for all ages, in Capitola for 25 years. But this year, Guidera says the toy market has some great new toys for babies, including Tobbles ($32.99), which looks like a colorful Jenga game for little kids, and is geared for six-month-old babies.
“They’re all colored spheres,” Guidera says. “They can stack them up, take ‘em down, stack ‘em up, and take ‘em down, because that’s what little kids like to do.” Roll and Play is another new game that gets Guidera excited, teaching 18-month old kids colors, emotions, animal sounds, body parts and counting. She says these games couldn’t come at a better time. “I think kids have to do so much critical thinking now to get ready for all the new kinds of jobs there are going to be,” Guiderra says. “It isn’t just one thing they have to learn, they have to learn a lot of different things. It’s important.” 
 
Dixit
Frank & Stephanie Kaehler, Game Alot
835 Front Street, Santa Cruz; 831.429.9009
For 30 years, husband and wife Frank and Stephanie Kaehler have owned and operated Game Alot, a refuge for Santa Cruz residents who like to actually look at games in person before they buy them (not to mention play some in-store). It’s a small retail store, so Game Alot doesn’t have every game that exists, but Frank and Stephanie have been in the business for so long, they have a good sense of what to order and are very knowledgeable about their products. More importantly, they are more than happy to answer any and all questions about the gaming world. The game they chose to recommend this year is a newly popular family game, “Dixit” ($37.99). Players are each given six random cards. Each person takes turns being the “storyteller.” The storyteller makes up a sentence based off the image on one of their cards. The other players select one of their own cards that best fits the story being told. Everyone puts their cards into a pile and guesses which card prompted the story. “It’s a lot of fun. It can be played by all ages,” Stephanie says. “It’s not an obscure kind of game. It’s quick and easy to learn. It’s a good family game because there’s not a lot of reading or counting involved. It’s the kind of game you can talk grandma into playing after Thanksgiving dinner.” 
 
Stance Socks
Shane Scoffone, Bill’s Wheels
1240 Soquel Ave, Santa Cruz; 831.469.0904
What skater doesn’t want to ride and carve in style? Stance socks, available at Bill’s Wheels on Soquel Avenue ($11.99), are affordable and allow emerging stars to look as fly as Bam Margera without sacrificing anything in quality. Just ask Bill’s Wheels’ bearded manager Shane Scoffone. “These are 200 needle count,” says Scoffone, while dressed in stylish all-black, from his beanie to his skate shoes. “It’s really nice stuff.” Stance’s durable socks come in a variety of colors, patterns and designs, including Santa Cruz Skateboards’ iconic screaming blue hand logo. The skate shop, where Scoffone has worked for eight years, is owned by longtime skating enthusiast Bill Ackerman, and also offers a great selection of hardware—trucks, wheels and boards. Some of their highest selling boards include Anti Hero, Crooked, Santa Cruz, Girl and Chocolate. 
 
Sensu Brush
Mark Rispaud, Palace Arts
1407 Pacific Avenue, Santa Cruz; 831.427.1550
1501-K 41st Avenue; Capitola; 831.464.2700
There’s always at least one artist on everyone’s Christmas gift list—why not get a tool that will expand their creativity? Palace Arts sells a variety of arts and office supplies at their two retail locations. Originally started back in 1949, Palace Arts has moved their retail stores around to different locations through the years. They currently have locations in downtown Santa Cruz and 41st Avenue, in addition to an office furniture showroom in Monterey. General Manager Mark Rispaud is in charge of both retail stores. He began working for Palace 13 years ago. Rispaud’s recommendation is a new item, but something that is sure to become a standard tool within a few years: the Sensu Brush ($32.99), which makes computer art a more authentic artistic experience. Before, drawing on a computer tablet had its limitations. The Sensu Brush really does act like an actual paint brush. (It even looks like one, too). The screen picks up all the details of the brush’s bristles and the applied pressure, just like a canvas would. Part of what makes it cool is that like digital photography, artists can paint as much as they like without concerning themselves with the cost of supplies. “It’s pretty innovative,” Rispaud says. “We are more and more turning towards paperless technology. There’s nothing else out there that I’m aware of on the market that can be used this way.”
 
Oxygen Pillow 
Michael Baetge, SC41 Furniture
2647 41st Avenue, Soquel; 831.464.2228
Leather couches and dining room tables may be bit steep for most people’s Christmas budget, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t good potential gifts available at locally owned furniture store SC41. Their specialty is eco-friendly furniture and accessories, with a 9,000 square-foot showroom floor. Owner Michael Baetge also owns HomeSpace, and he used to own California Futons, which was one of the earliest futon dealers in the country. Baetge’s recommended item has a certain universal appeal: a pillow. Not just any pillow, but the Oxygen Pillow ($140). It looks and feels like a standard pillow, but is designed to properly align the head and neck. It reaches this exact alignment by being customized to fit to a particular individual’s body, providing a better night’s sleep. “With a better quality of sleep, you get a better quality of life,” Baetge says. “It keeps the head and neck in a position that’s easier for us to breathe. When it’s easier for us to breathe, we can get deeper REM sleep.” 
 
Sherpa Jacket
Steve Bliss, O’Neill
1115 41st Ave, Santa Cruz; 831.475.4151
110 Cooper St, Santa Cruz; 831.469.4377
The rushing currents of holiday shoppers won’t be the only waves pounding Santa Cruz this winter. When the rainy season picks up, so does the swell along our coastline, thanks to tropical storms spinning in southeast Asia. That makes surf shops a great place to pick up gifts, for those looking to get wet or stay dry. Even people who aren’t asking for a new surfboard or wetsuit under their Christmas tree would still love something to keep them warm—like a pair of fluffy UGG boots or a nice jacket. Sherpa jackets and sweatshirts, like the ones made by O’Neill ($64.50-$74.50), are comfy, with synthetic lining on the inside, and perfect for keeping warm on a crisp Santa Cruz night. “The inside lining is super soft. It’s really puffy, like sweet wool,” says O’Neill manager Steve Bliss. Better yet, the jackets, which normally run more than 60 bucks, will be 40 percent off the day after Thanksgiving, giving customers one more reason to flood the store. “Black Friday is one of the craziest days, and it’s straight through ‘til Christmas,” Bliss says.
 
Candy Ring
Emily Bernard Coonerty, Dell Williams
1320 Pacific Avenue, Santa Cruz; 831.423.4100
Jewelry makes a nice gift on the higher end of our guide. Dell Williams has a variety of excellent options, including not just jewelry, but also tabletop items (like china and silver) and watches for both men and women. The store first opened its doors in 1927, and was from the very beginning (and still remains) family owned and operated—Emily Bernard Coonerty is the youngest of the current generation that owns it. Her gift idea is a piece of jewelry by Alex Sepkus, a designer from New York whose style is a marriage between mediaeval art and modern chic. Sepkus’ “Candy Ring” is an 18k gold and diamond ring made of different circles and shapes. There are slightly different variations of the “Candy Ring” available at Dell Williams, with the starting price at $3,000. “It is one of our best sellers. Alex Sepkus is a new designer we’re carrying here,” Coonerty says. “The designer hand hammers and carves all his pieces. It’s artwork that you can wear.” 
 
Skeem Soy Candle
Jill Sollitto, Modern Life
925 41st Avenue, Santa Cruz; 831.475.6802
An unusual furniture spot, Modern Life offers an eclectic blend of modern oddities, antiques and just plain interesting items. There’s everything from couches made from sustainable materials to tables made from reclaimed wood, to one-of-a-kind dressers made in Indonesia. Owner Jill Sollitto opened the shop in 2007, and continually collects new pieces. But instead of recommending an expensive piece of furniture for our gift guide, she instead chose a household item that anyone can afford: a candle. Only it isn’t a typical candle. It is the Skeem soy and paraffin wax candle ($24), which burns cleanly. “We have a lot of smart, really fun, interesting candles that people really like,” Sollito says. The coolest thing about the candle is that it comes encased in a glass container with a silk-screen print on it that will convert to a drinking glass once it’s finished burning. The specific flavor she recommends is black pepper and fig. That’s a combination of smells that’ll strike up some interesting conversations at any house this holiday season.  
 
Inventors’ Kit
Christy Paul, Lolly Tree Toys
1101 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz; 831.713.5136
Christy Paul opened Lolly Tree Toys in 2009, so parents could find a spot downtown with toys that would help their kids think—no pun intended—outside the box. “That’s something that’s really valued in Santa Cruz,” says Paul, and indeed the store has made its name with intellectually stimulating, curiosity-kickstarting ideas for kids. Her idea for this shopping season is a new toy for 2012, the Inventors’ Kit from San Mateo-based Infinitoy. Paul likes that it’s a toy that appeals to a range of ages, and both boys and girls. “It’s a construction toy that really encourages kids to think creatively,” she says. The kit represents a sort of building blocks 2.0, as the 100 pieces inside are modeled after the human bone system, and feature joints which allow kids’ constructed creations to move after they assemble them. They snap together, making axles that rotate, limbs that extend, and whatever else the li’l design engineers can come up with. The kit also showcases youthful creativity in another way: this edition features the first winners of the company’s Inventors’ Contest—a booklet inside describes their creations and how they came up with them—and future contest winners will be highlighted in new releases (the set includes an official Inventors’ Contest Entry Form).