In spite of my best efforts, the holiday spirit usually takes over my normal level-headed brain around Thanksgiving and refuses to loosen its grip until some time after my birthday in February. I always start behaving totally out of character, plurging and going overboard in every capacity — especially when it comes to spoiling my friends and family. Luckily, most of us checking out The Column live in the Twin Cities where we can shop our ethics and price points year round, a privilege that comes in especially handy this time of year. I’ve put together a (hopefully) easy guide on which queer-focused or friendly businesses have exceptional gifting opportunities. Many of us are really feeling the pull and urgency now more than ever to keep our resources in our community and be as supportive as possible for those who are worried about what the next few years may look like, economically or otherwise. For that reason, and not solely my own preferences, I’ve kept things as small and locally sourced as possible. The bonus perk of this is that if you’re shopping for people not Twin Cities located or who aren’t really the craft-fair scouring type, you will knock your gift-giving occasion out of the park with this many handmade, unique, often one-of-a-kind items. So, without further ado, here are some of my favorite artists, makers, movers, and shakers in the Twin Cities:
As adult recipients of gifts, anything one can wear and show off tends to be a surefire hit, but buying clothes is a little bit of a gamble, because of sizing and taste (why is it so hard to pen down someone’s style unless it’s your own?!). Well-chosen accessories are always well-received, however, and I’ve got an idea or two that might solve that clothing issue too.
Wreckcycled is one of my absolute favorite jewelry makers ever. Real life couple Megan Longo and Nicole Amaris (in addition to being the cutest, sweetest people) take rubber from bike tires, old records, and tons of other stuff lesser creatives would toss and make show-stopping jewelry and occasionally home goods and attire. In addition to online and at craft stores, you can pick up Wreckcycled stuff at two amazing, super queer-friendly gift shops: Gumball Boutique and Regla De Oro.
EnyoCreations boasts one of my favorite promotional instagram accounts — the jewelry (and occasionally other goodies) featured are made from turquoise and crystals, and for your kookier friends, ethically sourced animal bones, to name a few of the organic materials Enyo favors. This stunning work will be shown at several of the craft fairs mentioned in a later section as well as the afore-linked site.
The Fashion Ration is Nickey Robo’s brainchild, and such a necessary one-stop shop for queer-focused original, custom clothing and alterations. While buying clothes for someone else is tricky, having something made for someone adds that personal touch that so often clothing is missing. You’d have to know the person’s measurements and size, and you’d have to have a pretty solid idea of what you wanted. This is a chance to flex your own creative muscle without feeling overwhelmed by construction. Robo loves working with all body types, and also creates cosplay if you’re looking for something awesome for a special proud nerd in your life.
LowwBones, founded by Rhys Jones, the fearless leader of the Conspiracy of Strange Girls who’s work I’ve lauded before has great gift options for all genders including muscle tanks that brag “So Homo” and tons of goodies proclaiming pride in femme, queer, and feminist identity. LowwBones’ Facebook is the best way to check out when and where you can buy in person, but her online shop is fairly substantial too.
For the Progressive Book Lovers In Your Life
Books are a hard one when there’s not a pre-existing wish list, yet ,most of us are or have huge bibliophiles in our life, but it’s hard to tell what someone has or would love. The following organizations (as opposed to more traditional stores) will surely have excellent ideas for you, and your money stays incredibly local.
Boneshaker Books is not a queer specific organization, but there are plenty of LGBTQ+ cuties working at this volunteer-run, self-described radical bookstore. Their LGBTQ+ section is small but mighty, and the store hosts the Twin Cities Queer Book Club which means it usually has that group’s book for the month in stock. Additionally, Boneshaker carries lots of fiction, comics, poetry, and non-fiction writers that would elsewhere be shelved with the LGBTQ+ section just because a queer person wrote them, so if you have a favorite writer in any genre that you know to be LGBTQ+ who doesn’t just write about “queer” stuff, they probably have it in the appropriate section—so don’t be discouraged by the length of the LGBTQ+ issues section. Search around (which is great fun anyway) or ask and you’re bound to score what you need to fill lots of progressive stockings this year.
Did you know Minneapolis is home to at least two significant independent publishers of poetry books, both of whom regularly work with and actively promote LGBTQ+ poets and spoken word artists? Button Poetry is gaining interest nationally thanks to a beautifully curated YouTube channel, and Beard is the Twin Cities’ sleeper hit when it comes to Spoken Word. If you need a starting point, some of my personal LGBTQ+ favorites include Anna Binkovitz (Beard), Danez Smith and Hieu Minh Nguyen (Button).
For the 18+ Crowd Only
For those who are partnered, proudly promiscuous, or even trying to help a friend spice up their life this gift-giving season, the Twin Cities has a ton of ethical, pro-consent, pro-sex options for going local. The following are your starting points, but it doesn’t take much digging in this town to find even more sexy but responsible goodies.
Smitten Kitten is a well-established, well-known “sex shop”, but I’m including it on this list because I consistently run into people who don’t know or understand how inclusive it is of all genders and sexualities, or who don’t know that SK only stocks non-toxic products (or that this is something they even need to be aware of). This should definitely be on your “in-person stops” list this holiday season, and if you’re reading and you’re not from MN, they offer most of their inventory online as well.
Leather and Latte* is one of my favorite spots in the Twin Cities even though I’m not necessarily their target demographic. This is in no small part due to the fact that they serve one of the best cups of black coffee in the city, but it’s also because of their kink lean, their number one value of “community first”, and the fact that they do strive for and frequently hit inclusion in their merch. For those completely new to L & L, it’s one part coffee shop (and you can buy mugs, coffee beans, etc. if you want to grab stuff for a few people on your list), and one part kinky leather shop with everything from truly high-quality paddles and clothes to beautiful photo books on the history of leather.
Rainbow Road* is another LGBTQ+-run organization largely catering to queer men and masculine of center community members. In their own words, they “offer the largest and sexiest collection of men’s swimwear and underwear in Minneapolis” as well as a host of other gift items, cards, etc. Their brands are high-quality, but there are price points throughout the store for every budget. They are located in Loring Park.
Phalix B. brings us back to small, crafty, grassroots companies where you KNOW your money stays incredibly local and in incredibly queer hands. In this case, we’re talking about individually made harnesses, chokers, screen-printed tees, and other slightly kinky, very provocative goodies. Check out their Etsy shop here, and keep up with their craft fair tabling adventures here to see the work in person.
In a world where most people have more than one job plus all of their volunteer roles and a happening social life that requires devoting a lot of time and energy to OTHER people, what most people actually need the most this time of year are time and goods that force them to focus on themselves and get some rest. Below are some of my personal favorite ways to force self-nurturing on other people, and the LGBTQ+ practitioners and creators you should check out before looking elsewhere.
Sassafras Healing Arts is hands down my favorite herbalist in the cities, queer or otherwise (and I’ve tried a few). Another solo entreprenuer adventure, run by chere suzette bergeron, this is the perfect spot to pick up tinctures, teas, salves, and lots of other goodies. In addition to the site linked to the name, you can hit chere up at several of the craft fairs listed in a section below. They (bergeron) also do stellar energy work if you’re looking for something healing but aren’t sure which salve or tincture would benefit the recipient best.
Tarot readings are obviously one of my favorite forms of self-care and a big way I nurture other people and empower them to take care of themselves. There are a few queer practicioners to choose from in town (or close enough to in town), with several different price points. I’ll link to my own site here, but if you aren’t sure about me, check out Queer Street Tarot or Northern Lights Witch. A few of my fellow Eye of Horus* service providers are LGBTQ+, including Thraicie Hawkner, Chuck Kausalik-Boe (who does not do tarot at the store, so check his website instead), or Christián Jovanovíc. As an extra relaxing bonus, Boe is a wonderful Reiki Practicioner (which is what he does at EOH), and Jovanovíc can do some bonecasting for an even witchier treat.
If your friend is set in their tarot life, Heather Roan Robbins* is hands down my favorite astrologer not even in the city, but anywhere. She does palm reading too, and if you’re looking to front some winter wedding costs as part of your holiday or winter wedding blitz, she also does queer weddings and will accept her gift certificates for those too. She does read at the Eye of Horus sometimes, but check her website for full options and availability.
Blythe M. Davis Massage and Shiatsu is the go-to LGBTQ+ and body positive masseuse in the Twin Cities. While I personally haven’t made it out to see her yet, I can not even count the number of people who insisted she make this list. She comes ridiculously highly recommended and always shows extra love to queer fam. Her website is here, and I can confirm that literally everyone will be endlessly grateful for a massage this winter.
Queer-ish Craft Fairs
Without a doubt, the best way to find LGBTQ+ made goods and know your money is directly benefiting the person who’s hands and heart made the product is by skipping the mall in favor of the craft fair circuit. These are the fairs I found or were tipped off to that I know a lot of people on this guide are tabling at, as well as some awesome queers who don’t have websites or popular gift shop spots but who are worth checking out. There are a ton more events than this though, and in a city as gay as this one, even a run of the mill craft fair you stumble upon is bound to have some awesome stuff and queer representation.
December 10th: Vintage and Artist Market of the Future.
December 11th: Winter Solstice Bazaar to Benefit Witch Witch Camp.
December 11th: Healing Justice Fundraiser for Louis Hunter and Standing Rock.
December 16th: Holiday Craft Fair at the Seward Cafe.
December 18th: The Crafty Flea: December.
Other Art and Oddball Gifts
I’m so in love with most of the artists and events I’ve posted about, but there are those friends who like things super off the beaten path and who are weirdly picky about stuff you’d grab at Target or the Macy’s potential clear-out sale. I should know—I am one of those friends, and here are things that didn’t fit in elsewhere that I think such a person would be tickles to receive:
Uniquely Queer Art by Heather C. Lou features block prints and paintings for the fierce queer feminist in your life to stick right over their couch/bed/kitchen sink.
Theatre tickets make truly fabulous gifts, and several LGBTQ+ companies in town, (Gadfly*, 20%*, Patrick’s Cabaret, Uprising Theatre just to name a few) have shows going on or tickets on sale for their next event already (or will soon in one of these cases). I also want to remind everyone that Fun Home, the hit Broadway musical is coming to Minneapolis* soon, and while that veers a little way from the local, grassroots feel I curated for this list, it will certainly still thrill the art lovers in your life.
Leora Effinger-Weintraub makes my absolute favorite Oracle deck and has a bunch of really lovely art prints you can buy. You might need to track them down from their site, here, but they are responsive and quick and happy to sell you their art.
Finally, I’m ecstatic to end on one of the objectively best artisans in the Twin Cities. Meg Brown Ceramics makes unabashedly queer mugs and other usable forms of pottery. I have a Meg Brown-centric wish list about 25 items long (not to mention the items I already own). Their products innovate home goods, pottery, and even gift-giving itself with suggestive and queer comments and images, but Meg Brown Ceramics does not thrive on fun factor alone—their work is as technically skilled as it gets, and you can find lots of vanilla options that your grandmother will love too. Find out more and snag your own here, and follow Brown here to see where they’re tabling so you can grab some in person.
I’m pretty happy to have put together such a community-focused list with so many one-of a kind items. However, we ALL have those people on our wish lists who are downright impossible to shop for either because it’s impossible to tell what they already have, because they’re purists who hate too much crap cluttering up their apartment, or simply because they really are that picky. That’s where gift certificates come in! Many of the stores and crafters listed above also offer gift certificates. I marked the ones I know for sure with an asterisk (*), so try that route as well if you really love someone/something I posted but aren’t sure WHICH mug/necklace/etc to grab your pal. In the meantime, happy gift-giving, and feel free to plug your own products and service in the comments or re-posts.