Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Thursday, July 18

Gapers Block

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr


There are always a few people on your gift-buying list who are just plain hard to buy for. Maybe you wander through some department store, specialty shop or an online boutique getting more and more frustrated that you just can't find something that this difficult, difficult person will enjoy.

We here at Gapers Block understand this dilemma, so we decided to point you to a few things that you might really enjoy giving to that special someone who is especially hard to shop for. And the best part of all is that these gifts are made in Chicago, by Chicagoans, and they all reflect or refer to Chicago in some way. What more could you want in a gift-buying experience.

Laurie Frievogel of wears her love for Chicago on her waist. Well, on her belt, actually. As a local fused-glass artist she has found a creative way to incorporate her love for Chicago into art that she (and your friend) can wear every day. Whether your friend is the minimalist type who digs the four Chicago stars on a black background (similar to the Gapers Block logo, actually) or the grittier type who might get a thrill at someone bending down to read the words on the Chicago Streets and Sanitation manhole cover, this affordable art is sure to be a conversation starter and a memorable gift. You can purchase these items directly through Laurie's website. The belt buckles are approximately 2"x3" and can accommodate up to 1 1/2" wide belt.

"What's not to love about Chicago? Because it has everything I need. I can raise my family without spending $1M on a house, I can shop, or go to great museums, go to the beach or a prairie or forest preserve, hit a zoo or two, then eat just about any cuisine that strikes my fancy (Ethiopian is a particular favorite). Additionally, Chicago is a true crafting town, where I get to have a business in my basement making stuff that I love, and so many public forums to sell it and meet other crafters and get inspired."
—Laurie Frievogel

Citizen Shay has found a fabulous way of turning gritty, rusty, dirty El signs into beautiful art. These image-transfers on canvas are perfect for your friend who loves Chicago, their local El stop, and needs art. Artwork by Steve Shay can be found at Sacred Art, 2040 W. Roscoe in Roscoe Village. You can order through his website, shipping to anywhere in the country is available, and no frame is needed. If you need it before the end of December your best bet is to visit Sacred Art and talk to Julie in person about what is available.

"CitizenShay strives to make the old new again. I like to take old photos, signs and other elements and put those images onto canvas and rough'em up to create some fun, affordable 'art' for people who can't spend $1000 for one piece. The most popular series I sell is my CTA 'L' Station signs. I hand craft each one, working on the computer first, and then transferring the image (using my secret sauce) onto canvas, and then roughing it up to give it a distressed look. Each one is unique and any 'L' stop can be created."
—Steve Shay

Anne Holub is one Crafty Lady and she's been knitting orange and blue baby hats going into overtime lately. It's amazing how popular these colors can be for the younger set when Da Bears do well, you know? Each hat is made in machine-washable and hypo-allergenic acrylic yarn. The roll-brim design lets the hat stretch to fit the head of most baby Bears fans and the very affordable price won't leave you drinking cheap beer during Da Game after you give this gift. Head on over to Scents and Sensibility at 4654 N. Rockwell to pick one up (near the newly renovated Rockwell Brown Line stop). And in case you want a baby hat in other colors, Anne might be able to help you out with a special order. But her fingers will probably throw a flag if you need it in the next few weeks.

If you've got someone on your gift-list who is a moody, black-and-white kind of person, Emily Long might be able to help you out with a wonderfully evocative pinhole photograph. The edges blur, the details blur, but the gritty and lovable mood of Chicago comes through in her images. You'd have no idea there was no lens involved, unless you're a photo-geek and know what pinhole photography is. But even if your friend doesn't know a pinhole from a Leica, you'll know they appreciate the thought that went into this gift purchase. You can email Emily from her website for purchasing information.

Sometimes, though, you have a friend who likes prettier, more traditional shots of this city that they love. And that is where Jason Crawford's work comes in handy. Whether it's an image of a snow-covered park bench, a cop directing traffic, or a more architectural image of Chicago, Jason is able to capture the city's beauty and bright energy. The bustle of the city doesn't distract from the wonder he sees. His email is available on his website if you're interested in pricing information.

Then again, maybe you have a friend who has a more segmented view of the city. The love it, they hate it, the city delights them, the city bores them. A digital collage created by Phineas X. Jones might be what you have in mind. Whether your friend loves The Friendly Confines, sunshiny lake-filled days, or even misses Marigold Bowl, there's a good chance you know someone who will be interested in one of Phineas's pieces. And being the slightly antisocial creative-type that he is, he won't even make you email him to get a price — you can order straight away through Paypal.

Just in case you'd like to do some online browsing, offers the ability to search by area. Just click on the map to zoom in and find local makers of fine goods. Or you could look for folks who put Chicago in their tags or description.

So whether you're stumped for a gift for now or need a gift for later, there are hundreds of local artisans, crafters and creative types who make fabulous items you can give as gifts or keep for yourself. Wander through most locally owned boutiques and ask the proprietor to point you to their local designers. And just in case you don't see what you like here, you might be able to find something from one of the DIY Trunk Show vendors that strikes your fancy. Since they're all from within a four-hour range of the city, you're assured of supporting a local artist or crafter. So next time you have a gift to purchase, buy Chicago and buy handmade. It's much easier than you might think.


About the Author(s)

Cinnamon Cooper is a GB columnist, purse maker and co-founder of the DIY Trunk Show.

GB store

Recently on Detour

A Tragic Day in Chicago
While most people see the weekend after Thanksgiving as a time to begin preparations for the December holiday season, this time of year is a painful reminder to some as the anniversary of one of Chicago's deadliest fires. Ninety-two students...

The Social Life of Our Urban Spaces
"Placemaking" comes to Chicago

Don't '&' Me, OK?
The ampersand gets Wenner thinking about the distinction between race and ethnicity.

Photo Essay: Transitions
Rearview contributers interpret the theme "Transitions."

People from the Rearview Archive
Gapers Block digs into the Rearview archive in search of portraits.

View the complete archive

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15