Naples, Bonita, Marco art, museum centers offer gifts outside the box
You can help support local arts organizations and museums by buying your holiday treasures at their gift shops.
But even better, you can wow those you're buying for.
The one-of-a-kind art clothing, jewelry and pottery; the locally produced art and sculpture; and the ingenious little extras for hostess gifts all make local cultural attractions the holidays' best friend.
We scouted several of the gift stores this year and found a good number of items we were ready to wrap up and take home with us. Even those not on this list deserve a visit: Naples Art (the former Naples Art Association) at 585 Park St, Naples, carries Florida-made bath products and handmade baby items, scarves and bags; The Conservancy has everything from coloring books to clothing.
Take-aways — literally — from the shops we visited, include some inspirations from the following places. And if you haven't quite finished your list visiting all of them, a list of local art walks and sales in December follows this.
In case you missed it: With more shoppers buying online, SWFL sees smaller Black Friday crowds
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
Bio Buddies building blocks that can create gators and other favorite local creatures, Bio Buddies at the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary are only one of its extensive store charms. But they're a big one, with their primal element a plant-based plastic that won't add pollution to the world's waters.
"We are going green," said retail and sales manager Roswitha Marold. "We're a nature organization so we should be supporting things that are good for nature."
Their ranger dolls, dressed smartly in park service uniforms, have an eco-friendly stuffing. They're moving to a paper-based water bottle with 82 percent renewable content. And it doesn't have to be a one-time drink.
"You can use the bottle again," Marold said.
What may be the most noticeable step to the shopper is that the store no longer offers plastic bags. This gift shop follows the custom of many European stores, offering a $2 reusable shopping bag for those who don't bring their own.
There are overtly green products, such as the folding metal straw with its own stem cleaner and a carrying box, for $15.95.
At around $13.50 a pound, a favorite guest gift at the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary gift shop, Audubon coffee, is shade grown to allow the birds nesting places, rather than clear-cutting fields.
Center for the Arts Bonita Springs
The Center for the Arts Bonita Springs puts one of its more original ideas at the front of its visual arts center shop: You can buy a certificate for one-night events at the center, says Knoel Blakely, its media representative. Create a charm necklace for yourself or others with "Charmed, I'm sure" ($50, with dates Feb. 4 and April 7); created wire-bound glass and stone pendants in "Get Wired" ($50, Jan. 7 or March 3).
There's an introduction to clay design using a rainbow of glazes, stamps or or other methods in "Great Bowls of Fire" ($60) Jan. 13, Feb. 10, March 16, April 13 or May 11. There are eight different one-night events, and all include refreshments and materials.
Even better idea than buying one for your favorite gift recipient: Buy two so you can take the class together.
"It's a great gift — the gift of an experience," Blakely said.
The kids' art gifts in the Center for Visual Arts Bonita Springs are some of the best. From bug viewers to books on how to make your own papier mâché sculpture, it's a trove for the grandparent who wants something truly different.
The guys are not out of this loop, either. Wall hangings of big fish that look like they swam in from Margaritaville are in the mix. For women there are handmade jewelry by area artists and baskets by local artisan Rinny Ryan, including a clever handled wine carrier ($30).
The Marco Island Center for the Arts and Marco Island Historical Museum
Give the staff at the Marco Island Center for the Arts a chance to talk about gifts, and they'll go quickly to Doug Johnson's smooth, semi-gloss wooden sculptures with a miniature chess bishop flair. But those stainless toppers on the wooden figures have a serious function: They're bottle openers.
They're among the many locally made pieces available on the island, where the arts spill out in a bounty of one-of-a-kind treasures between the two shops. (Of course, it's a bonus to have the Key Marco cat in the museum from the Smithsonian Institution, and the art center has consistently eye-worthy exhibitions.)
At the Marco Island Art Center, handmade goods extend to baby clothes, including a set of gotta-have knit Mickey Mouse ears for baby. Because of its self-contained clay center, there are pottery offerings. J. Mckay's bowls of exotic wood for the coffee table have its type of wood burned onto the bottom and a penny from the year the piece was made affixed.
Looking for a hostess gift for your Marco friends? Limited edition art dishtowels ($24), suitable for framing or buffing the china, are at the store, as are a good stock of books that explore the history of the Florida islands, from "The Gladesmen" to the enticingly titled "The Phony Hermit."
The Marco Island Historical Museum also carries small-space 5- by 5-inch paintings ($35) an tiles ($22) from Jo-Ann Sanborn of Naples. Nancy Judd, manager of the store, recalled a woman who bought two for her home.
"And then she came back and bought three more. She filled a small wall with them," Judd said.
That little personal touch is in the dainty shell necklaces — natural teen girl gift — at the Marco Island Historical Museum's shop. Judd is an artist herself and those necklaces, which add a pearl to the inside of the shell, are her work.
For their moms, or any sweetheart, there are sterling pearl extenders at the Marco Island Historical Museum store that transform any necklace (from $49 to $159). (The chains are sold separately and range from $29 to $39).
The jewelry choices for women make both Marco shops a perfect stop for men. The only thing left to do, guys, is wrap.
Harriet Howard Heithaus covers arts and entertainment for the Naples Daily News/ naplesnews.com. Reach her at 239-213-6091.
Holiday art walks/shows
Art Alive — Art District Studio and Gallery Tours: 5-8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4. More than 50 professional artists showcase their recent works of art and demonstrate their mediums. Meet the artist, party and bring home gifts and unique treasures. Gallery participants are marked by the magenta and white art flags. www.NaplesArtDistrict.com
Everglades City Holiday Art-in-the-Glades Sale: 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7. McLeod Park on the Circle, Everglades City. Local arts and crafts will be offered and restaurants have re-opened for stone crab season. For information, phone Marya at (239) 695-2905.
Art After Dark — "The Magic of Christmas": 5-8 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8. Phil Fisher Gallery & Guess-Fisher Gallery, 810 12th Ave. S., Naples, Crayton Cove by the Bay, Naples. Meet the artists and enjoy live music by Jeff Fessenden during a festive evening. www.GalleriesOfCraytonCove.com
December Art in the Park: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7. Cambier Park, 580 Eighth St. S., Naples. Arts and crafts and local artists. naplesart.org
Naples Artcrafters Show: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14. Cambier Park, 580 Eighth St. S., Naples. One of the city's oldest arts organizations offers Arts and crafts from local artists in its juried organization. naplesartcrafters.com
HOW TO FIND THEM
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
Address: 375 Sanctuary Road W.
Center for the Visual Arts Bonita Springs
Marco Island Center for the Arts
Marco Island Historical Museum