From covert notebooks to mushroom jewellery, one-of-a-kind finds at Vancouver's holiday markets

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      With an abundance of holiday markets happening between now and Christmas, there’s one less reason to hit the busy, bloated, and borderline unbearable malls this time of year. In fact, we’re advocates of shopping for much of your gift list at locally produced fairs, where you can discover hundreds of talented craftspeople, support the city’s creative community, and find a one-of-a-kind present in one fell swoop.

      Not sure where to start? From Japanese seaweed-infused soaps to mushroom-encased jewellery (yes, really), here are a few of our favourite makers we’re watching for—and where to find them—on the seasonal pop-up circuit.


      Beauty Secrets of Japan's sakura soap.
      Beauty Secrets of Japan

      Beauty Secrets of Japan

      Local soap-maker Mami Mizutani’s products stand out from their mass-produced counterparts in every way. Instead of the conventional rectangular or oval shape, they take the form of a neat circle; rather than white, they’re shaded in colours like pink, black, and jade green; and in lieu of harmful chemicals and additives, they’re crafted using all-natural elements such as cherry blossoms, bamboo charcoal, and seaweed—many of them sourced from Mizutani’s homeland of Japan.

      “Ever since I was a little girl, my grandma was only using those natural ingredients for her skin care,” she tells the Straight by phone. “And she used to make soaps, too.”

      Employing traditional methods that have been passed down in her family, Mizutani makes soaps, bath bombs, and face and body oils under the apt name Beauty Secrets of Japan from plant-based components like revitalizing yuzu (Japanese citrus fruit), exfoliating azuki (red bean), and hydrating sake kasu (leftover lees from sake production). Each lathery object is labelled with Japanese calligraphy, which Mizutani writes herself. “This is what I love the most,” she says. “Every process that I do, from combining the oils to finishing my packaging, everything I just love.”

      For Make It! Vancouver, which takes place from Thursday to Sunday (December 7 to 10) at the PNE Forum (2901 East Hastings Street), the soap-maker will be stocking Beauty Secrets of Japan’s entire line (from $4), which uses ingredients such as green tea, soybean, and Japanese basil, too.


      Paperbacknote Archie gift set.


      At first glance, Paperbacknote’s signature workbooks seem like any old tome, but flip through the pages and you’ll find a blank slate waiting to bear all sorts of notes, doodles, and ideas. Run by local architects Herman Kao and Helen Pang, the company upcycles paperbacks into covert notebooks that carefully retain the original and often hard-to-find covers. “It’s kind of about that nostalgia and also the reuse of an old product,” says Pang.

      The two source pre-loved books—which range from classic George Orwell and Jane Austen titles to more contemporary names like Harry Potter and the Archie comics—from friends and thrift stores. The pages are then replaced with blank ones, the edges neatly trimmed before they’re sold. Kao and Pang have even begun fashioning the paperbacks’ sheets into paper ornaments and coasters to reduce waste.

      At Got Craft?, which takes place on Saturday and Sunday (December 9 and 10) at the Maritime Labour Centre (1880 Triumph Street), you’ll find an assortment of notebooks (from $25) with covers spanning genres such as sci-fi, mystery, and teen, plus titles like Star Wars and The Handmaid’s Tale, which, according to Pang, have seen a spike in popularity in recent years thanks to television and cinematic adaptations.

      “It’s so fun to kind of see multiple versions of the same cover that have gone through different lives with different owners,” she adds.


      Russell Hackney Ceramics teapot from the Cabin Vibes collection.
      Peter Williamson

      Russell Hackney Ceramics

      Local maker Russell Hackney was born and raised in England’s pottery industry, where he began following in the footsteps of his ceramist father and grandfather at an early age, but it’s his adopted home of B.C. that’s reflected brilliantly in his latest collection.

      Dubbed Cabin Vibe, the line’s functional jugs, canisters, and bowls are awash in muted shades of grey, blue, and taupe—hues easily discernible around Hackney’s Bowen Island dwelling—while the clean line where the glaze meets the porcelain is a calming interpretation of the shoreline. “The style is sort of a relaxed elegance, very West Coast,” the artist explains by phone. “I wanted something very simple that you might find at the weekend cabin.”

      The laid-back feel is a decided departure from Hackney’s past pieces, which were characterized by a slick all-white palette and embossment techniques that left fantastical illustrations of owls, bears, and deer stamped on vases, lanterns, and churns. As minimalist as Cabin Vibe is in comparison, however, the collection still boasts the refinement and handcraftsmanship that have come to characterize Hackney’s work.

      At Shiny Fuzzy Muddy, which takes place on Saturday and Sunday (December 9 and 10) at Heritage Hall (3102 Main Street), the ceramist will be on site with his full Cabin Vibe series (from $42), which includes half-litre pitchers, mugs, and a category of items he’s especially fond of, teapots. You can also find the vessels at the Craft Council of B.C. (1386 Cartwright Street).


      MushAppreciated russula pendant.
      Luke Mikler


      Think jewellery, and sparkling gemstones, beautiful beading, and delicate gold and sterling silver bands likely come to mind. But Talya Florian’s MushAppreciated bling showcases a slightly more natural and offbeat element: freshly picked fungi, their caps and soil-stained stems frozen in various stages of decay.

      A local jewellery-maker of eastern European descent—a group among which foraging is the norm—Florian sees a beauty in mushrooms that, according to her, often goes underappreciated by the masses. “I find there’s a huge taboo around them,” she says. “People don’t understand them or they immediately think of psychedelics.”

      Depending on the species, mushrooms can help treat contaminated soil and water, she explains, and produce natural dyes. Some may also act as detoxifiers, boosting health in the human body. It’s these qualities that Florian strives to bring to light through her mushroom pendants, which feature fungi encased in ecofriendly resin surrounded by a reclaimed-wood frame.

      From tiny red-capped russulas to classes of tubaria, the bottoms of which grow to form intricate, gill-like patterns, the plants are hand picked by Florian around town. At the inaugural Weirdos Holiday Market, which takes place on December 16 and 17 at Betamax Art Studios (2244 East Hastings Street), you can browse these pendants (from $30)—many of them enclosed in asymmetrical woods—as well as a handful of earrings, prints, and fungus-identification books for the curious.

      Looking for more gift ideas? Check out the Georgia Straight's 2017 holiday gift guide here.

      Follow Lucy Lau on Twitter @lucylau.