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Hand-Made Holiday

By Stephanie Geerlings

The holiday season is close at hand, and so are some of the best gift ideas. Utah’s local artisans begin with a thoughtful gesture and a crafty talent.

In order to celebrate themselves and their friends, four brave artists made their own gifts for the season of giving.

Alina Smith is an art photography student at the University of Utah enamored with her craft. Her work is stunning in composition and process. More importantly, it is emotionally potent and full of integrity.

This year, she is giving her truck-driver father cyanotypes of abandoned truck stops. Because her father was rarely home, these pieces work as intimate self portrait.

She recently returned from a trip to London. Since her mother was envious of the trip, Smith is giving her black-and-white photographs of the city’s iconic scenes along with a pamphlet about how cheap it is to go to London right now.

Erica Elstein is a junior in the U’s ceramics program. She was a ceramic instructor and a pupil at the Jewish Community Center, but prefers making her own work.

This year, she has created a custom tea set. She sculpted portraits of her mom and her aunts in low-fire clay. Her mom is the teapot and her aunts are the cream and sugar containers. “I love my mom and my aunts, they are beautiful women,” Elstein said.

It is a gift of amazing craftsmanship, but more intense is the personal relationship that made this piece a sincere and loving gift.

Denise Blackett is a nurse at St. Mark’s Hospital. She fell in love with glass recently and has since created successful and beautiful work.

It isn’t just Christmas that puts her in the giving spirit: “All celebrations are a celebration of life,” she said. This year, she designed fused glass ornaments to give to her friends. For especially close friends and family, she designs plates and sun catchers with personal meaning.

You can see more of her work and hire her talent at

Wade (just Wade), a bartender from O’Shucks and frequent bouncer at Urban Lounge, uses his trade skills to make friends a dressed-up drinkable gift. The drink is based on the shot called Oatmeal Cookie with Raisins, but this drink is made with:

  1.5 ounce Jagermeister
  1.5 ounce Gold Schlagger
  1.5 ounce Kalua
  1 ounce butterscotch liquor
  3 ounces of Bailey’s
  shaken with ice

It is dressed up with dark chocolate shavings and a chocolate hazelnut pirouette in a low-ball glass.

steph [at]


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