One of the most marvelous things about Ypsilanti is the availability of Ypsi-made products. More than simply being local for local's sake, many of the products made by local artists, artisans, and entrepreneurs are among the best of their kind. As the gift-giving season approaches, consider celebrating your loved ones and the city you love at the same time through the gift of locally-made products. Ypsilanti is a community of makers and doers and tryers and creators; it's easy to bolster the local economy by choosing to buy locally-made versions of your favorite things. Between Brick & Mortar General Store and The Eyrie, whose shelves are absolutely littered with locally-made products, and The Rocket's formidable Ypsi-themed selection, "A Very Ypsi Holiday" is firmly within reach.
When you buy an Ypsi-made product, you bring a piece of Ypsilanti, and the city's generous spirit, with you wherever you go. This may be most true for paintings and prints that showcase the beauty of our area. Pay beautiful homage to the city with a painting from Nelson Amos' Studios. Local guitar professor Dr. Nelson Amos has painted over 35 breathtaking landscapes taken from the Ypsilanti-Ann Arbor area, and they are available for sale at his Depot Town shop (run by wife Korin). Amos's paintings capture the ethereal beauty of everyday life in Ypsilanti, and inhabit the space between the real and the sublime which is usually reserved for dreams. Each piece is a celebration of Ypsilanti's history, complexity, and unrivaled beauty.
Similarly, consider the art of Nancy Flanagan, whose colorful paintings highlight the beauty of Ypsi's overlooked corners, and the city's history of industry. Flanagan's slightly fish-eyed renderings of Ypsilanti scenery give the sense that you are tumbling, overeager, into the city as she sees it. Prints of her work are available for purchase at The Eyrie, and on her website.
Fine art isn't the only Ypsi-made or Ypsi-themed swag available: for the more practically-minded, pick up an Ypsilanti-themed coffee mug from Celena Lopez, who creates under the name diosa de la luna. Lopez was able to perfectly capture the moment when a double rainbow arched over the city's iconic water tower, and she has been reproducing this photo as charming prints, magnets, and coffee mugs ever since. (In the interest of full disclosure, we bought one of Celena's mugs a few Christmases ago, and it has stood the test of time! It's been in heavy rotation, and also rolled around the floor of my car a bit. I can vouch for the quality of this product!) Furthermore, Lopez also creates delightful embroidery hoop tableaus with adorably anthropomorphized water towers, an "Ypsi" pennant, and numerous twee animals and pop culture characters.
Lopez's work is easy to find at DIYpsi Holiday Market, the holiday version of the city's wildly popular homegrown art bonanza, which will take place December 8-9 this year. Ninety vendors (and countless customers) cram into Riverside Arts Center, and there is guaranteed to be a product or vendor that tugs at your wallet, even if it's just the locally-brewed coffee beverages available while you shop.
For the truly enthusiastic, it's possible to argue that the most Ypsilanti product of all time is Rick Wedel's Ypsilanti Water Tower Candle. Sure to be a conversation-starter (I wouldn't burn it—would you?), this 8.5" soy & paraffin wax blend candle is sold at The Eyrie alongside a bevy of other Ypsilanti-made and -themed products, like large water tower ceramic art tiles from Whistling Frog Tile Company. Whistling Frog's tiles are sweet, lighthearted takes on classic art tiles, and would make the perfect finishing touch for a whimsical kitchen renovation, or restoring an antique fireplace. They can also be hung as art rather than installed. Their achingly beautiful set of "destination tiles" will deliver you to your favorite Michigan destination in a single glance.
Another delightful Ypsi-themed offering comes from local artist & book-binder Emily Fineberg, whose water tower-themed jotter notebooks (based on watercolor illustrations by Brittany Zeller-Holland of Two If By Sea Studios) can be found at The Eyrie, and whose hand-marbled papers are the basis for her newer work. The original watercolor illustrations are also available at The Eyrie as wrapping paper, so no matter what gift you get, there's no excuse not to wrap it Ypsi-proud.
The gifts you choose to give this season can be gifts to your neighborhood and local economy as well when you choose to buy from local makers. Mark your calendar for the DIYpsi Holiday Market, and consider gifts that support local artists, artisans, organizations, and events. There is no shortage of Ypsi-made or Ypsi-themed products available to show pride in our great city!
Photo courtesy of diosa de la luna.