THE BLOG
12/18/2012 12:13 pm ET Updated Feb 17, 2013

15 of Chicago's Most Creative Share Their Gift Ideas and Last Minute Stocking Stuffers

Tired of giving the same old thing around the holidays? In a bind for some gifts as the deadline draws near? Before you settle for giving another Target Gift Card (Noooo!), get a pinch of inspiration from some of Chicago's most creative artists and entrepreneurs on the list below.

1. "Mostly I'm going to make some battle axes, swords and shields out of wood for my twin 9-year-old boys. I also hope to make breastplates and helmets out of plywood, which I think I can do; but, I haven't figured out how yet. They need a supply of armor and weapons for themselves and their friends when they come over for battles in the fort we put up for them this past summer. They don't want any puppets. And I haven't figured out what to make my wife yet... probably a little carved turtle with some baby turtles.

- Blair Thomas, Puppeteer

2. "I am having friends over on December 24 for a festive potluck that I am hosting. Each person is getting a box of 10-pack, colored Play-Doh. I love this set as the colors include black and neon pink, green and red. I actually purchased them from a Dominick's grocery near by.

I am making small pedestals out of foam core for each person's finished Play-Doh sculpture to sit on. Then there will be a gallery exhibition and work will be purchased by each guest. The highest purchase will get all of the money to give to a charity of their choice. Everyone will walk away with a piece of art. What they do with it then is questionable!

- Phyllis Bramson, Artist

3. "All I will be making or doing for Christmas is trying to get some rough designs ready for a presentation for a new ballet I am designing in Tokyo. Once that is behind me, I have two extra days in Tokyo. I will be quickly looking for some loot in Japan to bring home to family and friends when I return. Maybe Hello Kitty for everyone?!?!"

- Daniel Ostling, International Set Designer, currently for Chicago Shakes' "The School for Lies" and Lookingglass Theatre's "Metamorphoses"

4. I'm so broke that I'll be thrifting for any/all gifts this year. So far I've scored some choice books for a few folks, a rare Hull Pottery coffee cup, a wooden Munising bowl, a 1974 calendar tea towel decorated with Husky dogs and totem poles, and a mechanical Christmas ornament with little chickens in a coop that dance and cluck Jingle Bells when you plug it into a light socket. Happy Holidays!

- Kelly Hogan, Musician

5. "I'll be giving everyone (women AND men!) my CAMP Cosmetics lipstick, "Candid Candace"! Owner Michael Perich contacted me several months ago and asked if he could create/name a lipstick after me. (Um, yes!) It's the perfect coral, my favorite color, and I will be stuffing EVERYONE'S stockings with it!"

- Candace Jordan, Art Collector, Chicago Tribune social columnist, author CandidCandace.com, host "Candid Candace Chicago" on Watch312.com

6. "In my opinion, nothing is better than the gift of handmade shoes (ha!). So, the present I'm most excited about giving this year is a pair of boots made by The New England Outerwear Company. One can really makes tracks in these beauties!"
 
- Annie Mohaupt, Chief Cobblette at Mohop

7. "While I do buy presents, the most meaningful gifts come from my kitchen: home-made, orange-glazed gingerbreads; a family recipe of fresh cranberry/orange relish and spiced nuts. I don't think these qualify as unusual; but, they are very personal."

- Elaine Madsen, Writer, Director, Poet, Director of "I Know a Woman Like That" for daughter Virginia Madsen's Title IX Productions

8. "TWINKIES!!! If I could find some... dang! (Just kidding!) Actually, I know its been a tough year for a lot of companies/entrepreneurs, and I know holiday bonuses are not happening (at least not like they use to) because of it. So, I made thousands of holiday gift cards to our newest restaurant, Dragon Ranch Moonshine & BBQ. I am sending little bunches out to all my fellow entrepreneurs and the companies that I have relationships with so that they can use them as stocking stuffers for their employees to keep the spirit alive!

I remember when I was working my way through college and law school. Little gift cards got me through the rough spots from time to time, not only accessing food, but allowing me to enjoy the hotspots and feel great, just like everyone else there! So now I love to give them out whenever I can."

- Billy Dec
, Restauranteur, CEO of Rockit Ranch, & Emmy Winning TV Personality

9. "Several times I've written short stories as special presents for my husband; but, the best one is one that I've written, illustrated, and bound myself: the story of Little Orphan Courtenay. "

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- Sara Paretsky, Writer, V. I. Warshawski Crime Novels

10. "I really want to support Chicago businesses and artists as much as possible. So, I am planning on giving Co-op hot sauce and pickles to my neighbors. I am giving my husband North Shore Distillery's Sirén's Absinthe and my closest friend is getting a necklace made by Chicago artist Sarah Fox of Cursive Design."

- Esther Grimm, Executive Director, 3Arts

11. "I read in The Responsible Company that packaging is 1/3 of all waste in the world. I'm not sure where paper cups and napkins come in; but, the gift I'm giving this year is a combo of coffee mugs and cloth napkins. I'm on a budget; so, I'm going to the thrift store to buy one-of-a-kind, kitschy, plastic coffee mugs and cloth napkins. I have found the coolest, weirdest collection and love spreading these kooky finds around. And if you're crafty, you can add embroidery to the cloth and why not fill the mug with coffee beans from a local roastery like Cafe Chicago?

I have a dream that, someday, the business class will adopt as accessories custom designed travel cups and napkins. It will be a sign of intelligence, integrity and hot-passionate-love for the future of the world."

- Mark Messing, Band Leader, Mucca Pazza

12. "This year, my two top stocking stuffers will be my new Vosges Haut-Chocolat Holiday Toffee and Liquipel water proofing film for my iPhone. "

- Katrina Markoff, Owner & Chocolatier, Vosges Haut-Chocolat

13. "This holiday season, I will be stuffing stockings full of French cuisine and libations, in celebration of The School for Lies, which I just finished directing. I will be making my famous chocolate soufflé and pairing it with a bottle of Dom Pérignon Champagne. Bon appétit!"

- Barbara Gaines, Artistic Director at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

14. "My favorite gift to give (and receive) is a goodie box. I love this form because, as an artist, I have an excuse to have fun decorating the box without the pressure of having to make a serious painting. I can completely tailor the contents to each recipient with a cornucopia of locally made goods that I've been eyeing all year at the famers' markets and neighborhood shops -- sauces, jams, soaps, candles, stationery, locally brewed beer, gin, vodka. Weird thrift shop finds, such as vases, old games, almost-vintage table cloths, and random found objects like an interesting stone or piece of wood might find their way in if the right thing presents itself... as long as it is a treasure chest of delights."

- Lynn Basa, Artist

15. "I just learned how to make Christmas guacamole on Good Day Chicago from celebrated Chicago Chef Rick Bayless (Top Chef-Masters) and I plan to make it for holiday parties.

Also, inspired by Jimmy Fallon and Mariah Carey, I'm going to wrap children's instruments for each of the guests at our big X-mas Eve party and then get everyone to play along with holiday music!"

- Anna Davlantes, Good Day Chicago Co-Anchor

And one more for good measure:

16. I make home-made, sauteed onion, garlic and rosemary pasta sauce... of course! But if I am shopping for purchased gifts, I head immediately to Judy Maxwell Home. I know I can find a gift for any personality type that will make even the scroogiest among us crack a smile. Over-sized Scrabble letters, goofy board games and funny home decor items for dogs and humans are only some of the options here in this ever-changing diorama. I will be gifting myself some bright green frog slippers... because if I am not giving the gift of love through home-made food, then I am definitely giving the gift of laughter.

- Elysabeth Alfano, Executive Producer and Host, Fear No ART and Fear No ART presents The Dinner Party