Gift Guide: Made in Toronto

This holiday season give a little bit from closer to home. We’ve selected 10 gift ideas, all created in the city you love. There’s something for family, friends and those hard-to-impress people — like the beauty buff, the foodie, the art collector, the beer connoisseur — on your shopping list.

Cake Beauty

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Now available in stores across North America, including Kohl’s and Sephora, Toronto-based founder and owner Heather Reier started the Cake Beauty line in her kitchen in 2003. This holiday season the makers behind those bath and body products in delectable fragrances teamed up with fellow Canadian brand Nella Bella to offer the “It’s in the bag” gift set, which includes three velveteen hand creams in a metallic wristlet. Added bonus: the lotions smell delicious. $30. cakebeauty.com

Coach House

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In addition to offering a variety of sweet (dark chocolate and fleur de sel, cranberry) and savoury (cheddar and chipotle, gorgonzola and pistachio) shortbread cookies, Carl Stryg, owner and baker of Coach House Shortbread Company, is offering an assortment of gift baskets featuring artisan goods like Bobbette and Belle’s caramel corn and Henderson Farms Preserves jam and jellies. The shop also has a timely sugar plum shortbread, made from dried apricots, raisins, plums, almonds and spices. Ingredients are soaked for four months in rum before cinnamon, cardamom and caraway are added. $12.95–$189. http://shortbread.ca

Collective Arts Brewing
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Local grassroots craft beer company Collective Arts Brewing offers an artistic twist on beer. Bottles of their extra-pale ale Rhyme and Reason, available at LCBO stores, are adorned with labels featuring emerging and seasoned artists, musicians, poets, photographers and filmmakers, including Toronto-based bands Poor Young Things and The Strumbellas. $13.95 for a six-pack. collectiveartsbrewing.com

Kosoy and Bouchard
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Michelle Kosoy and Pierre Bouchard are the artists behind St. Clair Avenue West’s Kosoy and Bouchard design studio, which specializes in elegant, handmade clay and glass works of art for the home. Pieces include vases, bowls and trays in beautiful patterns, and sophisticated colours like celestial blue, antique pewter and ivory. $30–$160. kosoyandbouchard.com

Jennifer McGregor and Alanna Cavanagh
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After a three-year stint in Florence, Italy to study and paint, artist Jennifer McGregor chose Toronto as her home base. The midtown resident’s watercolour paintings are one of many local artists available at Forest Hill’s Art Interiors. The shop is currently running its annual Festival of Smalls exhibit, offering an array of one-of-a-kind works between $55 and $250. Another artist featured in the gallery is Toronto-based Alanna Cavanagh, who has made a name for herself as an illustrator and printmaker. Her pieces have been featured in many design magazines. Watercolour, $80 unframed, $185 framed. artinteriors.ca. An Empty Belly print unframed, $125. alannacavanagh.com

Live Beautiful
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Live Beautiful co-owners and best friends Laura Hart and Alison Nasmith offer handcrafted jewellery made with ethical, recycled and reclaimed materials sourced from small suppliers. Their classic collection includes staples such as the elegant Audrey studs made with sustainably sourced Herkimer diamonds, which can also be purchased as a set with a necklace and bracelet, and limited edition items like the Alex ring, which is made from a thick, double-rope chain. $25–$208. livebeautiful.co

Nadege Patisserie
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Nadège Nourian, a fourth-generation pastry chef from Lyon, France and founder of Summerhill’s Nadege Patisserie, is known for her delicious and skillfully crafted macarons. Available in flavours like salted caramel, Iranian pistachio and cappuccino, the patisserie now ships gift parcels from coast to coast, making these sweet treats a perfect gift to share with loved ones near and far. $26.50–$54 for 12–25 gift pack. nadege-patisserie.com

Nicole Tarasick Studio
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Nicole Tarasick’s fondness for Canadiana is apparent in her collection of pillows and tote bags, which stylishly depict screen-printed images of maps of Canada and Ontario, the Great Lakes, our nation’s wildlife (including bears and geese) and our airport code, YYZ. Tarasick’s work has been featured in many publications, including The Globe and Mail, Canadian Living and Chatelaine. $24–$95. nicoletarasick.com

Still Life Home
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Created by a costume designer, Still Life Home is a collection of decorative accent pillows in trendy prints and patterns that are handcrafted in Toronto. Tree ornaments and pillows from the collection are available this holiday season at midtown’s Wildbird and Freedom Clothing Collective. $17–$42. etsy.com/shop/StillLifeHome

Tuck Shop Trading Co.
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Summerhill resident Lyndsay Borschke’s Tuck Shop Trading Co. collection features cozy yet fashionable pieces, including luxe cashmere scarves. The Toronto-based company also has a subsidiary line called City of Neighbourhoods, featuring toques representing different neighbourhoods of Toronto so family and friends can show off their hometown pride in style. $35–$315. tuckshopco.com

Local Designer: Live Beautiful

DESIGN DUO: Live Beautiful’s Laura Hart, left, and Alison Nasmith show off pieces from their Rough and Tumble collection at Aime, a Yorkville boutique carrying their line.

DESIGN DUO: Live Beautiful’s Laura Hart, left, and Alison Nasmith show off pieces from their Rough and Tumble collection at Aime, a Yorkville boutique carrying their line.

While taking a jewellery-making course, Laura Hart and Alison Nasmith ignored their instructor’s design advice, which proved to be a key step in starting their own business.

The wide band ring — made much bigger than their teacher saw fit — wound up being the first piece they sold upon launching their jewellery line Live Beautiful online nearly two years ago.

“Someone from Australia bought it and it was really exciting,” Hart says.

“It was amazing because at that point we had this little Etsy shop and maybe our friends and family would buy things but it was like somebody bought it from Australia!” Nasmith adds. “It was cool and she got it and she loved it and to make something for someone and to know that we’re a part of their life in that little way is great.”

In contrast to poorly made, cheap and mass-produced items, the pair hope to challenge the marketplace by creating unique, handcrafted and sustainable jewellery using recycled materials, found objects and vintage pieces.

“We try to find ethical stones and small suppliers so we’re trying to put a positive product out into the world that still looks great,” Nasmith says. “We offer jewellery with a conscience so a big part of our brand is making everything by hand.”

In April Live Beautiful’s most recent collection, Rough and Tumble, debuted at three stores in Ontario including Aime boutique on Davenport Road, where they held a launch celebration in early May.

This month will also mark the release of the company’s bridal creations, which along with their other pieces are created in their Annex office near Bloor and Bathurst streets, featuring statement pieces that incorporate embroidery, beads and vintage lace.

“It’s very special to be part of somebody’s day and to create something old,” Nasmith says, adding a lot of their bridal work is custom made and she also designed her own wedding ring. “I love using pieces from people’s collection like working with their grandmother’s broach and turning that into a bib necklace. It’s personal and beautiful.”

Prior to this endeavour, Hart and Nasmith became fast friends while attending university in Kingston, where they fittingly worked together in a jewellery store and would constantly critique newly arriving stock.

Several years later they decided to take a jewellery-making course to spend more time together and to do something creative.

WHAT'S THE STORY? Laura Hart and Alison Nasmith create jewellery with a conscience made with materials sourced from small suppliers. Many of the pieces have a back story like the Herkimer diamonds, which are from an Amish farm in upstate New York.

WHAT’S THE STORY? Laura Hart and Alison Nasmith create jewellery with a conscience made with materials sourced from small suppliers. Many of the pieces have a back story like the Herkimer diamonds, which are from an Amish farm in upstate New York.

“We just kind of realized that we had a talent for it, as we were making stuff in the class, we were like this is something that feels right, it feels natural,” Hart says. “It was coming from us organically, like we weren’t really trying to do things but they were just coming out really cool.”

With varying skills and aesthetics, the pair say they bring different things to the table and complement each other well.

“I have maybe like 700 ideas and maybe three of them are good,” Nasmith says. “I just try a bunch of different things and lots of our designs are kind of accidents. I’m trying to do something else and then I’m like I don’t like it like that but maybe if I do this instead and there’s things I’ll do half way and Laura will come and tell me how she sees it.”

While their personal favourites of the current collection include the large Roxy studs and the bullet shaped Presley earrings, a popular draw are several pieces made with Herkimer diamonds they carried over from a previous line.

“A big thing we do is work with people on Etsy, we just feel like it’s a great community and they’re all small businesses all run by individuals and we want to support that,” Hart says. “The Herkimers are great on many different levels. They are beautiful pieces, people really respond to them aesthetically but they have such a great story.”

With a background in academics, Nasmith devotes a lot of time to researching where the materials come from, the story behind it and making sure everything is conflict free to see if the items suit their brand.

While investigating a batch of Herkimer diamonds, she learned they were from an Amish farm in upstate New York.

“The story just totally captured my heart,” Nasmith says. “They kind of come naturally through soil and they’re quite tough and the farm has horses that plow the fields and the stones were bothering their hooves so they let one miner very infrequently come to the farm and clear them out so its easier plowing and that’s where we get the stones. We paired them with 100 percent recycled metals from a supplier where our purchase goes towards animal welfare organizations. It looks great and it feels great, it’s like a lovely ethical piece and it really embodies what we’re trying to do with the line.”

As the business venture continues to grow, Hart and Nasmith hope the values of the brand will resonate with customers who also like the designs aesthetically.

“A big part of what we’re trying to do is create something that has a story,” Hart says. “It’s creating something that is different and hopefully they’ll want to invest in something they can keep forever and pass on to future generations. That would be the greatest thing if we could create something that people wanted to keep forever.”