I lived in Toronto for 11 years, and for at least 6 of those I intended to go to the One of a Kind Christmas Show and Sale. I never did. Now that I am back in Toronto on a business trip, I found some time last weekend to finally check out the One of a Kind Show. It made me wish I would have gone earlier, and just as expected you could spend quite a bit of money at the show. You need a strategy to avoid breaking your budget, there are just that many really nice things worth getting.
My strategy was to walk through the entire show first, then go back to the booths where I found items I wanted to buy. It allowed me to avoid impulse purchases. For example; the first booth I went to sold the most beautiful red mugs with a maple leaf carved into it. My love for Canada runs deep, and anything with a maple leaf I generally want to have. Halfway through the show, I decided I have too many mugs already and frankly no matter how much I loved it I did not need another one. Instead, a pillow with the Toronto skyline printed on it was a much better choice to live out my love for all things Canada. I could use another pillow, and I loved it just as much. On top of that, the two were close in price.
When you travel for business just before the holidays, it can make any holiday shopping even more stressful than it already is. Unless you are giving the gift of presence, or you are gifting donations to a charity, you might be shopping while traveling. If you find yourself in Toronto, or any other major city that has a One of a Kind show (Chicago has one too, for example), it is well worth going. In Toronto the show is in the downtown core, and close enough to the financial district. Within a couple of hours you can shop for everyone on your list, thanks to the diversity of artisans at the show. The added benefit is you buy local, handmade, and get unique gift.
Walking around the show, I found some interesting, unusual, cool, amazing items. Below are a selection of interesting finds from the show.
My top finds from the One of a Kind Show
Geeky greeting cards
As a scientist by trade, I was delighted by Rovena Tey’s designs from yours chemically.
The cards cover a wide range of occasions, certainly not restricted to the holidays. Find creative cards for birthdays, just because, or mother’s day. Anyone with a love for science will crack a smile when seeing these cards.
Strange and interesting cards
My attention was caught at the creepy Christine booth, because of the name of course. When I told the artist my name is also Christine, she gave me a very cool “Creepy Christine” button. It is pink, has a little drawing of a ‘creepy Christine’ and the name on it. I pinned it on and proudly walked around the show.
As a neuroscientist, I could not resist and bought the “thinking of you” brain card. There were many other interesting and different cards. While meant to be a bit creepy, they verged on the edge of cute as well.
Fun stuff for your house
It is no secret I love everything with a maple leaf on it or a Canada theme. Or bunnies. When I flipped back through my pictures of interesting gift ideas from the One of a Kind Show I noticed there was a pretty heavy bias for these items. The entire show is not Canada or rabbit themed, but here it seems like there is a bias. Then again with ‘buying local’, you can expect some Canadian pride as well in the artisan’s products.
My new awesome pillow
Foututissu is a Quebec based design company that creates lovely foot stools and pillows.
Most of them have the Toronto skyline on them. Interesting coming from a Quebec company, but perhaps these were created with the Toronto based One of a Kind Show in mind? Now being an expat who misses Toronto quite a bit, these would make a great addition to my London apartment. The stools run just over $200, but the pillows are only $40. I bought a red pillow to go with my jet black leather sofa at home. My house already has too many stools anyways, and it would be a bit complicated taking it home on the plane with all my regular luggage.
More pillows with Canadian wildlife
To keep with the Canadian theme, there were a few more artists with interesting pillow designs.
My favourite from Sparrow Avenue at the One of a Kind Show was without question the beaver design. The moose is a classic as well, especially the version with the subtle polka dot background.
One of the nicest parts of shopping at the one of a kind show is that you get to meet the artists who created the gifts you are buying, whether for yourself or for loved ones. This year I had very few gifts to buy, and they were already purchased by the time I made it to the show. This meant that I ended up treating myself to a few things, and bought some greeting cards to give away. While I loved the Canadian wild life pillows by Sparrow Avenue, I had to be selective and had already gone for the Toronto skyline pillow.
I absolutely fell in love with the “YYZ” airport code pillows by Cardinal.
The pillow with the little maple leaf in the corner is equally amazing and as a set would look just perfect on my sofa or on my guest bed. I would be less inclined having these if I lived in Toronto, but now living in the UK having something so linked to ‘home’ would make me smile every time I see it. For those who are less frequently traveling through Canada: YYZ is the airport code for Pearson Airport in Toronto.
These pillows are the perfect gift for a Canadian expat. Or someone who flies through YYZ a lot (and hopefully enjoys it!).
In the right room, marquetry by Stephen Haigh is absolutely beautiful. The escaping Koi reminded me of my research days. It often felt like my zebrafish were escaping me, metaphorically. In tribute to my old research life, I would have loved having an escaping Koi piece to remind me of where I’ve come from. Marquetry is an ancient art form where images are created using wood. By using different textures and colours from hundreds of different wood species, intricate images can be crafted.
mehoi creates whimsical prints and cards. When I saw the panda bear napping with two bunnies, I had to have it. It reminds me of something deeply personal, and deeply bittersweet. However, I already have a lot of art in my apartment. I don’t need another print. But after I walked away from the booth to think about it a few minutes first, I had to walk back right away to get it. It is still one of my favourite finds at the One of a Kind show.
A good mug always makes an excellent gift. They come in all shapes and sizes, and it is difficult to have too many mugs. It is also a neutral gift. I fell in love with the robot mugs by Maaike Charron. They are well made, and obviously hand made. In a very good way. These mugs give a carefree feeling, and a dose of playfulness. Who can’t use some of that in their day to day life? If you have anyone in your life who feels a particular connection to robots, like I do, then these are a perfect gift as well. The robot holding a hopeful heart certainly made my heart feel hopeful.
I’ve recently noticed more robot themes around me, and maxed out a little bit on the robot shopping for a while now.
Fun accessories for you
No shopping trip is complete without looking at some accessories. I am a huge fan of accessories because you can have the most classic plain outfit, and keep it relevant and fresh with scarves, hats, purses, belts, jewelry and shoes. It saves money on your wardrobe, keeps it simple, and gives you a lot of variety with a limited wardrobe when you travel.
Is there such a thing as ethical fur? Lo Well believes there is. With a twist. This company takes in discarded old fur coats, and gives them new life. Hats and purses with warm accents are part of the collection. I particularly like the wool hats with the small fur accents. Another aspect I liked was that they said rabbit fur to be the only one they will never use in any of their products. I should have asked why at the time, but I was so impressed I didn’t even quiz further. In principle I am against using fur, however I am also not in favour of discarding fur that has already been made into a coat decades ago. If we can at least reuse it instead of discarding, it doesn’t take away the harm it did to the animals in the first place but it extends the life of a former coat as much as possible. Given the item already exists, I feel it is worse having the fur go into the landfill than it is to reuse and recycle it.
Ending on a stylish note with more hats
You know a quality hat when you see it, and feel it. Lilliput Hats creates and sells stylish hats on college street in Toronto. One in particular made me feel more fabulous and stylish than I thought possible from any hat. It wouldn’t work well with my winter parka, but I could imagine this being the perfect way to finish an outfit that includes a slim fitting wool coat.
On various forums I’ve seen people complain the prices are high at the One of a Kind Show. Taking into account the cost of the booth, the prices are really quite reasonable. In a distant past I spent a few months making handmade soap and selling it, I know very well the cost involved with craft shows. A promising show I exhibited at during my first summer in graduate school allowed me to only break even on rent and materials, at best. The One of a Kind Show has actually fairly reasonable booth costs ($1 680-4 000 depending on size), but there is still a fair cost to be considered for the artisans. Think of how many mugs you need to sell to break even on rent alone! Taking this, and quality into account prices were reasonable. And, to be honest not different from what I expect to spend in a store. As with everything else: you get what you pay for.
The One of a Kind Christmas Show and Sale is on until December 7th.
I like that anything hand made is a great gift for most people, even people hard to buy for over the holidays. Some excellent pointers here!
it is just so easy to spend way beyond your budget at the one of a kind show. not saying it isn’t worth it! I take out a set amount in cash and leave my credit card at home. It’s the best way to stick to the budget.
I love the Toronto skyline pillow as well! It’s perfect for expats missing home.
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