If you didn't know, I'm Taiwanese and American! 🇹🇼 🇺🇸
Taiwan is a small country located to the southwest of Japan, to the east of China, and to the north of the Philippines. It's known for its delicious food and ultra friendly people. We have pride parades every year in the capital city of Taipei, and we elected the first female president in East Asia. Taiwan also has the moniker of "Silicon Valley of the East." If you're reading this gift guide from a smartphone or a laptop, its semiconductor chips were likely made in Taiwan.
Do you love bubble tea, also known as boba? It's originally from Taiwan. We practically have a boba tea shop on every street!
In celebration of my motherland, I've put together a gift guide of Taiwanese and Taiwanese-American small businesses, all located in the USA.
Building Block is a design studio based in Los Angeles and was founded by sisters Nancy Wu, previously a Nike shoe designer, and Kimberly Wu, previously a Honda concept car designer. Established in 2011, the studio offers simple yet stunning leather bags and accessories that are designed with intention. Looking for a timeless bag? Head over to Building Block.
Hello! I’m a jewelry designer and maker based in Oakland, California. I’m also an introvert, which is why I make jewelry specifically for soft-spoken folks with strong backbones. Our society often overlooks and undervalues introverts, but we lead such fascinating inner lives. The world needs more individuals like you.
Offer: Use code TAIWAN20 for 20% off Ready to Ship items. Bonus - Holiday Jewelry Sets are marked 20% off, no code needed. Limited quantities available. Offers expire at midnight of 12/15/2020.
Knotwork LA is built on a desire to create beautiful, useful things. Business owner Linda Hsiao is a freelance industrial designer with a passion for all things ceramic and wood. Each Knotwork LA object is made by hand, from porcelain catchall trays to silky smooth wooden rattles. If you’re still searching for a gift for the coffee lover in your life, Linda offers carefully crafted, one-of-a-kind mugs.
Formosa Chocolates produces luxury chocolates with Belgian techniques in the San Francisco Bay Area. Chocolatier and owner Kimberly Yang not only loves chocolate, but is also passionate about the nuanced chemistry that sets luxury chocolate apart. Fun fact - Formosa Chocolates is named after Taiwan, which was given the moniker “Ilha Formosa (beautiful island)” by Portuguese sailors in the mid-1500s.
Offer: Use code GIFTY10 for 10% off purchases over $50, code expires 12/22/20.
Taiwan Bento is a casual lunch spot in Uptown Oakland and is the brainchild of Stacy Tang, a tech worker-turned restaurateur. They offer mouth-watering popcorn chicken, beef noodle soup, and gua boa (Taiwanese sandwich). Their bentos are served with entrees like minced braised pork, Taiwanese sausage, and spicy tofu with shiitake mushrooms. Don't forget to top off your meal with their bubble tea!
Free Flow Botanicals
Patty Liu is a San Francisco native with a passion for holistic beauty and wellness. As a certified Clinical Herbalist, Holistic Beauty coach, and Reiki Practitioner, Patty started Free Flow Botanicals to help women live their best lives. She offers skincare products, holistic beauty classes, and more. Can’t find the perfect gift for a skin care junkie? I recommend Free Flow Botanicals’s gemstone massage tools!
Offer: Free US shipping on orders over $75.
The Wax Apple
The Wax Apple is about home. It’s about comfort. It’s all the things Juliana Hung remembers from spending time with her grandmother in the Taiwanese countryside. An industrial designer by day, Juliana thoughtfully curates a selection of Taiwanese objects such as rattan stools, embroidered linen clothing, traditional footwear, and shell ginger woven baskets. Each object is an inextricable part of Taiwanese culture and life.
And last but not least, writer Charles Yu. He is the author of four books and recently won the 2020 National Book Award for his novel, Interior Chinatown. The National Book Award is the highest honor for literary work written by US citizens. He has also written for tv shows like Westworld, and his fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The Wall Street Journal. Shopping for a bookworm? Look no further.
And that's a wrap! I hope you enjoyed my Taiwanese Small Biz Gift Guide. Every purchase you make matters. Thank you for consciously choosing to shop small and to buy from BIPOC businesses this holiday season.
Kamala Harris made history this week as the first Black, South Asian, and female Vice President-Elect! Although I don't agree with her stance on every issue, I'm thrilled that she broke through so many glass ceilings in one go!
I, for one, am ready for the holiday season!
And I want to make sure you're well-prepared, too. Starting today, December 9th, through December 20th, The Crucible will be hosting its virtual holiday fair, GIFTY. Over 80 other Bay Area makers and small businesses will be selling things like gourmet chocolates, holiday greeting cards, glass ornaments, and of course, jewelry! Makers pours hours of care and thought into each object they make, guaranteeing not only unique gifts, but gifts that are high-quality and made to endure.
Artists and makers have had a tough go this year.
Due to the pandemic, many in-person shows and fairs have been cancelled, and small businesses are barely hanging on. It's more important than ever to buy local and support local artists, because where you spend your hard earned dollars will determine who survives the calamity that is 2020. Buying local gifts make incredibly meaningful gifts for your loved ones and your community.
So why not shop in your PJs this holiday season?
GIFTY is hosted completely online, which means you get to avoid the long lines and shopping crowds this year. Also, don't tell anyone I told you this, but I've just launched my holiday jewelry sets, which are 20% off regular prices and are available in limited quantities! Enjoy!
Amid all the news about the pandemic, Mother's Day almost slipped my mind! Although my mom lives an ocean away on the island of Taiwan, I'm grateful that she's in a country that takes the virus seriously and has fewer than 750 cases. I can't imagine the world without my mom.
If you have a mom, a grandma, or a wife who you are grateful for, now is the time to say, "Thank you. I see you." I think the desires and needs of moms often take a backseat to those of their children - in fact, I was sick all the time as a kid, and my mom would bundle me up and drive me to the hospital for checkups, medication refills, and allergy shots.
I looked forward to the hospital visits, partly because of all the attention the nurses and doctors showered on me, but mostly because I got to spend time with my mom. We would walk down a long flight of stairs to the hospital cafeteria after each appointment, and she would let me choose between Taiwanese meatball soup or a fried pork chop bento. I loved both and could never decide. I also never thought to ask if my mom was hungry or tired of the sterile hospital environment.
Luckily, I learned how to be more considerate as I grew older, and my mom never grew tired of loving me. This year, I'm planning on ordering flowers for her and calling her to chat. Because that's what my mom wants the most - a phone call.
Last week, a family friend bought two necklaces from me. One for her, and one for her daughter. Surprisingly, her young daughter paid for the necklaces! I don't know if they were gifts for Mother's Day, but I was glad to have both necklaces in stock and shipped them the very next day. It also made me realize that in my pandemic fugue state, I hadn't updated the Ready to Ship page of my online store in a long time.
I've been diligently adding ready to ship items to the page these past days, and it's finally ready! If you or someone you know deserves a pick-me-up this Mother's Day, take a look. Orders placed before midnight on Sunday, May 3rd should arrive in time for Mother's Day. The post office is running a little slow these days due to the pandemic, but I'll try my very best to get those gifts to you as soon as possible.
In the meantime, please stay indoors and call your mom. She misses you.
It’s devastating to see how fragile my small business is. This thing I have carefully breathed air into for the past four years has deflated over night.
Artists and makers are hard hit by this pandemic, as countless art fairs and wholesale orders are cancelled. My business has come to a near standstill, ever since my retail partners - jewelry galleries and stores - have been labeled “nonessential” and are forced to shutter. We were not ready for this. None of us were.
My anxiety rises in proportion to the amount of news on the novel coronavirus, a virus so new it has crippled our economy, shut down society, and pushed those in precarious circumstances further into poverty. The president says everything is a-ok, and I begin having nightmares.
For two weeks, I watch as the livelihoods of my artist and maker friends crumble. A fog settles over my mind, and it’s difficult to think straight. Productivity is as rare and as coveted as hand sanitizer. I wash my hands, over and over again.
I feel guilty about my inability to wrestle anxiety to the ground, when I have shelter, food, and savings, and others don’t. My therapist gently reminds me to be kind to myself, his voice barely audible above the phone static.
“We’ll get through this together.”
The pandemic has forced me to slow down. When it gets hard to breathe, I go on walks. I research small business loans, then take a break. I make sure to keep breathing as I do bookkeeping and think of ways to stay afloat during shelter-in-place. The more social-media savvy of us have already pivoted - they stay in touch with customers through DM’s and offer shelter-in-place sales to encourage social distancing.
In the middle of all this, I’ve picked up a funny habit of microwaving potatoes in four minute intervals, carefully flipping the potatoes onto their backs between each session. Microwave. Add butter. Eat.
I find comfort in reading an article by Scott Berinato about our collective grief around this pandemic. Because that is what we’re doing, grieving. We’re grieving lost lives, jobs, human touch, a sense of normalcy. We’re also anticipating grief to come. Things will never go back to normal.
With grief, comes a cluster of emotions. Denial, anger, sadness, and acceptance. Some days I wake up in the middle of a nightmare, scared breathless. Some days I feel myself softening and easing into a new routine. On the extra hard days, I work on being kind to myself. I hope you are, too.
David Kessler, a writer on grief, adds a final stage to grief: meaning. I recently brought groceries to an elderly neighbor. You can support local businesses by shopping online or buying gift cards. Help your favorite restaurants weather the lean times by ordering takeout. Keep in touch with family and friends.
I’ll see you on the other side.
Have you recovered from the holiday hustle and bustle yet? My brain is already up and running in this brand new decade, and I thought I would start the new year off with the Murmur Collection in a new satiny silver! Paired with 14k yellow gold ear wires, this pair of Murmur Pebble Earrings (L) are a showstopper at any Sunday brunch or family gathering.
Looking for a new way to express your personal style in the new year? Layer up on necklaces with the Murmur Pebble Necklaces (S) and Murmur Pebble Necklace (M)!
If you a take a closer look, you'll see that the edges of these Murmur Hoop Studs have been burnished to a shiny finish. This highlights the curve of the hoop, giving it that extra oomph. In my Oakland studio, we take pride in our meticulous handmade processes and attention to minute details.
Last but not least, we have the Murmur Oval Ring in the satiny silver. This statement ring is a miniature piece of sculpture for the hand and is a favorite of jewelry gallerists!
Can't wait to start holiday shopping? Join me at my alma mater's Holiday Fair this Saturday in Oakland!
In tandem with the annual Holiday Fair, we’re hosting a day of festivities celebrating our history, unique culture, and most importantly, our community. Enjoy food, music, open studios, and a 'drawing' zoo in addition to shopping handmade goods from alumni, student, faculty, and staff vendors.
And while we might not have a football team, we will have a lawn bowling tournament! Open to the public for free.
November 23rd, 11am - 3pm
California College of the Arts
Oakland, California 94618
(entrances located on Broadway and Clifton St.)
IDEO’s Wunderfaire is back for its 11th year! Join us at IDEO for a night on the pier celebrating local crafters, artists, and designers. Enjoy 50+ independent vendors, food trucks and live jazz piano from DJ Lebowitz.
Ticket registration via Eventbrite is REQUIRED for entry. Free tickets to the public are limited and first come, first serve.
December 5th, 4:30pm - 8pm
IDEO San Francisco
Pier 28 Annex, The Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA 94105
Celebrate independent contemporary craft and design and complete your holiday shopping at Style '19! Shop the highest quality of contemporary fashion, jewelry and home accessories all in one place.
Admission is free. Complimentary valet parking!
December 7th, 11am - 5pm
December 8th, 12pm - 5pm
Museum of Craft and Design
2569 3rd St.
San Francisco, CA 94107
The Murmur Collection is finally here! Made from hand-milled 24k gold foil and oxidized silver, the Murmur Collection draws inspiration from a night swim in the summer ocean.
The core of my practice is translating emotion into jewelry. The inspiration behind my jewelry collections come from singular moments I connect deeply with.
The Murmur Collection is centered on the narrative of a woman swimming solo in the ocean. The water is cold but not chilling on this summer’s night, and the waves cradle her. With each stroke, the swimmer can feel her muscles pumping - strength she has carefully built in her arms, her legs, her core. She is alone but fearless, and she has the confidence that men often take for granted and women are told they can’t have.
The Murmur Collection reflects the textures of the dark waves, with flecks of moonlight reflected in 24k gold highlights. The curved forms of the jewelry finds inspiration in the form of the swimmer, buoyed up by ocean waves.
This Sunday, join me at the Presidio for a Mother's Day Marketplace at 100 Montgomery Street. Pop into this gorgeous gallery to browse locally made gifts and the current exhibition, then walk outdoors to enjoy the weekly Presidio Picnic, complete with food trucks and music!
In recognition of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, all 25 vendors at the Mother's Day Marketplace will be local AAPI creatives. Try on gorgeous clothing Jamie Lau Designs, smell the soy candles from Lighten Up Shoppe, and nibble on some chocolate from Jade Chocolates. And of course, I'll be showcasing my jewelry there, too!
If you can't make it, no worries! Shop our Ready to Ship section for the perfect Mother's Day gift.
Date: May 5, 2019
Time: 12 - 3 pm
Location: 100 Montgomery St. in the Presidio, San Francisco, CA 94129
*Please note that this Montgomery Street is in the Presidio
This summer, I was awarded a "Get Ready" Grant from CERF+, which is a nonprofit that supports studio artists, making sure that the artists are as well-protected as the artwork they create. Their grants can be used to buy business insurance, storage for artwork, studio safety equipment, and more. I wrote a proposal in which I apply the grant toward two projects: a safety storage cabinet and a box that would envelop my belt sander.
Safety storage cabinets are lovely things for artists to have, but they're often low priority on the "to-do list." CERF+'s grant allowed me to purchase a storage cabinet for flammable liquids that meets OSHA Standard 1910.106 and NFPA Code 30 for safe storage and handling of flammable liquids.
What's the difference between this cabinet and any old cabinet? This double-walled, 18-gauge galvanized steel cabinet is powder coated a bright yellow, which means it's protected from rusting and it's easy to spot. Yellow is the color code for flammable liquids.
Over time, internal vapors from the flammable liquids may build up, but this cabinet will allow those vapors to escape, decreasing the likelihood of liquids inside from igniting. In the event of fire, the cabinet also protects its contents. Aerosols such as Krylon's Matte Finish or other flammable liquids need to be stored properly to protect everyone who uses the studio.
The cabinet comes with a small shelf, which is perfect for increasing storage surface area. I can't tell you how exciting it is to have a safe place to put my aerosols! I also have a nifty key to secure the chemicals if anyone with children visits.
The second project I tackled, with the help of the CERF+ grant, was building a box for my belt sander. As you probably know, I work with reclaimed or locally sourced acrylic end cuts and scrap, and this means plastic dust and fumes when I use the belt sander. For the past couple of years, I've been wearing a heavy duty respirator, an ear muff, and a face shield whenever I work with the belt sander.
You can imagine how heavy all that headgear gets after an hour or two! Before long, all the straps of the three pieces of headgear feel like they're cutting into my head, and the facepiece of the respirator isn't a perfect fit for my face. All the extra weight and distractions prevent me from working for long periods of time at the belt sander. I've also been using a dust and fume collector to filter out the plastic fumes, but since the belt sander isn't enveloped, the fumes aren't captured fully.
This is where the box comes in! There were multiple versions, sketches, and numerous calculations, and this was one of my final sketches of the box:
I ran into a few obstacles and missteps when building the box, so it's not 100% complete yet, but I'm so close! Here's a sneak peek of what it looks like so far.
All that's left is making the holes in the box for my arms, a hole for the hose of the dust and fume collector, and a hole for the belt sander's cord to go through. My plan is to drill many small holes in the outline of a circle, carefully remove the circle, then sand the edges of the hole smooth. Drilling through acrylic, especially at 1/4" thickness, can be tricky, but I'm eager to tackle this next challenge!
Thank you CERF+!
The holidays are traditionally a time of cheer and an exercise in the magnanimity of human spirit, but they can also be one long season of stress. But gift giving doesn't have to turn you into one big ball of resentment. Not sure what to get that one designer friend or artist family member? Looking for well crafted, thoughtful gifts? That's what this gift guide is for!
And to add that cherry on top, all items are handcrafted by local artists and makers who reside in the Bay Area!
Cup by Carole Neilson $34
With its smoky and earthen tones, this 16 oz cup is perfect for morning coffee on cold, winter mornings. Each porcelain cup is unique in form and color, with a matte texture that is soft to the touch. Carole Neilson studied ceramics at the Academy of Art in Mol in Belgium, allowing her to skillfully throw each cup on the potter's wheel and sculpt light but durable forms. Currently based in San Francisco, Carole originally hails from Alsace of Northern France, a region traditionally known for its rural pottery.
Vase by Melanie Abrantes Designs $110
Turned on a lathe and hand finished with mineral oil and beeswax, this buttery walnut vase takes modern craft to the next level. Simply put a sprig of leaves into the glass vial inside the vase to spruce up any room. Founder Melanie Abrantes strives to create eco-friendly and sustainable home goods that are equally beautiful and functional. This vase was turned from a solid piece of walnut hardwood, which means it's a handcrafted, heirloom object you'll want to hold onto!
Necklace by Olivia Shih $225
This black and gold necklace from the Raw Collection finds inspiration in concrete sidewalks and urban textures. Designed for the modern woman who speaks her mind and knows what she wants, this necklace speaks volumes, whether you're presenting a report at an all-hands meeting or wearing a slinky dress for night out with friends. Not sure if the necklace length is the right fit? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to order a custom length chain!
Wallet by ODSY workshop $60
This cleverly constructed wallet is inspired by San Francisco's Lombard Street, famous for its sharp turns on a steep hill. Made with English bridle leather from Pennsylvania, each wallet is hand stitched with waxed thread and contains three card slots and one pocket in the center. ODSY workshop, which takes its name from the word odyssey, was founded by husband and wife team, Soojin and Yina. The couple not only create unique leatherwork, but also repair shoes in their Outer Sunset workshop!
Ring by Olivia Shih $95
A favorite among all genders, this Raw Ring was first carved in wax then cast with molten metal. If small, shiny jewelry just isn't doing it for you, this ring definitely packs more oomph! Each ring is finished and polished in my studio, which means that every ring will look slightly different. This ring is also available in sterling silver and oxidized silver and can be custom made in vermeil or gold.
Mini bowl by Zena Segre $35
Still looking for the perfect ring dish? Keep your stacking rings safe in this white and periwinkle bowl, made by hand and with great care. Each bowl is made with porcelain, which is a strong and durable material. Since this bowl is food safe and dishwasher/microwave safe, you can also use it to brighten your meals with a dash of color! Artist Zena Segre studied at the California College of the Arts in Oakland, where she honed her eye for color and dedication to craftsmanship.
Dessert bowl by MMCLAY $38
This lovely cream colored dessert bowl is overflowing with wabi sabi qualities. The nuanced variations in the glaze will complement any dessert, from ice cream topped with strawberries to a fresh green salad! Made by artist and designer Mary Mar Keenan, this bowl has a textured bottom that's delightful to hold. If you think this bowl looks familiar, it's probably because many popular restaurants in California use MMCLAY tableware!
Clogs by Bryr $268
Bryr clogs are a dream come true for shorties like me! Made-to-order in the Dogpatch district, each clog is made with supple leathers sourced from US tanneries and European solid wood. Bryr believes in slow fashion and making things that last, so a pair of clogs will take at least a week to make. Isobel Schofield, founder of Bryr, worked 10 years in the fashion industry but quit her job as a design director to embark on a "creative walk-about."
Bookends by Hannah Beatrice Quinn $52
Made from scrap steel and architectural beams, these bookends are a design nerd's dream! Angle iron, square tubing, rectangular tubing, and I-beams are powder coated and lined with cork pads to prevent slippage. Reminiscent of grade-school letter practices or building blocks, these bookends also work as doorstops or mini sculptures. Hannah Beatrice Quinn, also an alum of the California College of the Arts, incorporates the idea of "play" into all of her work, transforming everyday objects into playful but functional art.
Now that we're at the end of the gift guide, have you decided on a gift yet? If you're having a hard time deciding, give yourself a few days to mull it over. Just don't forget, if you have your eye on a piece of jewelry by Olivia Shih, place an order by December 10th, so that your gift will arrive on time!