Artisan is How We Do It: Gift Giving in Portland

Portlanders love anything “artisan.” In a recent episode of The Simpson’s – where Homer tries to be more like his new neighbors from Portland – Homer tries to incorporate the word into a sentence. The comedy spoke the truth – Portlanders’ love of hand-crafted treasures is most evident during the holidays, where Portland Saturday Market stays open the entire week before Christmas for “Festival of the Last Minute” (the motto of the event is “Procrastinators Rejoice!”). In the Portland’s downtown core, Pop-Up Shops, an innovative program curated by the Downtown Marketing Initiative ( provide plenty of locally-created surprises to tuck under the tree.

Pop-Up Shops are seasonal stores in downtown Portland filled with handmade treasures. It’s a clever way of filling vacant businesses, and at the same time providing ready access to locally-designed goods. Pop-Up Shops also make downtown Portland more festive!


Wolf’s Apothecary/Enchanted Alpaca (902 SW Morrison St.), is a dual-use Pop-Up Shop offering local health and beauty products and modern home goods on one side, and comfortable, breathable alpaca garments for men, women, children and babies on the other side. Live alpacas are available for petting outside each weekend!

Emit (535 SW 6th Ave.) is a Pop-Up featuring unique women’s apparel created with layered cut-out performance fabrics. These sharp looks will help you to feel confident and sassy!  

Boys’ Fort (614 SW 11th Ave.) is a delightful collection of custom-built furniture, reclaimed lighting fixtures and men’s bags, wallets and jewelry.

Over at Portland Saturday Market, booths remain open the entire week before Christmas for “Festival of The Last Minute.” This market, the largest arts and crafts market in continuous operation in the United States, is the jackpot of locally-made artisan treasures. A Country Place offers Bonsai and Folk art. The Artifactory booth features three-dimensional puzzles, and custom furniture by commission. DirtyFace Soap Company has the best (vegan!) swirly soaps anywhere. Warning: super fun to play with! Roving entertainment at the Market during Festival of the Last Minute includes the Dickens Carolers, Sugarplum Elves, and the Candy Tree Man! If you are visiting the Market during your next trip to Portland, it is at the Skidmore Fountain MAX Train Stop (also near Voodoo Doughnut.


Merlin Varaday Written by:

Merlin Varaday was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, raised in Ashland, Oregon – home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival – and has spent the last ten years in infamous “keep it weird” Portland, Oregon. With a B.A. in Tourism Marketing from Portland State University, Merlin’s day job is to answer questions for visitors to Portland and tell them about everything awesome in the grey-skied City of Bridges. Additionally, Merlin has contributed to the writing, editing, and layout of the Old Town Chinatown Crier ( Currently working on a blog about Living the Good Life on the Cheap in Portland (web location to be announced shortly), Merlin’s immediate plans are to stay in her hometown and write about all that the quirky metro has to offer. Which is a lot: leading developments in sustainability, an award-winning transit system, eccentric annual traditions like the Santacon, and culinary anomalies such as Voodoo Doughnuts. Because of this, Merlin considers herself a “stay-put writer” (as apposed to a travel writer). “Maybe sometime soon I’ll get to travel some place fantastic,” she says, “and then I will be a travel writer. For now, Portland offers a tremendous amount of material.”