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Local artisans redefine Valentine gifting with unique handcrafted treasures in Queens

Courtesy of Gwen Meyerson

Feb. 12, 2024 By Tammy Scileppi

You can’t beat handcrafted when it comes to thoughtful gift-giving.

This Valentine’s Day and beyond, think heart-melting, one-of-a-kind finds for that special someone or for family and friends.

Hardworking local makers put a lot of heart and soul into their artisanal products and supporting these small Queens-based businesses — which include many that are women- and minority-owned — is a win-win for everyone.

Several entrepreneurs were eager to talk about their creations and share their stories with readers.

At the forefront of this creative wave is Talisa Almonte, an Astoria resident and founder of Almonte Studio LLC, who believes that Valentine’s Day is not just for couples but also a perfect occasion to express appreciation for the special people in our lives. Her studio, known for its digitally hand-drawn prints that range from everlasting flowers to practical notebooks and fun greeting cards, is setting a new standard for thoughtful gifting.

“Some of my favorite prints showcase flowers, which are often gifted for Valentine’s Day; but this way, you can gift flowers that won’t ever die. I also think notebooks are great gifts to plan the year ahead or write down little blessings you have throughout the year. And then to top off the whole package, you can get a fun card to show a little extra love,” she added.

Almonte’s colorful prints of everyday objects with a twist, are all hand-drawn digitally and either printed by the artist or locally printed in Long Island City. She also designs her own greeting cards, stickers, keychains and notebooks, which are ethically produced overseas. And check out her unique B*tch I’m Blooming Candle — a collaboration with another woman-owned company.

Support from the Queens Economic Development Corp. (QEDC) has been instrumental for Almonte and many others, offering them platforms to showcase their work and opportunities for grants. The QEDC aims to foster job creation and support small businesses, with a focus on empowering low-to-moderate income communities, women, minorities, and immigrants.

Born in the Dominican Republic, the artist grew up in Miami and moved to New York City to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology, to pursue fashion design.

“After working in the industry for over seven years, I was laid off during the pandemic and decided to pursue my first dream of being an artist. After my father’s passing, I rebranded myself as Almonte Studio, to honor his memory,” Almonte said, noting that she has worked as a full-time artist, illustrator, and muralist since establishing her business in March 2021.

Gwen Meyerson, another local artist, has found her niche on platforms like Etsy and Society6, selling original paintings and print reproductions from her Bayside home studio. Meyerson’s cityscapes capture the essence of New York, resonating with locals and those who have moved away but still long for a piece of the city.

Courtesy of Gwen Meyerson

“I believe that many locals connect with street depictions of their home city. Many people who left New York City are a bit homesick for their street, neighborhood, or a restaurant that I’ve depicted in my art. So, giving my buyers art they can connect with is a personal joy for me,” she shared.

Paige’s Candle Co., founded by Paige Graham, offers handmade soy wax candles crafted with vegan, phthalate-free ingredients. Graham’s business not only illuminates homes but also supports local communities by offering candle-making workshops to non-profit organizations. Originally from Ridgewood, Queens, Paige’s Candle Co. has expanded its operations to Woodhaven, Queens, and Greenpoint, Brooklyn, with the help of QEDC.

Photo by Matt Dutile

“While recognized as a Queens business, our primary manufacturing hub is situated in Greenpoint, where we handle the bulk of our production. Beyond candle manufacturing, we actively participate in local craft markets,” Graham noted.

“Thanks to QEDC, we stay informed about local opportunities to expand our business through direct customer sales and marketing initiatives,” she added.

Other Queens artisans, include: Salut with its botanical drink infusions, Camille Beckles‘ wheel-thrown ceramics, Filthy Mari Atelier‘s handcrafted jewelry, AJ the Awful‘s vintage-energy art and TREE*STAR‘s natural soaps. Each entrepreneur brings a unique offering to the table, providing plenty of inspiration for those looking to gift something special this Valentine’s Day.

From art and illustration to handmade candles and jewelry, these entrepreneurs are not just selling products; they are offering unique experiences, each with a story to tell. Their collective effort not only enriches the local artisan scene but also offers a meaningful way to celebrate love and community spirit this Valentine’s Day.

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