Toronto has some hidden gems when it comes to finding the perfect holiday gift.
Local retailers can help tick items off your holiday gift shopping list, but if you are looking for something unique, you might just find something different in the gift shop of your favourite museum or art gallery.
Although museum gift shops offer up their fair share of classic souvenirs, they are also ideal for finding curated selections of unique gifts, including collections that are designed to complement current exhibitions, as well as, one-of-a-kind wares made by local artists. One of these is the Gardiner Museum, which specializes in clay and ceramic art. “We maintain a focus on Canadian-made items, particularly ceramics,” says Rachel Weiner, Senior Manager of Marketing. “This supports our local community of artists and gives our patrons the opportunity to discover rising local talents.”
Others museum shops share a more global story.
The Aga Khan Museum Shop is a treasure trove of one of a kind objects inspired by the collections at the Museum, says Shoheb Gwaduri, Curator of The Aga Khan Shop. “I took designs I created to 5th generation ceramicists who come from the mountainous regions of Turkey who will then paint and glaze those designs onto the quartz pottery, making them exclusive shop.”
From art, books, and ceramics to textiles, these gift shops are filling their shelves with eye-catching pieces that make them a great destination for gift shopping. Proceeds not only benefit the museum or gallery it also helps the artists whose creations are sold. Here are six under the radar shops Toronto shops.
While this shop is not a museum, it has gallery vibes. You’ll find the work of over 200 artists and designers at this curated, non-profit retail shop located on Queen Street West in Toronto. “The Craft Ontario Shop is an essential service for craft artists through promotion, education and sales — as a non-profit organization, Craft Ontario works to ensure an ongoing presence and stability for the contemporary craft community,” says Janna Hiemstra, Executive Director of Craft Ontario, a member-based organization, that works to champion craft by connecting audiences and growing artist careers. Shoppers will find all Canadian-work including ceramic and glass, houseware, sculptures, jewellery, textiles and more from artists who apply to participate in their retail program. The organization offers educational programs, workshops and services to its members across Ontario providing support, advocacy and promotion of Ontario craft. . “We want to make sure that craft artists at any level of their career or expertise are able to be supported and to grow their careers.”
Just steps away from City Hall, sits Canada’s only museum dedicated solely to textile arts. The museum showcases a permanent collection of textiles and artifacts spanning nearly 2000 years and hosts rotating exhibitions that draw from the work of contemporary artists. The museum shop sells new design and traditional craft from around the world including home décor, toys, fashion accessories, book and craft kits. They also stock a good selection of fair trade products. “On top of supporting the Museum’s exhibitions and programming many of our fair-trade and artisan items support communities around the world.”
The Gardiner Museum, a hub for clay and ceramic Art in Toronto, is known internationally for its collection of objects including European porcelain, ceramics from the Ancient Americas, Chinese and Japanese porcelain as well as modern and contemporary ceramics.
The shop sells unique handcrafted ceramics, jewelry and textiles from local established and emerging artists as well as special exhibits and collections inspired by its current exhibitions such as Savour: Food Culture in the Age of Enlightenment. “It’s an exhibit that invites visitors on a journey through the kitchen gardens of Versailles to the dining rooms of gourmands who relished meals served on newly invented tableware,” says Weiner. Every December the shop presents a special holiday retail exhibition featuring Canadian-made ceramics, glass, wood, and jewelry, says Weiner. Shoppers can find a curated selection focused on Canadian-made items such as ceramics by Ontario artists Kayo O’Young and Julie Moon.
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The Aga Khan Museum is the first museum in North America dedicated to the arts of Islamic civilizations. “It’s a destination for those looking for gifts that inspire the mind, excite the heart and capture the spirit of the diversity of the rich material culture on display at the museum,” says Gwaduri. “Throughout my travels, I have met with multigenerational families working on their craft, spending decades perfecting their artisanal works. From the ceramic makers in Izmir to the mother of pearl inlay wood makers in Cairo, each of these artisans produces works of art that exemplify unique craftsmanship, taking inspiration from their surroundings and the rich heritage of their communities.”
Along with featuring contemporary art works, The Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto Canada (MOCA) also provides community space for events and learning. The heritage building is home to a café run by Forno Cultura and a shop run by Art Metropole, an artist-run centre which sells artists books, zines, photography books, and prints. “For those who love art and looking for a unique gift, it is definitely the spot to go to. It is within the museum, so a trip there is also great destination for learning, inspiration, creativity in addition to shopping,” says Danielle Lim, Marketing Manager, MOCA.
The AGO Gift Shop is full of art prints, books and objects related to its permanent art collection and special exhibitions but there’s also a good selection of housewares, jewelry and artsy gifts, including many from local artists and artisans.
ShopAGO will feature a number of products made by local designers and Canadian artisans this holiday season including a collection of handbags, scarves and totes featuring iconic Canadian masterpiece Lake and Mountains by Lawren S. Harris; a series of Namwayut recycled glass serving platters and utensils by Corrine Hunt, an indigenous artist working out of Vancouver, B.C. as well as, a Canadiana curling series from Montreal based designers Main and Local.