In search of a one-of-a-kind, handmade gift this Christmas that was not shipped straight out of a factory? Pop by a festive market where artisanal has become a buzzword to describe items sold at these quaint pop-ups.
There are no fewer than eight of such markets that have distinguished themselves as places to source for products designed or crafted by local and international artisans.
The festive market at the European-style Christmas Wonderland at Gardens by the Bay and Naiise Christmas Pop-Up return for their second editions this year. New entrants to the Yuletide shopping scene are the Christmas Market at Loewen by Dempsey Hill and Big N Breezy Vol. 2: Have A Lush X'mas! by retail store Megafash. Many of the markets also have fringe events such as music performances and workshops.
Located in unusual retail spaces such as a shophouse, furniture store and the National Design Centre, these markets peddle an eclectic range of items that are either bespoke, made in small batches or just come in one piece.
The items vary from market to market as some organisers prefer to keep it niche while others stock everything from beauty products to clothes to jewellery. Prices vary greatly, starting from $5 for a notebook to thousands of dollars for a piece of furniture.
Ms Sandra Macheroux, a co-organiser of the market at Loewen by Dempsey Hill, says that it is "the exclusivity of artisanal items that make them more desirable as a gift". Instead of your average home decor pieces or Christmas card with the standard snowman design, expect to find a wooden rocking elephant or 3D Christmas cards of Santa galloping through the sky with his reindeers.
Ms Cheryl Ong, the public relations and buying manager for multilabel retailer Naiise, adds that Singaporeans are becoming savvier customers who look beyond malls for their retail fix. "Perhaps due to retail fatigue, (they) are increasingly appreciative of well-designed products... and actively seek local products to support local designers," she adds. About 70 per cent of the brands at the Naiise pop-up are home-grown.
Crafters and designers are also cashing in on the Christmas shopping frenzy and signing up for booths at festive markets.
Mr Elvin Seah, the organiser for the monthly Market of Artists and Designers (Maad) at the Red Dot Design Museum Singapore, says that 120 vendors took part in yesterday's December edition. The average number is usually 80.
Perfume designer Faridah Yusuf, 31, of artisanal brand Freda 'D Parfum, is selling her range of perfumes at the festive market at Gardens by the Bay. She does not have her own shop space yet and sells her products at craft markets. Ms Faridah says: "Some are still cautious when they see local brands selling artisanal items, so it's important for me to pick markets like these that specially curate their line-up."
For lawyer Ann Tan, who is in her 50s, festive markets provide more options for quirkier, uncommon items. She stumbled onto the Naiise pop-up during her lunch break on a weekday and bought a T-shirt with a Hokkien expletive print for her sister who lives in Australia. She says: "I like that you can find something different and locally themed here. It's more meaningful versus getting a generic gift from a mall."
Christmas Wonderland festive market
What: The closest replica to the fairy-tale-esque Christmas markets in Europe, Christmas Wonderland at Gardens by the Bay is an all-round treat that will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy. At the heart of the yuletide extravaganza is the festive market made up of 19 traditional wooden huts from Britain that encircle the crown jewel, a 20.5m-high and 24m-wide stunning light structure called the Spalliera.
Shopping-wise, there is a diverse range of options including a Christmas scent by home-grown artisanal perfume brand Freda 'D, handmade 3D Christmas cards that look like mini works of art by local brand Paper Therapy, and handmade clocks by Street Culture that look like mini cabinets dressed with miniature items including traditional Chinese crockery and mahjong tiles.
Look out for dessert chef Janice Wong's pop-up store too, where her artful and scrumptious sweet treats are on sale.
When: Till Dec 27, 4 to 11pm daily
Where: Supertree Grove, Gardens by the Bay, 18 Marina Gardens Drive
Christmas Market at Loewen by Dempsey Hill
What: Make the trek up to the Christmas market within the newest lifestyle development, Loewen by Dempsey Hill, located adjacent to the Dempsey Hill enclave. This market features an extensive range of knick-knacks for adults and kids.
Keep a look out for Rocking Rhinos, which, instead of the usual rocking horses, sells handcrafted rocking elephants, rhinos and hippos. For chocolates, visit artisan chocolatier AnjaliChocolat for gingerbread spice truffles and candy cane bon bons.
While the adults shop, the kids can join one of the weekend workshops on face painting and balloon art. There will be a chocolate-making class too and talks by guest speakers including executive director and chief mixologist Ethan Leslie Leong of Maison Ikkoku bar.
Where: Block 71 Loewen Road
When: Till Dec 16, 10am to 5pm
Naiise's A Secret Christmas
What: Tucked away on the second floor of a shophouse in Telok Ayer is A Secret Christmas, Naiise's second addition of its annual Christmas pop-up.
With more than 300 independent designers under one roof that run the gamut from artisanal beauty products to furniture, this is also the ideal market for those looking for gifts with a local twist.
Get a prettily designed notebook with fun and inspirational phrases by stationery brand The Paper Bunny or Christmas-themed bath products by home-grown coconut oil-based skincare brand Katfood, such as the Holly Jolly Hand Salve.
After shopping, join a walking tour by architecture-focused tour organiser ArchiWalks around the neighbourhood and learn the stories behind certain buildings in the area.
Where: Level 2, 167/169 Telok Ayer Street (above Meatsmith)
When: Every Monday to Saturday till Dec 24, 11am to 7pm. A walking tour of the architecture of the buildings in that area will be on next Saturday at 3pm. Register online for the tours
Admission for tour: $21.70
Info: naiise.com/pages/a-secret- christmas
What: Keepers, the local design collective, has popped up at the National Design Centre and the 30 independent designers, artists and artisans featured were picked for their gift-appropriate merchandise.
The wide array of items on show makes for ideal gift options and shoppers will get to interact with the artists to find out more about the story behind each piece.
Look out for scented hand- poured candles by A Dose Of Something Good, artisanal crafted jewellery by Carrie K. and handmade gourmet nougats by 3 Bites Full. There will be photo and art exhibitions as well as tea-making workshops.
Where: National Design Centre, 111 Middle Road
When: Till Jan 10, 10am to 7pm
Winter at Booktique
What: For a quaint and cosy affair, head to indie bookstore Booktique's mini Christmas fair set up in its backroom featuring four home-grown artisanal craftsmen.
Get one-of-a-kind bags or pouches made from a mixture of fabrics and prints from PippiRabbit. Do your part for the environment and get upcycled products such as card holders, book covers or document folders from The Bunglin' Tinker.
Then there is mother-and-daughter team Cafe Without Coffee, responsible for creating adorable handmade sock dolls (left) of figures including the Merlion and artist Vincent Van Gogh.
Local indie duo Twigs & Vines will be performing contemporary Christmas hits and there will be a bookmark exchange too. To participate, go to the store's Facebook page for details. In keeping with the theme, the store will be extra chilly, so do take along a sweater.
Where: B1-17A CityLink Mall, 1 Raffles Link
When: Dec 12, 4 to 10.30pm
Info: www.facebook.com/Writer Booktique
Dream x Bloesem Stock Up! A Christmas Market
What: Buy designer furniture from Europe at marked down prices of up to 70 per cent, pick up Christmas decorations and presents and grab a bite at this one-stop destination.
The organisers teamed up with interior design and craft site Bloesem Blogs, and the market is spread across the first floor area of furniture store Dream's showroom. Of the more than 20 lifestyle and F&B offerings, there are a handful selling artisanal ware such as statement jewellery pieces from local brand Curious Creatures and handmade aromatherapy-based skincare from Mmerci Encore.
Quench your thirst afterwards with a bottle of unpasteurised and preservative-free almond milk, made by home-grown producer The Mlk Co.
Where: 456 River Valley Road
When: Today, 11am to 7pm
Big N Breezy Vol. 2: Have a Lush X'mas!
What: Just like its name suggests, this Christmas market organised by retailer Megafash is set to be a relaxed affair with 80 artisans and designers from Singapore, Jakarta and Bangkok.
This is one place to find unconventional and offbeat gifts including wood-framed sunnies from Netra from Jakarta, Singapore label Fabricq's handmade cork wallets and geometric-shaped wood rings from Gleamwood from Bangkok.
If you are game to play crafter for the day, join one of the many workshops. Activities include making dreamcatchers and working with Japanese clay art.
Where: Nobel Design House, 134 Joo Seng Road
When: Dec 19 and 20, 12 to 9pm
*Scape The Invasion
What: Though this is not a Christmas market per se, there are plenty of shopping options for quirky artisanal crafts at this festival, which also includes performances by more than 20 local music acts including Shigga Shay, Charlie Lim and Take Two.
Support the 28 young crafters and designers who include Tong Tiffen, who makes laptop sleeves and pouches with subtle oriental touches, and crocheter Ming-A-Ling with her colourful creations including a snowman and sushi. Some of the vendors will demonstrate how they make their products and there will be workshops too.
Where: *Scape Youth Plaza, The Ground Theatre and Gallery, 2 Orchard Link
When: Today, 2 to 10pm
Info: Register at www.scapers.sg/theinvasion
A version of this story was originally published in The Straits Times on December 5, 2015. For more stories like this, head to www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle.