Some of the magic is lost when you’re flipping through racks to find the perfect Halloween costume and Elvis’ “Blue Christmas” starts playing on the store’s speakers. Christmas is bigger and earlier every year, and the pressure to spend can be overwhelming. But there is a remedy. Avoid the Thanksgiving “door-buster” sales this year and put money directly into our community by shopping local with neighborhood retailers. We take that idea a step further and offer these ideas for gifts that are so Oak Cliff that they’re handmade by our own neighbors, right here in our neighborhood.
The Fluffy Diamond
KC Madeley started producing romantic and whimsical jewelry boxes in her mom’s garage about 10 years ago. Since then, she has moved to Oak Cliff, and her workspace dwindled.
So Madeley recently leased a space at Make and Made. Her specialty is turning found items into beautiful things. Sometimes she reuses old wooden jewelry boxes that she finds in thrift stores or garage sales. But any wooden box will do, including some she’s found in the trash. She sands them, dresses them up with acrylic paints and then decoupages images of flowers or Degas ballerinas, for example. She seals the whole thing before affixing wooden feet, beads, crystals and other notions for detail.
“I make it however you want,” she says.
Sometimes clients bring her trinkets, such as a grandmother’s costume jewelry, that have sentimental meaning but are not useful or valuable. Madeley can use them to adorn the boxes so that the keepsakes are on display in a stylish way.
“No two are ever alike,” she says. “They’re all unique.”
Madeley also creates tree ornaments from sanded wooden blocks. She hangs the blocks with twisted wire and dangles beads and crystals from the bottom. Those, too, can be customized with family photos, greeting cards, wrapping paper and other paper keepsakes, which she glues to the blocks.
Madeley started making jewelry over 20 years ago, and she sold her creations in a couple of boutiques in Dallas. But now she is all about found objects.
Recently she rescued a pair of old wooden twin beds on the side of the road. Now that she has space at Make and Made, she is planning to give them new life.
“I’m a trash collector,” she says. “I just love it when I find something that inspires me.”
Find the Fluffy Diamond at the Make and Made “sip and shop” Dec. 12, or contact Madeley directly to visit her studio.
Luna and the Cowboy
Gift idea: Leather totes, handbags, wallets and cuffsPrice range: $25-$175
Where to find it: lunaandthecowboy.com
The work studio in Lesa Morris’ 1927 cottage off South Hampton holds more than just leather tools and cowhides.
It’s a former back bedroom of this old house; it has terrific southern light, and it once was her dad’s bedroom. The adjacent room, where she now sleeps, was her mamaw and papaw’s.
After decades following her career as a hairstylist to Austin, New York City and northern California, where she had lived for 17 years until this past June, Morris has returned to her roots. She grew up in Houston with her mom and stepdad, but she spent every summer and Christmas break here in Oak Cliff, in this house.
“Oak Cliff is in my cellular memory,” she says. “When I’m driving around, I know where I’m going instinctively.”
Morris’ business selling handmade leather items was inspired by her dad, who struggled with addiction his whole life and died four years ago at 68.
Her dad, Donnie Morris, was born and raised in Oak Cliff, and he was a cobbler by trade. In the 1970s, he and his wife used to buy second-hand jeans, rip them apart and remake them into dresses and jackets.
“They upcycled before that was a thing,” Morris says. “That always inspired me.”
So on the one-year anniversary of her dad’s death, Morris lit a candle and pulled out her leather-working tools. Inspired by her dad, who rode motorcycles, she crafted a feminine version of a biker’s wallet.
“I thought, ‘Dang, that’s pretty cool. I could sell that,’ ” she recalls.
Over the next few years, she created more — clutches, totes, laptop cases, cuffs. She uses cowhides that she buys new, but she also “upcycles” thrifted leather skirts and belts, which she uses as mix-and-match purse straps. A friend hosted Morris’ first trunk show at a pilates studio in Carmel, Calif., on Dec. 5, 2012. Coincidentally, it was also the anniversary of Donnie Morris’ death.
Luna and the Cowboy are Leza and her dad. Luna is an old nickname of hers, and her dad was known as “Cowboy” while living on the streets of Austin because of his western hat and duster.
“I always wanted to go into business with my dad, and now he’s my silent partner,” she says.
Find Luna and the Cowboy at Jingle Bells on Bishop Dec. 7 and at the “sip and shop” event at Make and Made, 409 N. Zang, Dec. 12.
Jesse Stout Bartlett
Sew Jesse and Little Jesse
Gift idea: Pillows, aprons and children’s clothing
Price range: $35-$65
Where to find it: sewjesse.com
Jesse Stout Bartlett combines her two passions at Oil and Cotton. The professional seamstress was a public-school teacher for seven years. And at the studio, she teaches teenagers how to sew.
The students in her class are making one-of-a-kind aprons from reused vintage clothing. At the end of the class, the students offer the aprons for sale at Oil and Cotton; the student receives a profit, and a percentage goes toward Oil and Cotton scholarships.
Bartlett gave up her job about four years ago to pursue sewing full time. Now she spends her days at the machine, crafting pillows, window treatments and bedding for interior-design clients.
This month, she is offering a line of black-and-white throw pillows that are inspired by modern architecture, at Oil and Cotton.
“I just love the lines,” she says.
As SewJesse, she offers home goods as well as private sewing lessons.
But she also finds time to produce children’s clothing for a second business, Little Jesse.
All the children’s clothing is made from vintage textiles — quilts, tablecloths, old clothes and anything else she can find that’s appealing.
“I love making children’s clothing,” she says.
Bartlett is a highly skilled seamstress, but she is not a clothing designer. Most patterns that can be purchased stipulate that the clothes produced from them should not be used for profit. So Bartlett uses open-source patterns, which she finds on the Internet. She mostly makes tops, skirts and pants for boys and girls, sizes 2T-5T.
Bartlett’s mom taught her how to sew when she was about 14, when she made a satin cape for her nephew’s Halloween costume.
“I was hooked,” she says.
She never stopped sewing, often creating things as gifts for friends and family.
Bartlett grew up on a farm in Midlothian, and she and her husband, Bo, moved to Wynnewood North, where they have two dogs and some “really spoiled hens,” about four years ago.
Find SewJesse and Little Jesse at Oil and Cotton, 837 W. Seventh.
f. is for Frank
This jewelry maker, whose co-owner Shoshannah Frank lives in Oak Cliff, also offers cast pewter ornaments shaped like dinosaurs, robots and birds, among other designs. Texas-shaped ornaments can be customized.
Oak Cliff T-shirts
412 N. Bishop, 214.946.4411,
Lisa Walter of Freelisa Designs created a line of T-shirts for Epiphany that depict iconic Oak Cliff landmarks, including Aunt Stelle’s sno-cone stand and the bygone Alamo Plaza Hotel Courts.
Ray’s Sporting Goods T-shirt
Ray’s Sporting Goods
730 Singleton, 214.747.7916,
Ray’s started as a hardware store in 1949. The store still sells hardware, along with firearms, ammo and hunting supplies. Inside the windowless building, find the stuffed head of a buffalo and outdoorsy guys hanging out by the rifles. Don’t forget to pick up a “Follow me across the bridge to Ray’s” bumper sticker as a stocking stuffer.
Beer-can plant from Mulcahy Farms
Bolsa Mercado and Urban Acres
Cynthia Mulcahy, who also runs a farm in Paluxy, Texas, grows organic cacti, succulents, sedums and herbs in her Oak Cliff backyard. She plants them in cut beer cans, coffee cans and any other reusable container she can find. They make unique secret-Santa or hostess gifts.
House of MacGregor
614 W. Davis, 214.942.1966,
Hat designer Cassie MacGregor of Oak Cliff also makes one-of-a-kind bowties. Clients can choose the fabrics, and the ties can be made reversible, so it’s like two accessories in one.
Zoli’s NY Pizza
202 W. Davis, 214.942.9654,
Buy a buddy a slice, and they will chalk it up on the board for your buddy to eat when he or she wants (within 30 days).
408 W. Jefferson, 214.943.3993,
There are so many places to buy tamales in Oak Cliff, including, perhaps, a neighbor lady who comes to your door around this time every year. Most people have their favorites. We like El Padrino, which offers chicken with green tomatillo sauce, cheese with roasted chile, bean and cheese and pork in red chile.