February 12, 2024 By Tammy Scileppi
You can’t beat handmade when it comes to thoughtful gift giving.
This Valentine’s Day and beyond, think of wonderful, unique finds for that special someone or for family and friends.
Hard-working local makers put a lot of heart and soul into their handcrafted products, and supporting these Queens-based small businesses—which include many that are owned by women and minorities—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 special people in our life. Her studio, known for her digitally hand-drawn prints ranging from timeless florals to practical notebooks and fun greeting cards, is setting a new standard for thoughtful gifts.
“Some of my favorite prints feature flowers, which are often given as Valentine’s Day gifts; but this way, you can give flowers that will never die. I also think notebooks are great gifts for planning the coming year or writing down the little blessings you have throughout the year. And then to complete 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 digitally drawn and either printed by the artist or printed locally 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 essential for Almonte and many others, providing them with platforms to showcase their work and grant opportunities. QEDC aims to foster job creation and support small businesses, with a focus on empowering low- to moderate-income, women, minority and immigrant communities.
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 follow my first dream of being an artist. After my father’s death, I rebranded as Studio Almonte, to honor his memory,” said Almonte, noting that she has worked as an artist, illustrator and muralist full-time since founding her business in March 2021.
Gwen Meyerson, another local artist, has found her niche on platforms like Etsy and Society6, selling original paintings and printed reproductions from her Bayside studio. Meyerson’s cityscapes capture the essence of New York, resonating with locals and those who have left but still yearn for a part of the city.
“I believe that many locals relate to the descriptions of the streets of their city. Many people who left New York City are a little cursed about their street, neighborhood, or restaurant that I have depicted in my art. So giving my buyers art they can relate to is a personal joy for me,” she said.
Paige’s Candle Co., founded by Paige Graham, offers handmade soy wax candles created with vegan, phthalate-free ingredients. Graham’s business not only lights up homes, but also supports local communities by offering candle-making workshops for non-profit organizations. Hailing from Ridgewood, Queens, Paige’s Candle Co. has expanded its operations to Woodhaven, Queens, and Greenpoint, Brooklyn, with the help of QEDC.
“While we are known as a Queens business, our main manufacturing center is located in Greenpoint, where we handle most of our production. Beyond candle making, we actively participate in local craft markets,” noted Graham.
“Thanks to QEDC, we stay informed of local opportunities to expand our business through direct customer sales and marketing initiatives,” she added.
Other Queens artisans include: Salute with its botanical infusions, Camille Beckles’ wheel-thrown pottery, Filthy Mari Atelier’s handmade jewelry, AJ the Awful’s vintage-energetic art, and TREE*STAR’s natural soaps . Each entrepreneur brings a unique offering to the table, providing plenty of inspiration for those looking to give something special this Valentine’s Day.
From art and illustration to handmade candles and jewelry, these entrepreneurs aren’t just selling products; they are offering unique experiences, each with a story to tell. Their collective effort not only enriches the local craft scene, but also provides a meaningful way to celebrate love and community spirit this Valentine’s Day.