Online, "indie" goodies may be edgy and appealing, but the downside is that you can't get all touch-feely with them before you buy.
For the full-on sensory experience, it's worth checking out the burgeoning artisan market scene. This trendy way of shopping offers curated one-offs and small runs of unique art and design objects plus clothing, jewellery and cute-as-pie kids' gear.
Artisan markets often feature hints of retro and focus on re-purposing old into new, and a bonus is that you can chat to the designer-makers.
In the lead-up to Christmas, we highlight some of our top shopping spots.
* The Design Files Open House will bring Lucy Feagins's hip The Design Files blog to life.
It's a pop-up with a difference, staged not in a shop but in a genuine home. The residents of a Windsor house will decamp along with all their belongings and their home will be decked out top-to-toe with products by local artists and designers.
(Almost) everything, bar the kitchen sink, will be for sale: furniture, bed linen, artworks, ceramics and textiles.
November 29 to December 2, from 10am to 5pm. 27 Eastbourne Street, Windsor.
* Crop from Lightly is another pick of the bunch. Lightly is a design house specialising in nostalgic ornaments, rugs, lights and tableware. Items from 25 innovative Aussie designers will also be showcased in their showroom and warehouse. Think quirky necklaces, crumpled neon acrylic vessels and vintage plates upcycled into butterflies for wall-mounting.
November 30, from 10am to 7pm; December 1, from 10am to 6pm; December 2, from 10am to 5pm. 3 Glasshouse Road, Collingwood.
* The Big Design Market is truly a biggie, offering work from 160 independent creatives. "They are high- calibre designers who rarely stray from their studios," says director Simon Obarzanek. There will be feathered and beaded Pacific Island body adornments, silver cuffs and flat-pack timber "grandeliers".
To quell any hunger pangs, fave Melbourne eateries –Miss Chu, Earl Canteen – and 2brothers craft brewery will be on-deck inside with the Taco Truck and Beatbox Kitchen parked outside.
December 7, from 10am to 9pm; December 8 to 9, from 10am to 5pm. Royal Exhibition Building, Carlton Gardens.
* Magnolia Square has a more boutique feel, featuring the work of 80 designer-makers in a modern take on a traditional market square.
Since its advent seven years ago – by mum and designer Nic MacIsaac – it has developed a cult following. Not surprising, as this a visually alluring event, choc-full of predominantly girlie delights, a smattering of paper craft and cute, groovy, one-of-a-kind stuff for kids.
December 6, from 6pm to 10pm; December 7, from 10am to 9pm; December 8, from 10am to 4pm. Malvern Town Hall, corner of Glenferrie Road and High Street.
* Finders Keepers has gone from strength to strength since it was started by dynamic duo, fashion designer Sarah Thornton and jeweller Brooke Johnston in 2008, with just 18 designer-makers.
Now, there are more than 65 up-and-comers and it isn't easy to pass muster; the selection process is rigorous. "People have to convince us that their products will look amazing," Thornton says. Browse too-cool-for-school and eco-chic fashion, funky homewares and whimsical artworks while the live music rocks.
December 8, from 6pm to 10pm; December 9, from 10am to 5pm. Carriageworks, Eveleigh.
* National Trust Lindesay Christmas Gift Fair is billed as a "Fair to Remember".
While certainly memorable, it's not strictly artisan, yet it's worthy of a mention as it's a chance to check out the Trust's stately 1830s villa, Lindesay, while ticking off the seasonal shopping list.
The grand dining room will feature a spectacular Christmas table setting and there will be more than 8o stalls located in marquees and throughout various room, including the cellar, which will be devoted to gourmet treats.
Lunches and teas will be served under a big shady plane tree.
November 29 to 30, and December 1, from 10am to 4pm. Lindesay, Darling Point (enter via Lindesay Avenue).
* Manly's Fair Trade Christmas Market is an initiative of Manly Council with a real feel-good factor. Its treasure trove will include recycled paper and bead jewellery, Aboriginal handcrafts, quilts and hand-woven East Timorese fabric.
"Most of the 38 stallholders have a direct relationship with the producer, ensuring the best return for them," says the council's Fair Trade co-ordinator, Carol Layton. "Not only do you get to buy unusual gifts, you are also giving someone from a developing country a fair go."
There is all -day music, free face painting and kids' Christmas craft activities.
December 1, from 9am to 5pm. Manly Council, Forecourt.
* Canberra Handmade, which gathers together 189 local, regional and interestate designers, advocates for the handmade movement.
"Where else in Australia could you find a divine pair of hand-crafted, half-wedge heels covered in vintage kimono silk with matching nail polish and accessories?” asks creative director Julie Nicholls.
She says Handmade Canberra can proudly lay claim to discovering a new tourism demographic.
"Craft tourist/ kreft'tur'ist/ noun 1. Person who takes a tour for pleasure or culture requiring manual dexterity to carry lots of hand-crafted shopping."
December 8 to 9, from 10am to 4pm. National Convention Centre, 31 Constitution Avenue.
* BrisStyle Indie Twilight Market allows for ethical shopping among 100 stalls of local Queensland artisans.
"It's a lantern-lit celebration of soulful and stylish art, craft and design, all with a unique Queensland twist," says operations co-ordinator Belinda Harris.
Find everything from sculptural wall-hangings to crochet nanna bits'n'bobs and button headbands.
The body can be nourished too at the onsite café, restaurant or bar while kicking back to the sounds of jazz from leading Brissie musicians.
December 14, from 5pm to 9pm. King George Square.
* Unwrapped – The Marketplace; Christmas Unwrapped is a not-for-profit event aimed at providing an outlet for undiscovered Western Australian talent – including graduates fresh from design colleges – and yet-to-be-discovered brands.
"It's a bridge between the classroom and the marketplace, but equally, even established designers need to test new ideas before they begin the costly process of production and promotion," says founder and managing director Ebony Frost.
"To be included, designers must demonstrate their products are locally designed and produced in Australia; they need to be of high quality and unique."
Among the 60 stalls you'll discover fun earrings that look like macaroons, hand-illustrated babushka dolls and pretty clocks in the shape of deer.
December 9 and December 16, from noon to 5pm. Forrest Place, city.
The story Discover a very 'indie' Christmas at our best artisan markets first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.