It’s my pleasure to present to you this year’s official Skepchick and Mad Art Lab Gift Guide! There are a lot of wonderful sciencey and geeky gift items out there in the world and it’s our aim to bring you a sampling of the best and coolest and quirkiest. We strive to feature businesses that are ethical and we urge you to buy from makers and creators whenever you can. If you have a favorite artist or online merchant or brick-and-mortar or Etsy storefront, please do share with all of us in the comments! Happy holidays to all. Now let’s go shopping!
Doctors Without Borders
This has been my favorite humanitarian organization for years. They are top of my list because of the selfless work they do for all in need, regardless of borders or political or geographical affiliation. You might have read about them this year when one of their hospitals was destroyed airstrikes. Now more than ever they need our help. I know there are so many worthy causes in this world, but this is definitely one of them.
For nearly 100 years, Planned Parenthood delivers vital reproductive health care, sex education, and information to millions of women, men, and young people worldwide. Their approach is commonsense and comes from a place of respect for each individual’s right to make informed, independent decisions about health, sex, and family planning. They also have come under fire recently—tragically and quite literally. I believe their work is as vital now as it ever was.
Grounds and Hounds
I submit to you that these are two things we cannot do without: pups and joe. 100% fair trade and organic certified coffee, that is. Grounds and Hounds’ slogan is “every pound saves a hound”and uses a portion of their profit to support no-kill rescue organizations. Give the gift of excellent coffee… and give a dog a second chance at happiness and. Via Amy.
This is “the sweetest way to save a life” — 100% of the net profits are donated to animal rescue organizations. Rescue Chocolate’s mission is to provide delicious vegan treats AND get the word out about how many of the pet overpopulation issues are fixable. Ordering some Peanut Butter Pitbull or Mission Feral Fig or any of their mouth-watering flavors means a delighted giftee and another step forward for resuce.
Unseen Art Project
This organization enlists artists all over the world to recreate classical art paintings in 3D so that they may be touched and felt, both in exhibitions and in people’s homes. Creating equal access for art globally is Unseen Art Project’s goal. This is one of the most wonderful crowdfunding efforts and totally doable. Let’s help!
Clothing & Accessories
Rebecca Watson not only helms command central at Skepchick Prime, but she’s amassed a storefront of super-cool merchandise. Go for the Krampus gift wrap and gifts; stay for the great ladies-cut tees in science and skepticism themes.
Cyberoptix Tie Lab
These handprinted ties and scarves might look high-end, but stuffy they’re not. The fabrics are gorgeous, the designs are fresh, charming and witty and the selection is staggering.
It’s taken me a long time to find a phone case I truly loved. This company is wonderful. I know it might feel a little pricey but the cases are well-made, the company is responsive and the service is great. My favorite is the croc red Wallet Book Classic. I’ve had it almost a year and it is in superb shape. Cases for various phone and iPads.
Cool socks are hard to find. How about this for convenience: a sock-of-the-month club recommended by Mary.
Believe it or not, this is another cool sock-of-the-month club and it’s recommended by Jamie.
Minions Surgical Scrub Top and Brains Scrub Cap
Vicki Beam is Stitch and Stack. She makes scrub tops and caps in imaginative designs. My favorites in the groups are the Minions scrub design and the brains cap. Vicki started sewing surgical caps for military docs in Iraq and her caps caught on.
Multi-media artist, Surly Amy creates brilliant art you can wear… and now art you can color! The only problem will be deciding what to buy. Browse her handmade ceramic jewelry [sparklies!], hair clips, coloring posters and prints and fill your cart with tons of gifts!
Lumen Electronic Jewelry
Siblings Robin and Mart Lawson create solar powered LED jewelry by reimagining the humble circuit board. Robin is one of the newer Mad Art denizens and is the design diva at Lumen. Check out the newest designs: the chevron and the fox.
Mad Art Ryan has built an armoury of furiosa crests and earrings and Zelda buttons and, well, you just have to go see.
Sez Think Geek: “With a weathered-brass look on all the metal parts, this analog watch features a leather strap. The highlights of this design, however, are the two faux vacuum tubes with red LEDs inside that you can turn on and off with the flick of a switch. Everybody will want to ask you what time it is so they can see your watch. Just remember to follow the answer with, “… 1875.” Via Daniela.
If you love futuristic, sleek, timepieces with flair, then this is definitely a storefront you’ll want to see. These super-stylish watches were sourced by Mary B.
Artist and writer Michelle Banks is a longtime favorite here at the Lab. As Artologica, she makes fabulous sciencey paintings, prints, petri-dish ornaments and even scarves.
Frogmouth Design’s 3D Printed Lights
A range of colorful table lamps 3D printed by Bruce Bowden’s design group.
Planet Plates by The Unemployed Philosophers Guild
Fab tells us: “Eight 10” plates boast watercolor paintings of every planet in our solar system—everyone’s at this galactic get-together except for poor little Pluto, womp womp.” Indeed.
Pop Chart Lab Posters
From the Charted Cheese Wheel to Bicycles to Beer to A Stylistic Survey of Graphic Design, there are so many cool posters! We frequently feature Pop Chart Lab in our Quickies so naturally they belong in the Gift Guide.
This design group of groovy Canadians defies categorization since they design so many different things. All lovely and charming. Mugs, prints, throw pillows, iPhone cases, wall clocks. Wow! Via Beth.
Books & Music
Marian Call’s latest CD “Yippee Ki Yay” is a holiday album!
We adore Marian here at the Lab and if you’ve never heard of her, do yourself a favor and give her music a listen. In fact, if you ever have a chance to see her live, do it! according to her iste, this collection is “either a long Live EP or a short Live LP” and it features a few tunes from her Alaskan wintertime show, “Holiday Music for People who are Tired of Holiday Music.” These tunes span the most reverent and the most irreverent notes about the Christmas season.
The Illustrated Women in Science: Year One by Dale DeBakcsy
Mad Art Lab’s own Dale DeBakcsy offers the “now inspiring, now tragic tales of some of the greatest thinkers of the human story. Accompanying each biography is a comic strip celebrating the brilliance of these scientists and the absurdities that too often surrounded them. Now with 12% more Emmy Noether!”
I can’t say it better than the book’s blurb: “The fur flies in this irresistible third installment in the bestselling Shake series by popular pet photographer Carli Davidson, featuring adorable and hysterical color photographs of more than sixty cats caught mid-shake.” Via Mary.
Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook
Authors Moskowitz and Romero’s collection of 250 recipes makes it easier than ever to live vegan. The book includes menus with meals for all occasions and soy-free, gluten-free, and low-fat options with stunning color photos.
Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words by Randall Munroe
Randall Munroe of xkcd fame has released a new book that attempts to explain the complicated processes for us. “How do these things work? Where do they come from? What would life be like without them? And what would happen if we opened them up, heated them up, cooled them down, pointed them in a different direction, or pressed this button?” This is sure to be funny and smart and a coveted gift this holiday. You know you want this for yourself so you might as well order a few.
Patterns of the Universe: A Coloring Adventure in Math and Beauty
Bestselling author Alex Bellos and mathematical illustrator Edmund Harriss have created a book of 65 math-inspired illustrations from the Sri Yantra, an ancient Hindu mandala of nine entwined triangles, to a page full of Penrose tiles. The book includes 13 bonus activities at the back of the book that invite you to create your own designs. 8.3w x 8.4h x .4d Paperback
Toys & Crafts
Pirasta makes huge coloring posters, I mean BIG: 63” x 36”. There are four themes: The Big Apple, Let’s Color america, Food Fight and Funny Farm. The drawings are clever, whimsical and fun. This is a 2015 crafts finalist and Martha Stewart likes it and shut up I love her.
Woolbuddy makes sweet needle felting kits and awwww-inspring ornaments. The kits contain 2 Felting Needles, Felting Wool and Step-by-Step Instructions with photos.
From The Unemployed Philosophers Guild. Honestly, I can’t decide if these are adorable or disturbing or a little of both. This company makes a bunch of fabulous things but the Little Thinkers are the standout oddball gift. Sadly, Frida is out of stock at the moment but there is a dandy selection of other personalities.
Puppet Pie Shop – Eyes!
In the vendor’s own words: “They’re each 1” in diameter, so they’re small and unassuming enough that you can put them on a backpack or purse without being labeled a complete weirdo. Or, you can wear them on your collar and let everyone know just how much of a weirdo you are. Weirdo.” Via Charles, our puppet expert.
Evolve! The Game of Unnatural Selection
By Ryan Cansell
Build over 8,000 creatures to face diverse biomes and challenges. Fight, mate, hunt and evolve your way to victory! This is a build-your-own animal card game for 2-6 players based on scientific principles—perfect for gamers, families, and classrooms.
Dan Abramson has taken a unique approach to spreading his love for yoga: creating Yoga Joes. Each set includes 9 Joes in various yoga poses.
Gadgets & Tools
If you know a Wacom tablet user or are one yourself, the Apple Pencil is the closest a commercial digital tool has come to feel like drawing in a sketchbook.
3Doodler 3D Pen
Look, I can’t wrap my mind around how trippy awesome this thing is. It draws in 3D. Let me repeat. IT DRAWS IN 3D, PEOPLE.
The Authentic Sleep Sound Generator
This compact sound machine produces a soothing whooshing sound that helps block distracting noise. It creates a soothing atmosphere, ideal for a baby’s room and t its volume and frequency are adjustable. Plugs into AC. 3 1/2” H x 6 1/2” Diameter. Via Mary B.
Philips Hf3470 Wake-up Light, White
Wake up slowly with a gradual light that simulates dawn to provide a more pleasant experience. The light measures 9-9/10 inches high by 6-7/10 inches in diameter. It makes use of a replaceable 100-watt, 12-volt halogen lamp. Via Mary B.
BB-8 Desktop Lamp
For the Star Wars fanatic on your list, this BB-8 Desktop Lamp is officially-licensed “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” merchandise. It has three different lighting modes: natural white, amber, and warm white. Tap BB-8’s head to switch lighting modes or turn off. Touch and hold to dim/undim. And all of that will come second to the fact that this lamp is downright adorable. I actually bought this while writing this Guide and am hoping to become my nehhew’s favorite auntie this Christmas.
Zootility’s Pocket Monkey
Finally, a pocket tool that is actually convenient. It does 12 awesome functions. And it is even TSA-compliant. This is a great standalone gift and a super stocking stuffer.
Start a campfire with these compact kiln-dried logs that burn from the inside. the log as its own handle making it easy to transport, set up and light nad gives up to two hours of fire. Only non-toxic fire starters are used that will not flavor food. I gave this to my outdoorsy DIY brother-in-law and he loved it. LOVED it.
Lighted Snow Globe Wireless Speaker
Definitely for the teenager on your list, this lighted self-swirling globe speaker pulses to the beat of the music. Choose from three colors. The Bluetooth speaker has a rechargeable battery pack. Via Courtney.
Pajamas for Pitbulls
Hip designs in fleece for the fashionable pittie. A portion of the proceeds benefits shelters and rescues. Via Nicole.
Beadie Babies Pet Collars
These are gorgeous! These functional bead collars are made for both dogs and cats. Every collar is hand crafted and completely guaranteed. Although adorable on miniature breeds, finally a stylish collar that has a high tensile strength that makes it safe and suitable for giant breeds. Via Nicole.
Anna Mo’s Super Chunky Pet Beds
Anna Mo knits with giant needles to produce three-inch stitches that comprise her popular tiny pet beds. She also knits blankets and wraps, all at her Etsy store.
Vaiva and Indre’s felted Cat Caves
Lithuanian designers Vaiva and Indre fell in love with wool and have been using the material in their work ever since. Besides charming cat homes, they also make slippers, scarves, and cat toys.
The Pet Shop by Yellow Brick Home
Custom pet portraits and other animal prints. The artist is Kim who, along with her husband Scott, runs the lifestyle blog Yellow Brick Home. Kim and Scott are notable supporters of nonprofit animal rescues. Via Beth.
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Featured image is from The Merry Squidmas card set at Skeptical Robot.
Thank you for this list! I was having trouble finding something for my step-mom but she loves coffee and dogs…. so a Grounds & Hounds sampler it is!
Oh I’m so delighted, Nicole! And thanks to Amy and Courtney for having sourced that one. Everybody wins.