2021 Readers Poll
2021 Critics Picks

courtesy of Psychic Outlaw

Best Not Your Grandmother's Quilt

Quilted jackets took over Instagram last fall, emblazoning multicolored Americana patchwork on cozy cold-weather silhouettes. Leading the charge locally is Psychic Outlaw, founded by Rebecca Wright, who began making her own clothes while working at Buffalo Exchange. Her Austin-based team of about a dozen sewing artists fashion bespoke chore coats from vintage blankets, accepting mail-in heirlooms as well as weekly “quilt drops” of their own supply. Distinctly Western and psychedelically styled, the brand also gained notoriety for dresses stitched from vintage bandannas. Cut, color, material, size – it’s all up to you.

Best Use of an Empty Beer Can

Recycling is cool and all, but what if your discarded beer can could become a home for a living, breathing succulent? Cans That Succ will make treasure out of your empty Blue Owl, Austin Beerworks, or Rambler cans. And if you thought upcycling cans was cool, they recently expanded into using candle jars, too. The business originated in El Paso in 2015 and eventually migrated to Austin in 2018. Don’t forget that they accept donations of cans, so hang on to those empties.

courtesy of cans that succ

courtesy of the Little Gay Shop

Best Store for When You Wanna Shop Everything Made by Queers

The name pretty much says it all, and how sweet it does sound: Housed in a one-room studio, co-owners and husbands Kirt Reynolds and Justin Galicz’s pop-up-turned-brick-and-mortar is the, and we mean the, spot if you’re in the mood to shop a fine selection of goods courtesy of the more artistically inclined friends of Dorothy. From rare and out-of-print LGBTQIA publications to queer- and trans-owned apparel, accessories, and other doodad (or should we say doo-zaddy?) purveyors, The Little Gay Shop stands as a rainbow beacon in Austin’s LGBTQmmunity.

The Little Gay Shop
1902 E. 12th

Best Monster Lovin' Loot

Do you dream of dragons? Do you sigh wistfully at the thought of werewolves? Do you find aliens alarming yet arousing? If you’re saying yes to any of these questions, Strange Bedfellas might have the tools to fit your fantasies. A small crew of local sex toy makers with big creativity, SB makes their fantasy sex toys from 100% platinum silicone and vibrant, body-safe mica for coloring. Order from a wide array of dildos, wand toppers, vibrator sleeves, and other monstrous creations that you’ll want to keep on top of your bed rather than under.

Strange Bedfellas

photo by Jana Birchum

photo by John Anderson

Best Array of Art Supplies in a Vegan Coffeehouse

You could visit this Eastside gem of coffee and creativity for the house-roasted java, for the delightful array of locally sourced and 100% vegan treats, or for some of the friendliest counterfolk in this whole burgeoning burg of ours. But you'll likely also be fascinated by the spread of art supplies and notebooks ready to jump-start your own DIY expressions here in this elegant space that's run with such a welcoming vibe by Amalia Litsa and Joshua Adrian. Not an artist yourself? Be an artist supporter by buying one of the prints or stickers from local talent featured around the shop.

Dear Diary Coffeehouse
1212 Chicon #103

Best Dead Flowers

Normally we wouldn’t recommend giving your mom something dead for Mother’s Day. Somehow, Second Bloom calls that recommendation into question. The floral company takes a careful approach to preserving flowers, using a desiccant preservation process that can take up to four weeks. Want to make art of those flowers from a special day? Second Bloom can help with that, too. For event specific flowers, they will help preserve and design them for display in shadow boxes or frames. They also take custom floral photographs.

courtesy of Second Bloom

courtesy of Frida Friday

Most Intersectional Marketplace

Not only does this intentionally intersectional creative marketplace center women and BIPOC artisans, but the collective proved to be an invaluable community resource during Winter Storm Uri. Founder and director TK Tunchez – a maker of gorgeous flower crowns, jewelry, and graphic design pieces – rallied the vendor team and their fans to provide no-questions-asked resources for folks in crisis. Frida Friday’s multicultural entrepreneurial space also spotlights local food and beverage businesses and DJs/musicians for events all over this weird city, and we’re pretty sure that Sra. Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón would be very proud of the art, and community work, indeed.

Best Place to Embrace the Sports-Card Craze

While many businesses have suffered during the pandemic, the market for buying and selling sports cards (and collectibles) has never been better, and the folks at CTOA are here to take your money. Whether you're looking for the hot new rookie sensation, an autographed jersey, or even some Pokémon to round out your collection, they've got what you need. The owners have been slinging cards out of their current location since 1995, so they're no Johnny-come-latelys.

Card Traders of Austin
8650 Spicewood Springs Rd. #128

courtesy of the Burlap Bag

Best Way to Blow the Stink Off Your Home

Real talk: We've all been spending a lot of time at home, stewing in our own juices, and the resultant odor has not always been the most enticing. Enter the Burlap Bag's addictive candles, which smell like the Platonic ideal of "homey" – warm, luxe scents like the yeasty Fresh Baked Bread, yuzu-forward Crazy Cat Lady, and tobacco-redolent King of Farts. Did we mention this mom-and-pop operation has a sense of humor, too?

Best Curbside Queer Lit Hookup

As we live through constant massive historical events, what better time is there than now to dig into the herstory available through BookWoman’s online catalog? The Austin independent bookstore staple keeps all the usual bestseller accoutrement, but stands out in its selection of marginalized authors. During these pan-Demi-Lovato days where curbside is queen, BookWoman provides a comprehensive and quick ordering system through their website with friendly email communication on when and how to pick up your new novel, cookbook, or collected diaries of transgender activist Lou Sullivan safely.

5501 N. Lamar #105

photo by Zeke Barbaro

courtesy of Spend Time Zine Mart

Best Art Book Supporters

Run by Clare Drummond and Marlon Hedrick, Spend Time debuted in a petite corner of a Clarksville home goods shop in 2019. The pandemic shuttered the brick-and-mortar, host to poetry readings and release parties. (Former storefront Open Invite now sells online.) Still, Spend Time has thrived digitally with participation in Printed Matter’s international Virtual Art Book Fair. Inviting first-time and seasoned zinesters alike, their reliable, limited-run curation wrangles zines, chapbooks, and comics by largely Texan creatives. With artist Eva Claycomb and Telepath Design, the shop also offers free risograph printing for BIPOC projects. Follow on Instagram @spendtimezinemart for classes and more.

Best Earth-Friendly Crafting

The local favorite relocated smack-dab in the middle of the COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020, but that wasn't gonna break their stride. They consistently provide thoughtful updates and fun virtual contests so creative Austinites can compete with eco-friendly iterations of gift wrap, planters, packaging, and more. ACR's entertaining tutorials teach how to reuse items to create kites, shopping bags, and games, and beyond providing the fabric we all need for our mask wardrobe, they always supply options for the ideas they're based on: Every object has impact; reuse creates awareness; communities are powerful; and action is advancement.

Austin Creative Reuse
2005 Wheless

photo by John Anderson

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