Guest Columns

STYLE MATTERS

Hidden Treasures at the Gift Shops of Denver’s Cultural Institutions

Contributing Columnist

(Sung to “Deck the Halls”)

Deck the stores with pre-wrapped presents, fa-la-la-la-la-la-la
Not much new from last year’s remnants, fa-la-la-la-la la la la la.
Hold your breath it’s more perfume, fa-la-la-la-la la la la la.
Ditch the malls for something new... fa-la-la-la-la la la la la.

Okay, I’m not a great lyricist, but I am a great shopper, and I know where to find the most novel and unusual gifts in town. Forget websites like Zappos, Amazon or Polyvore. Give Macy’s, Walmart and Kohl’s a rest this year. These stores are for everyday purchases like blue jeans and toaster ovens.

Entrance to the Denver Art Museum gift shop.
Photo by Marie Dennis/The Colorado Statesman

Style Matters has found several stores with unique products that also offer free shipping, just like on-line competition. You can carry out your purchases from these stores and deliver them to yourself at no charge! Plus the added incentive of supporting local businesses should give you reason enough to check out these gift shops.

Local designer Gabriel Conroy (he’s since moved on) makes these asymmetrical zippered long jackets out of sweatshirt fabric. Flattering fit in sizes S-XL and practical colors makes the $330 price tag not so out of sight.
Photo by Marie Dennis/The Colorado Statesman

Where are these emporiums of goodies: right in our own backyard at Denver’s museums and educational institutions. These modern day treasure troves have no connection to the tee shirts, pens, books and plastic souvenirs that used to inhabit museum gift shops. Nowadays, gift shops are filled with unique items that will surprise and thrill the people on your list. Best of all, most items are affordable and of top-notch quality.

The DAM boasts three gift shops, two are permanent and the third accompanies the “Becoming Van Gogh” exhibit. This pop-up store will close when the exhibit ends Jan. 20. Along with the typical memorabilia, such as Van Gogh bow ties, stationery, prints, martini shakers and mugs, are some unusual items.
Photo by Marie Dennis/The Colorado Statesman

Style Matters explored the gift shops at four Denver cultural hot spots. This column will cover the Denver Art Museum and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, The next column will look in at the Denver Botanic Gardens and Denver Zoo.

The museum store has a huge collection of jewelry designed by artists locally and from all over the world. Beaded accessories from Guatemala — bracelets and belts. ($9-$30)
Photo by Marie Dennis/The Colorado Statesman

Denver Art Museum

Hamilton Wing Gift Shop

The museum buyer must have a sardonic sense of humor as witnessed by key chains with ears attached.
Photo by Marie Dennis/The Colorado Statesman

Let’s start with the mother of all gift shops — The Denver Art Museum, a venue that has been in the public eye both here and around the world. Need Style Matters say more about the smash hits — the Yves Saint Laurent and Van Gogh exhibits? The museum contains three gift shops, the largest of which is located in the new Hamilton wing of the museum. This spacious boutique is akin to a mini Cherry Creek Arts Festival, only better because it doesn’t have all the expensive paintings, odd sculpture and indecipherable photos. Instead the shop is an amalgam of beautiful items, anyone of which you would be thrilled to receive as a holiday gift.

The museum has a huge collection of jewelry designed by artists locally and from all over the world.

Are you a fan of Van Gogh’s famous sunflowers? Why not wear them as rings! Gift shop sale associate Lin-Dsye Law shows off a fingerful of sunflower rings ($11.25), a perfect gift for a budding art lover.
Photo by Marie Dennis/The Colorado Statesman

Original Museum Gift Shop

The third gift shop is housed in the old wing of the DAM and carries more traditional merchandise. Here is where you can find mugs covered in Degas ballerinas, as well as assorted playing cards, post-it notes, and stationery all decorated with art reproductions. All are reasonably priced, most not exceeding $20.00.

This store’s inventory connects most closely with the museum’s exhibits. Cases are filled with Indian fetishes (carved animals with spiritual qualities) and jewelry featuring well-known Indian silversmiths like Tommy Singer Din’e. His eye-popping necklaces range in price from $40 to $600.

The impressive two-story wall o’ glass bowls wows store visitors.
Photo by Marie Dennis/The Colorado Statesman

Style Matter’s favorite: Clear ornaments with one Origami crane swinging inside. These are very unusual and at $12.50 make an adorable stocking stuffer. (Can you stuff ornaments or do they have to hang?)

Don’t miss the colorful Zulu bowls handmade in South Africa out of telephone wire ($22-$140). They are perfect displayed on a coffee table or use them for chips and crackers. A true conversation piece, especially when you remember that these bowls are composed completely of telephone wire.  If you don’t like color, check out the black and white series.
Photo by Marie Dennis/The Colorado Statesman
Style Matters went ga-ga over these adorable stand-up or mounted clocks made entirely of computer parts ($40). Each one is unique in color and design. Best of all, the artist, Carol Baum, is from Boulder.
Photo by Marie Dennis/The Colorado Statesman

Denver Museum of Nature and Science Gift Shop

Yes, the store has plastic dinosaurs, science kits, basketfuls of rocks, magnets and the like. But there is much, much more. Style Matters was interested in the new and the different. She stumbled upon that and the fair trade movement. Fair trade products come from developing countries whose farmers and crafts people are building sustainable businesses. (Get that tingle of pride knowing that the money you spend on day-to-day goods can improve an entire community’s day-to-day lives.) The fair trade imprimatur was proudly displayed on the majority of store products.


If you have a yen for silver, don’t miss the handmade silver jewelry ($100-$300) by Beit Nir. This gorgeous scooped chain necklace will flatter any neckline.
Photo by Marie Dennis/The Colorado Statesman

Museum visitor information:

Denver Art Museum
100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, Denver
www.denverartmuseum.org
(720) 865-5000
Hours: Monday: Closed
Tuesday–Thursday: 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Friday: 10 a.m.–8 p.m.
Saturday–Sunday: 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Shoppers can visit the gift shops without paying an entrance fee.

Denver Museum of Nature and Science
2001 Colorado Boulevard 
(303) 322-7009
www.dmns.org 
Hours: Open Daily 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Shoppers can visit the gift shop without paying an entrance fee.

Another local artist from Boulder, Julie Powell, creates beaded bracelets in intricate patterns — pricey, but these are works of art and no two are the same. ($390-$650)
Photo by Marie Dennis/The Colorado Statesman

Judie Schwartz, AKA Style Matters, is the co-author of two best-selling books on the best places to shop in Colorado. Called “A Fashion-Lover’s Guide to the Best Shopping in Denver and Beyond,” the books are available at stylematters.us. Schwartz presents image seminars to corporations on the importance of a business casual wardrobe and entertains conventioneers with talks on how to look great on a budget. She is also a wardrobe consultant. Schwartz has one husband, three children, no pets and small closets. She can be reached at:
stylematters1@gmail.com
www.stylematters.us
• Facebook: StyleMatters1
• Twitter: StyleMatters123

Store manager Susan Kirchoff models a colorful tote bag made from recycled Indian saris. These are lightweight, hold a bunch of stuff and match with everything. $37.
Photo by Marie Dennis/The Colorado Statesman
The day Style Matters was at the gift shop, the place was hopping with shoppers. When you see some of their merchandise, you will understand why. Ignore the dinosaur to your left. He was a bit testy that day as his credit card had expired.
Photo by Marie Dennis/The Colorado Statesman
Local jewelry designers, Rocky Mountain Leaf Company, find real Aspen leaves and coat them in silver, copper and 24K gold. They come in pendants and earrings.
Photo by Marie Dennis/The Colorado Statesman
Anyone can have a serving tray. But do they have one that shows the surfaces of the moon, Mars, the sun and the earth? Use them for holiday feasts. It’s one small step for man, one big bite for family members. $24 each.
Photo by Marie Dennis/The Colorado Statesman
Local jewelry designers, Rocky Mountain Leaf Company, find real Aspen leaves and coat them in silver, copper and 24K gold. They come in pendants and earrings. Confession Time: I bought a copper pendant. 
Photo by Marie Dennis/The Colorado Statesman
We started with a perusal of some beautiful Egyptian perfume holders. These glass beauties are perfect for the Egyptologist in your life. They are hand made, come in a variety of sizes and are accented in 24K gold. Place one of these on your dresser and voila — you’ll feel like Cleopatra. Prices range from $13-$32.
Photo by Marie Dennis/The Colorado Statesman
Made from eco-friendly paper, these decorative picture frames, boxes and journal diaries are inspired by Indian culture. No wonder, as these adorable items have been handcrafted by Indian artisans. ($12.99-$28.99)
Photo by Marie Dennis/The Colorado Statesman
These assorted hand-carved animal rings are too cute by far. At $7.99 a piece, get one for each finger.
Photo by Marie Dennis/The Colorado Statesman
Freshen up your tree with holiday decorations that are also rock ornaments. These slices of agate are so cool and will be the talk of your eggnog brunches. The ornaments come in a variety of colors at an insultingly low cost of $4.99 each.
Photo by Marie Dennis/The Colorado Statesman