By Allen Foster

Philadelphia. To the average tourist, it’s all about the cheesesteaks, soft pretzels,  Mummers, Rocky, and the Liberty Bell. But those who live here know that there is so much more. Philadelphia has a thriving arts community. There is an amazing culture bristling with designers, crafters, and artists who all create incredible works that you can admire and/or wear. For instance, NINObrand, a local fashion company founded by the talented Bela Shehu, can now be ordered directly from your room when you are staying at the luxurious Kimpton Hotel Palomar. And that’s just one of the many examples of the passionate artists who live in this great city and create incredible one-of-a-kind items that enrich your life.

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On Saturday, Dec. 10, you will have the chance to peruse the splendor of the area’s finest creators at the 11th Annual South Philly Handmade Brigade. The shop local holiday party will take place at 1241 Carpenter Street in Philadelphia from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Gretchen Seel, designer and owner of Dahling Accessories, was available to speak with CBS about the event.

“The South Philly Handmade Brigade started out as just a handful of artists who were all in that building on Carpenter Street — it’s a studio building for artists,” Gretchen informed. “Originally, it was just those artists having friends and family come and buy their work around Christmas time. But now, it’s grown and now we have about 25 artists — some of the people are in the building and other people were hand-picked by a jury selection of artists. The main person who set this all up is Millie Crotty, who owns Miss Millie Ceramics.”

Miss Milly is a vintage inspired artist who has a porcelain line of functional wares, jewelry and sculptural ornaments. Gretchen’s line at Dahling Accessories is a collection of exquisite handcrafted handbags that are made from novelty leather and vintage upholstery fabric.

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“At South Philly Handmade Brigade, we have everything from ceramics to photography to home goods to clothing accessories,” Gretchen explained. “Volta Organics offers organic bath and body products, which are awesome. They have a store at 1439 East Passyunk Avenue. We also have jewelry and there’s Jessica Kourkounis, who is a professional photographer. Jessica takes portraits of people with a big cut out of the moon [“Portraits on the Moon”]. It’s really cool! She prints them out while people wait. It’s a really good gift idea. We’ll have a lot of unique gifts for friends and family for the holidays.”

Gretchen went to school for fashion design at Philadelphia University. She started her handbag company with her best friend from high school. The name is a tribute to one of her teachers who added “dahling” (pronounced “daaahling”) to the end of everyone’s name for dramatic flair. Over the years ,she climbed the ladder with jobs at Mitchell & Ness, QVC, Macy’s, and now Urban Outfitters. Gretchen took over Dahling Accessories a few years ago and currently runs it by herself.

“I like it for a creative outlet, it’s something fun to do where I can use my talents. And I like to sell stuff, too!” she enthused. “I don’t do very many shows anymore, but this one is near and dear to my heart because it’s fun, we’re all friends, and I love seeing the people who come through year after year because they just want to see what new items we have out.”

To recap, on Saturday, December 10 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., it’s the 11th Annual South Philly Handmade Brigade (1241 Carpenter Street). The event is not only a great way to purchase some beautiful, one-of-a-kind holiday gifts, but your money goes directly to support the local artists involved. It’s two gifts for the price of one. Happy shopping!

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Details: South Philly Handmade Brigade.