Artist Carol Simmons didn't plan to open a business last summer, but her middle daughter, Lisa, surprised her with a newly leased Downing Street duplex and said, "You see that? It's yours." So Simmons commenced to sculpting out a charming studio with yellow walls, a wealth of handmade items, and a smattering of antiques, soaps, candles, cards and the like. This spring, gardeners will find plenty of outdoor decorations at Sunflower, including recycled-metal sculptures, unique reflective garden spheres, stepping stones, hand-painted flowerpots and sweet wooden garden angels. Indoorsy types can choose from striking handmade ceramics in intricate black-and-white patterns, colorful shaman pins, painted gourds and fabric dolls. For artsy folks, Simmons recently opened a new fiber room dedicated expressly to hand-spun, hand-dyed and hand-painted fibers. All in a day's work.


There will be no surreptitious stuffing of the pockets with spare change when you tour the Denver Mint -- security is mighty tight. But you don't have to leave empty-handed, either. In fact, the gift shop at the Mint offers a fabulous selection of souvenirs, everything from the expected first-day-issue and collectors' coins to sweatshirts, hats, tote bags, water bottles and, in honor of the 200th anniversary of their expedition, lots of Lewis and Clark commemoratives. At the Mint, you not only get to watch money appear -- you get to watch it disappear into gift-shop cash registers.


Barring a miracle, the sweet chariot is bound to swing low sooner rather than later for Pope John Paul II. For those who want to get some mementos of the long-reigning prelate, the Catholic Store is the place to make a pilgrimage. T-shirts commemorating the pontiff's 1993 swing through Denver can be had for a prayer, and there are plenty of other items to ensure that the holy man is remembered for a long, long time. Maybe for eternity.
It's Valentine's Day year-round at Charli Warren's charming Ogden Street boutique, which has the feel of a lady's boudoir -- one that reveals an intimate secret with every step. There's a lacy prom dress, an eclectic mélange of flower brooches, Queen bath products, organza evening bags, beaded votives, sparkly hair clips, lilac incense and chunky pink-pearl chokers. In the back, the glass case is filled with beautiful baubles, from lovely costume-jewelry rings to rhinestone cowboy-boot flasks. Parting is such sweet sorrow.
Where's a Humvee-drivin', all-night-partyin', martini-swillin' guy supposed to carry his credit cards? A Ducti wallet, of course. For the past few years, Aurora denizens Dave and Joy Pippenger and buddy Wade Morrison have been making duct tape wallets, watches and handbags that have been turning up on the most stylish arms. But are they tough? You'd better believe it. As millions will attest, there's nothing more indestructible on the planet than duct tape. It's a beautiful thing.
Tommy Rhine may grumble when you hand him the little pink sandal with the broken strap. He may even give you a lecture about wearing such silly shoes. But the man can glue a heel back onto a stiletto and make it look like was never broken while you were idiotically trying to run on the four-inch stilt. Rhine's has been around for almost a decade, but it looks like it's been there forever. Old newspapers collage the walls, and men smoke stogies and read Playboy while Rhine shines their shoes. A polish will set you back $5, while the strap comes in at a whopping $6.


Shopkeeper Joy Barrett really knows her beads. She stocks a glorious selection of Czech glass beads in a rainbow of sizzling colors and unusual shapes. Whatever the project, be it a complicated masterpiece or a single pottery shard hung on an organdy ribbon, Barrett will have what it takes to make it. But even if you have two left thumbs, there's plenty of finished beadwork to choose from, including Barrett's own gorgeous necklaces. Bead there, or be square.


Located in the carriage house of a magnificent 1882 bed-and-breakfast in Golden, the Silk Pincushion is not your typical sewing shop. But it's not exactly a modern-age stitch-and-bitch, either. The store is like an overflowing sewing basket of vintage lace, specialty and quilting fabrics, ribbons and trims, and state-of-the-art sewing machines. The owners, who prefer to be called simply Judy and Patty, host sewing, quilting and knitting classes, as well as overnight sewing retreats. Here, wishful thinkers can hone such old-fashioned skills as smocking, appliqué, embroidery and heirloom stitchery over homey tea and pumpkin bread, then plop into a beautiful bedroom to sleep. And while you're sewing away, Judy and Patty will see to your every needle. Just be sure to call ahead: The Silk Pincushion is open by appointment only.


Occasionally, the need to craft with leather arises. When it does, it's best to head over to Jerry's Leather Goods to get your fix. While the front of the shop is a Harley-lover's heaven, brimming with custom chaps and vests, the back is a sifter's paradise. There are hundreds upon hundreds of leather remnants piled on the tables like snowdrifts, waiting to become bootjacks or pieced skirts or pouches. Lining the walls are the more exotic -- and organized -- leathers that are sold in larger pieces. No matter what you need, they're likely to have it -- and be willing to deal.


Clay Hathaway is a one-man show. As the owner and sole employee of Lonesome Ace Boot Company, he sizes, cuts, stitches, inlays, embroiders and shapes every one of the custom cowboy boots he crafts. And he's got more than a few masterpieces. Hathaway's created a pair of orange boots for a bartender at the Skylark Lounge, a tiki-themed set for a hotrod builder and a teal-and-calfskin duo for a Clear Channel executive. At an average of $1,000 a pair (more for exotic leathers), Hathaway's handiwork doesn't come cheap, but personality and quality rarely does. Boots off to the Lonesome Ace.


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