By Noelle Khalila Nicolls
November 04, 2014
Courtesy of Craft Cottage

In a popular tourist destination like The Bahamas, it is certainly possible to find the generic made-in-China junk that is typical of every Caribbean tourist market from Trinidad to Bermuda. Don’t waste your money on such cheap trinkets; instead, support local artisans who make handmade souvenirs. The Bahamas is known for its master straw weavers. Some of the most popular straw items you can buy are totes lined with custom fabric and shell-encrusted straw handbags. Although the labor-intensive art form isn’t practiced much anymore by young artisans, it is still one of the foremost expressions of Bahamian culture and craftsmanship.

My hands-down favorite shopping boutique—Craft Cottage—stocks not only finely crafted straw bags, but other beautiful goods as well: elegant statement accessories made with native shells, beads and precious stones; painted-driftwood wall signs with quirky island sayings; candle holders made with pressed native flowers; and much more.

Craft Cottage

The scent that greets you when you enter this brightly painted Nassau boutique is “cosmic mist;” it’s the name of a locally made petunia, sandalwood and frankincense bath soap available here. The energy here is bubbly (thanks to the shop’s proprietors) and the color is lively. Expect to spend lots of money, not because the items here are expensive; you will just want everything. 

Androsia (multiple locations)

Androsia is an Andros-made line of batik fabric, made by stenciling with a hand carved sponge. Island-inspired designs are waxed onto fabrics, which are then dyed in vibrant colors and used to make all kinds of local goods: table linens, pareos, scarves, shirts and dresses. These goods are sold at Androsia shops on several islands, including Nassau, Abaco, Eleuthera, and Exuma. 

The Plait Lady

Not all straw is created equal. Fortunately, there is no guesswork when it comes to shopping at the Plait Lady in Harbour Island. The straw work carried in this homegrown souvenir shop, all made by local artisan Claire Sands, is the Bahamas’ finest. The prices for her goods—bags, wall ornaments, keepsakes—aren’t exactly cheap, but the quality is superior. 

Tropical Accents and Gifts

In many cultures the ocean is represented by a female water spirit. Whatever the name of the Goddess, she could shop quite happily at Tropical Accents and Gifts, a Great Exuma boutique inspired by the sea. Everything in this store pays homage to the shape, form, color or texture of the ocean, whether it’s a sea glass pendant, shell encrusted mirror, or a mother-of-pearl jewelry box adorned with a sterling silver starfish. 

Kura Kura

My one exception to buying locally made goods is Kura Kura, an eccentric back-alley souvenir shop in Nassau’s city center. Stocked fully with imported goods from Southeast Asia, Kura Kura is a great place to find chic and elegant jewelry, household adornments or handicraft with island sentimentality and Asian cultural flair. 

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