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Where Shopping Gets Personal

From the Farragut North stop, just one stop south of Dupont Circle, it's not far to the small but thoughtfully stocked shop at the Renwick Gallery (1661 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 202-357-1445), the Smithsonian branch devoted to American crafts and decorative arts. Here you'll find elegant, locally made ikebana flower holders of painted and glazed porcelain ($38). Artist Michael Sosin's tall glass vases, with contrasting lip colors, come in a variety of brilliant shades ($94).

As you make your way down 17th Street from the Renwick, take a right on C Street and cross 18th to the Interior Department. Inside this rather imposing example of official Washington architecture is a wonderful museum and an equally wonderful store, the Indian Craft Shop (1849 C St. NW, 202-208-4056). This tiny concern has been operating inside the department since 1938, and it still offers a diverse selection of Native American arts and crafts. Worth a special look is the abundance of miniature pottery, such as that made by Madeline Naranjo of the Santa Clara Pueblo in northern New Mexico. Though crafted from red clay, the final products are jet-black, thanks to a special technique used during the firing process.


Shoppers stroll Maryland Avenue in Annapolis. (Photo Craig Herndon for The Washington Post)

Walking east, past the White House, cruise down 14th Street to the Mall. Just past the Agriculture Department, you'll find a pair of museums that reflect cultures a world apart, separated here by nothing more than a garden courtyard. Filling the shelves at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (1050 Independence Ave. SW, 202-633-0483) are hundreds of items from all over Asia: busts of the Buddha in various sizes ($42 to $400), ceremony-ready teapots, Japanese ceramics, Chinese blue-and-white porcelain, serene prints of natural scenes, pillows and more. A striking knife and fork made by the great Japanese American sculptor Isamu Noguchi, flatware prototypes that were never produced during the artist's lifetime, have now been distributed by Germany's Vitra Design Museum and are for sale here ($125), as are several of Noguchi's lamp designs ($175 to $195).

Just steps away from the Sackler is the shop at the National Museum of African Art (950 Independence Ave. SW, 202-786-2147), whose wares include beautiful hand-woven baskets from Botswana, made of mokola palm fibers ($35 to $480). So intricate are they that women from the Bayei and Hambukushu tribes may take four to six weeks to craft a single basket. Also for sale are thuya wood boxes and trays from the Atlantic coast of Morocco, some of which feature dazzling inlays ($10 to $100).

Since you're already on the Mall, take the opportunity to see the new museum everyone's talking about, the National Museum of the American Indian (Fourth Street and Independence Avenue SW, 202-633-7030). After touring its collection, stop by the Roanoke Museum Store on the second floor, where it is clear that the word "American" properly covers the land mass extending from Alaska on down to Peru. Along with Mexican papier-mâché "Day of the Dead" skulls ($120 to $225) and Navajo folk-art roosters ($15 to $96), you'll find a nice selection of Peruvian and Nicaraguan decorative pottery.

By now you're understandably starving, and looking around for a place to set down all those shopping bags. Mitsitam Cafe, within the National Museum of the American Indian, has offerings inspired by the culinary traditions of tribes from the Northern Woodlands, South America, the Northwest Coast, Mesoamerica and the Great Plains.

Jeff Turrentine

Leesburg

Leesburg used to be country. No more.

The seat of the fastest-growing jurisdiction in the United States -- Loudoun County -- now is surrounded by big-box stores, highways that do rush hour with the best (worst?) of the big burbs and rows of townhouses stretching across former farmland.

Sad news for slow-growth proponents, but even they might find solace in one change the infusion of people and money has wrought: a scattering of appealing new shops moving into Leesburg's downtown. Even better, the change has come without any sacrifice of the red-brick charm that wins the town a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.


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