Gifts that Revel on the Fringe

There are some days when hanging out on the edge feels like a good place to be. This feels like one of those times.

As we enter a new season, we’ve shifted our gaze to the edge of the artisan market. Specifically, the edge of the hand-woven market, the fringe you might say. Several of our latest additions carry a little sassy extra to catch the eye.

First, these hand-woven coasters have arrived to liven up your beverage choices. Using colorful pattern inlays and hint of fringe, these coasters bring a splash of color and a stylish option to the traditional beverage experience. The good news is they’re durable too, so you can machine wash them. The white fringe around the trim creates an airy feel, and adds another element of interest. It’s the cherry on top…or maybe the bottom?

Next, if you’re looking to add a touch of class to your bar menu, these hand-woven bar towels, with an inset of silver sparkle, are meant to evoke a classic sense of celebration. (And yes, machine wash these beauties too!) Fresh off the loom, they include a light fringe with a silver shimmer. They’re luxurious yet ready for action, heirloom quality you can use every day.

In previous years, these elements may have been an after-thought to the party, not an intentional addition to a festive gathering. No more! On the fringe is a fun place to be.

Look for these hand-crafted fringe pieces throughout our Gift Box Collection.

How Memories of Main Street Create Meaningful Client Gifts

I used to love going down to the Rock Box when I was a kid. It was a tiny store on a small town main street selling rocks of all sizes, shapes and colors. The owners knew me well because of my frequent visits and let me wander free, picking up all the rocks to feel the quartz edges and touch the cold, smooth surface of the colored stones. That experience left a lasting impression on me, a reminder of the joy that comes from connecting with beautiful natural elements.

Today, we’ve expanded on the wares of the little rock shop by working with artisan elements of all shapes, sizes and colors. The feel of woven fabrics, the look of natural wood grain, and the touch of ceramic textures, are a few of the different ways we like to evoke a memorable gift experience. Often, it’s about adding depth and dimension to a gift, the result of a subtle touch or detail to magnify the focal pieces.

Adding dimension to a moving target takes a careful eye, a consistent evaluation of the landscape, and old-fashioned practice. If you understand the broader context, and the art of creating a custom gift box, you can scout the options and identify pieces that complete your preferred look.

Here are two things we strive for in our selection process:

Enhancing with color – how can we add color in ways that enhance the style yet don’t overpower a gift box? Consider pieces that are made from natural, woven or milled fabrics, and bring a unique sense of touch. Fabrics can be light and airy, bulky, silky or rough, depending on the look you’re aiming for. Special thread styles and even fringe can be part of the mix! These pieces can amplify a gift theme, yet minimize the space required inside a gift box. By rolling, folding or tucking them into artisan pieces, they add flexibility too.

Variety in textures - Adding elements such as, wood, metal, fabric, or a special glaze can create a more interesting visual effect. Many times, textures can be layered, such as floral elements resting on wood grain, or glaze drips on ceramics. Perhaps a wool fabric, which brings a much different feel than silky linens, is in order. Mother Nature is also your friend, offering pine cones, evergreens and the delicious smell of eucalyptus. An eye-catching combination of these can go a long way in creating a compelling style.

In the end, the goal is to understand a client’s needs and the experience they want to create. We hope our artisan gift boxes transport people to a wonderful place, maybe a feeling of adventure or celebration? Or maybe to a favorite old shop on main street.

Artisan Displays Along the Backroads & Byways

Traveling across the backroads and byways of the east, we navigated between a few fierce rainstorms to explore new open air markets and main streets. It was part of our quest to see what the summer season had on display. We found the local shops and maker booths brimming with fresh floral vases, colorful books, tools for outdoor adventures, blankets, and artisan sauces and scents reflecting unique cultures. In the midst of this digital world, it’s heartening to see people appreciate beautiful textures and the feel of hand-crafted pieces, whether it’s smooth glassware, a ceramic glaze or supple leather.

Words don’t seem to do full justice to the sights, smells and sounds of our open air strolls, so we’ve selected a few photos to help bring the sensations home for you. (Photos taken in Burlington, VT, Phoenicia Flea, and Kingston, NY)

Are We There Yet? Towns that Beckon the Artisan and Adventurer

One of the best things about summer is the chance to explore small towns with character and personality, complete with diverse shops, restaurants and outdoor options. Discovering communities in transition is exciting, you can feel the energy of the residents who believe they are part of something special. Kingston, NY feels like one of those towns.

When we started the drive down Broadway, off of I87, the scene was initially more transition than intriguing shops. At first, I wondered if I’d completely misread the area. But if you keep going, the road leads to the Rondout area, where local makers and artisans dot the main streets and restaurants overlook the marina. Here you’ll find interesting shops like Clove & Creek, full of outdoor adventure tools, books, candles, ceramics, artist renderings and more. And just down the street is Jay Teske’s hand-crafted leather shop, where we found the brass hiking bell, seen here in our gift boxes.

The community enthusiasm and friendly attitudes are on full display here. The gentleman behind the counter at Clove and Creek gave us a handwritten note of suggested places to shop up the road in the Stockade District. Following his instructions, we landed on Washington Street, another area off the water, but with even more local shop options.

One store owner in the Stockade District shared his excitement over Kingston, telling us that everyone was moving here from the expensive Brooklyn neighborhoods. In his view, the cost of living here was so much less and the quality of life so much more. He and his partner made the move to open their home lifestyle and culinary store, Blue Cashew.

You can have the best of both worlds in this upstate New York region, it’s 90 miles to New York City, or 30 minutes to the Catskills. And the Adirondacks are a bit further north, beyond Albany.

Heading West, tucked in the southwest corner of Colorado, is the town of Durango. It’s a hidden gem in the Animas River Valley, full of outdoor adventure-lovers and creatives. The air exudes creative energy and the scenery calls you to be outside. While Durango is larger and more established than Kingston, it’s still small and unknown to many.  

The locals share regular stories of outdoor-lovers who arrive for a vacation and never leave. Most homes in town are small, yet expensive, and it’s clear the owners are here for the location, spending more on their gear, outdoor vehicles and apparatus, and less concerned about the home itself. It’s no wonder, given the wealth of hiking, biking, and skiing options available, why would you move here to then sit inside? It’s also a terrific base camp for exploring other areas within a 1-2 hour drive. Options like the Pagosa Hot Springs, the town of Silverton, and Mesa Verde National Park, are close, as is the spectacular San Juan Skyway, if you’re up for a ride. The Skyway is a 236 mile loop of breathtaking scenery that includes the Million Dollar Highway, between Silverton and Ouray. The loop runs from Durango north to Telluride and then around to Ouray and back to Durango.  The travel information says allow 7 hours, we say take a least 24 and stay overnight in Telluride to peruse downtown. We also recommend you hike the Jud Weibe trail in the morning and get your blood pumping. One piece of advice, consider the time of year you’re traveling here, snow arrives earlier than you might think.

But I digress, back to downtown Durango. The Studio & Gallery showcases local ceramic artists, including our own, Lorna Meaden pottery (in our gift boxes, here and here). The Silverton North Gauge Railway is still chugging away and the sound of the train whistle announcing its departure is worth the trip. Visit the train museum downtown, and book your excursion. At Christmas, you can train with Santa, in the summer, enjoy the open car views as you travel by rail, or for the really athletic, you can race the train in the annual Iron Horse Bicycle Classic. 

Retail won’t let you down either, one of the best footwear stores I’ve found, is Brown’s Shoe Fit on Main Street, where I have invested multiple times in my favorite Taos and Pinkolino boots. And, it’s conveniently located next door to Urban Market, a festive home and lifestyle store. (We bought so much there we had to ship it back.) 

One easy way to take in the full view of the downtown area, and see across the valley, is to head up the hill and take the short loop around Rim Drive and the campus of Fort Lewis College, “Colorado’s crossroads of education and adventure,” as they like to proclaim. Finally, if you’re looking for a jolt of caffeine after all this fresh air and adventure, head up East College Drive and grab a table at Durango Joe’s Coffee.  

While these two destinations are found on the roads less traveled, they are both worth the time on your summer travel schedule.

From left to right: Three scenes from Kingston’s Rondout and Stockade Districts. The Silverton train in Durango, the San Juan Skyway into Telluride, Mesa Verda National Park.

How to Match Artisan Storytelling with Your Corporate Mission

Sitting at an end table in a busy local restaurant, we began a conversation about how to tell the story of living a healthy lifestyle through elements of artisan work. Our contact was looking for a way to give custom hand-crafted gifts, and at the same time, represent a corporate brand of health and wellness. Between spoonfuls of soup, we picked through sample ceramic pieces and bantered about ideas.

Big meetings with special clients require a lot of planning, agenda outlines, and logistical coordination. At the end of all that planning, a client gift had better cap off a productive day with surprise and delight! Deciding on the contents of a meaningful gift can be tricky because these professionals represent many international cultures, and you likely have never met them before. Still, you want to leave a lasting, positive impression of your company. The question becomes how does one give a thoughtful gift, in line with the company brand, without crossing any cultural boundaries that may inadvertently offend someone.

The beauty of artisan work is that it offers variety, and the ability to select unique pieces that are both meaningful and reflect a company’s mission. In working with this global corporation, we considered different options and challenges. Food items were off the list when we evaluated transit times and the guests’ travel plans. Avoiding any direct implication of alcohol was another variable we removed. Their brand encourages healthy living and outdoor activity, so how best to blend those ideas with artisan appeal?

The solution was twofold, first to select elements created by artists located in different areas of the country, places where their employees live and work. This was a creative way to showcase the company’s geographic diversity while highlighting the craftsmanship of a unique set of artists. And, in picking certain pieces, we accomplished the second objective, which included a subtle reference to healthy lifestyles (cutting board and veggie/cheese slicer) and enjoying the great outdoors (National Parks postcard book, woolen to-go-cup holders, and brass hiking bells).

To complete this story, we chose styles from upstate New York, the Hudson Valley, Vermont, and Maryland to create the gift boxes. We also shared the individual artists’ information, and how each element represented a different local region.

In these times when our differences are often the focus, it was rewarding to see how artisan gifts so beautifully aligned diverse cultural connections with a positive corporate mission.

Creating Festive and Functional Gifts

A memorable gift isn’t just about the “wow” factor of the opening, the best experience spurs ongoing enjoyment. Sparking joy, (and isn’t that what it’s about?!) means creating a “multi-merry” combination.

  • You want people to be delighted by a gift and compelled to use the contents early and often. It could be the attraction of an artisan piece, for example, and pouring a beverage into the tumbler to admire the look and feel of it. Perhaps it’s the aroma of fresh coffee and the urge to brew and sip from a steaming cup. Or to grab the spoon and start mixing. Think of combinations that say, “use me now!”

  • People love a quick taste of caramels or flavored mints in gifts. It satisfies the instant gratification need in all of us. And, as a side benefit, it adds color and texture.

  • Now to the functional issues, the number and size of items in the gift matters. Sweet and savory flavors, or accessory items, need to be small, or at least compact – and preferably light. Big jars of food don’t work well. Neither do bulky air-filled bags of nuts or popcorn where there’s more air than snacks.

  • Next, think about how recipients will use the gift container. As makers of a hand-crafted gift box, we have fun with recipients, encouraging them to “Clink Outside the Box.” A postcard of ideas on how to use the gift box, complete with a photo on the back, now goes into each one. This way the recipient can pick and choose what works for them in terms of box use: Inbox for mail? Programs on the wedding day? Coffee and tea supplies? And the gift box is on display for the recipient to enjoy and for others to see and comment (multi-merry!). Placing the gift in a thoughtful container – basket, bucket, box - makes it both unique and functional.

  • A note on engraving here… many people like to personalize with engraving. Consider that the engraving will still be on display 10 years from now, and plan accordingly. Sometimes a corporate logo is a perfect choice, other times, it might be best to use the recipients’ initials instead.

We’ve learned to pay close attention to these small but important details that have a lasting impact. It’s a careful combination, but a winning one!

Let the Textures Do the Talking

A ceramic piece doesn’t have to be flashy or fancy to capture your mood and end up as your go-to cup, forever claiming a spot on your kitchen counter. It can be the color or texture, the feel of it in your hands, that makes it the perfect choice. This is what makes artisan work so different, it’s like a living piece of your personality, right there in your cabinet, ready to serve.

Part of an artists’ gift, aside from throwing a ball of clay on a spinning wheel and turning it into something beautiful, is their ability to create unique textures and finishes throughout their career. Years of studying, practice and persistence often yield something truly special. The lines, drips, curves, flecks of color, each one adds to the finished work. Mix that with the different kiln firing techniques, and it can be hard to narrow the choices some days.

When you’re looking for defining pieces to gift or for yourself, keep an eye out for the extra details that give a piece it’s personality. The detail can be subtle or dramatic. The finish can be a single shade or blended across colors. You’ll know it when you hold it in your hands, and imagine it in its new home, as the next coffee mug to hold that trusted spot on your kitchen counter or whiskey cup perched on your bar.

How to Set Yourself Apart with Artisan Gifts

Giving an artisan gift says something special about both the occasion and the people involved. These gifts are thoughtful and make a statement. Since each artisan piece is hand-crafted, the time and attention-to-detail needed to create the gift adds value and is part of what makes each one unique.

There’s an amazing variety of styles, colors, sizes and textures available with artisan work. Engraving can also add a beautiful touch for weddings, employee or executive milestone events, and engagements. And giving a gift of quality, beauty and true craftsmanship doesn’t have to be complicated. First consider, are you looking for formal, contemporary, elegant, or natural? Here are a few examples of artisan pieces we’ve included in our gift boxes for different occasions:

- A hand-forged corkscrew paired with black ceramic wine goblets for a wedding celebration in Napa Valley.

- Two ceramic shot glasses combined with a custom-made slicing knife (with limes added!), and hand-crafted cutting board, for a client’s new bar.

- A hand-crafted cheese cutter, and custom cutting board, complete with Chesapeake caramels, for the bride and groom who love the Bay and cooking together. This one also included a porcelain ring dish in the colors of the wedding.

Now consider the time needed to create a ceramic piece. While your gift may be important to you, an artist isn’t going to kiln fire only a few items. Their business requires batch work, which could be tens of pieces or hundreds, depending on the size of the kiln. Hand-crafted leather, forged metal and custom wood designs should get the same consideration. Yes, artists will be ramp-up for big event seasons, but these are hand-crafted items, so “stock” means different things to different artists.

As stylists and makers, we find and create beautiful gift combinations because we’ve taken the time to identify and work together with the artists. Most artists create multiple lines of work, which means we also have an array of options. However, in order to take advantage of these options, you’ll need to plan ahead:

- Which clients or guests should receive a premium gift?

- What is your budget for the gifts?

- Is there a theme or geographic location that’s meaningful to the recipient?

- Is there a vibe the gift should evoke?

- Is there a color theme connected to this event?

- When do you want clients to receive the gift?

The bottom line is, if you want to make a big impression with a client, then don’t leave their gift up to chance. It’s best to work a minimum of 90+ days ahead of the event delivery date – the bigger the season the more the lead time. Get the conversation going with your gift stylist early.

Planning ahead can pay off big dividends with clients and guests by providing an opportunity to set yourself apart, while your competition rushes to make magic out of the mundane items left on store shelves.

Let's Get a Grip on This!

Customers ask us a lot about the different hardware options on our gift boxes, what to choose, what styles work best? First, there’s no “right” answer, go with what lights you up. If you’re not sure, then we can serve up a few things to consider here.

Selecting unique hardware for the gift boxes is the finishing touch, it helps set the overall vibe of the gift. It’s subtle, yet it adds style and is one more way to easily personalize the gift. And, it offers up more ways to use the box (see Clink Outside the Box for ideas) when the artisan pieces are removed and put to good use! 

Here are a few ways to think about it when you’re considering the hardware accessory:

For those who enjoy a bolder statement and a bigger impression, we use the rounded brushed nickel. With a bit more bulk to the handle, it makes a solid addition, especially on the black stain gift boxes.

If whimsical or more playful is the personality you want to give the box, we love the rounded twirl hardware. It adds a lighter, more carefree attitude to the gift.

When sleek, yet tasteful, is the name of the game, the pewter squares or long slender pewter hardware work well. The carved lines add interest to the piece, without being quite as bold as the rounded.

The long slender nickel, with etched lines is simple yet quite stylish. And, like its bolder rounded brushed nickel cousin, it looks great on the black stained boxes.

We offer all the options above on our gift boxes, and customers can indicate a different hardware piece than what they see on a box at Checkout (except the leather,  when available, is custom order). Simply indicate what you prefer in the “What Else Should We Know” area at Checkout. Otherwise, you can go with what we’ve selected for our hand-crafted beauties as shown in the photos.    

When Small Details Make a Big Impression

Creating a special gift box doesn't have to be complicated, however, it does need to be thoughtful. It's all about attention to detail, and taking advantage of the opportunity to weave in a story. Are the gifts for those who love to cook? Is the event at a vineyard? Do they love a special activity or place (mountains, lake, beach, city)? Is it to promote a favorite beverage or new bar opening (spoiler alert: alcohol not included)? Are the gifts to celebrate a new home? 

The ceramic styles, colors, gift tag design, artisan additions and finishing touches can all paint a picture and set the right mood for a gift box. Simple things like using leather ties instead of ribbon, unique wrapping paper, or changing the hardware to whimsical vs. sturdy. These are the details that go a long way in creating a special moment for each gift box unveiling....