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.

Three Questions to Consider When Engaging with Artists

Working with artists can be inspirational, however, as a business owner it’s important to understand the questions to ask this creative group as you commence business activities. In building our relationships with artists across the country, we’ve come to learn a few key questions to explore in the beginning to manage expectations on both sides and avoid unpleasant consequences on the back end.

Understanding the motivation behind each artist, and their personal preferences and timelines, is key. For example, in ceramics, some may consistently be creating new pieces, however, the kiln size and how often they fill and fire a kiln may vary. Some fire monthly, others only a few times each year. This may impact their ability to deliver pieces on a shorter turnaround. There is a definite timeline from shaping clay on a pottery wheel, to kiln, to delivery to your door. This question is the same for other artisan areas too, like custom woodworking and forged metal pieces. If you work with artists, make sure you know their timeline, and that your business model is in sync with it - and your customer delivery commitments.

A second question is, can the artist duplicate a piece close enough to the original you already have on hand?  Consider that glazes and finish processes change, so ask about those things every time you order. Yes, the whole idea of an artistic piece is that there isn’t an exact duplicate of it - even when it’s fired in the same kiln, at the same time. That’s what makes each one beautiful.  On the flip side, the pieces need to be close enough to the original, in your opinion as the business owner, so that what a customer sees on your website or social postings matches what they receive in their gifts. It’s a delicate balance that requires attention.  


The third key question you should not assume you know the answer to is, does the artist even want to duplicate the piece?  And if so, how many times? Some artists don’t want to work on multiple pieces in what feels like a production line. They find inspiration staying in the new creative mode and will limit reproduction intentionally. That’s important to know up front. Their pieces may be special edition or limited quantity, which is fine, as long as that’s clear from the start.

We enjoy our artist interactions, and the beauty of their work is central to our business. That said, understanding the nuances of our network is not trivial and it ties directly into who our own best customers are. For us, it’s those who appreciate a gorgeous piece of artisan work (meaning: no two will be identical), and that hand-crafted takes time (meaning: order in advance to be sure). If both of those elements work for our customer, then they are sure to give gift boxes that are personal, hand-crafted, and beautiful.