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Artisan-crafted gifts offer local flair, flavor

Vases by Maine Coast Creations.handout

Wouldn't it be great to make a beautiful, thoughtful gift for every single soul on your shopping list this year, plus a bunch of extra ones to donate to charity? But unless you're Martha Stewart, or the owner of an Etsy store, that's probably not happening. Which is why we're grateful for the talented regional artisans and kitchen wizards who make the wow-worthy pieces featured here. Shop with these folks, or others like them, and you're giving something special (often one-of-a-kind) and totally New England, as well as helping to support local businesses. Here are some goodies we discovered this year.

13madeinne - Who doesn't love pie? If you can't be there in person with your very own baked good, send a gift of deliciousness, like one of Michele's Pies. (handout)handout

Best use of maple syrup: Michele’s Pies

Pies are the new cupcakes. And when it comes to pies, baker Michele Stuart of Norwalk, Conn., has plenty of kitchen cred: She's written two cookbooks (including "Perfect Pies"), operates a bakery, and has won the National Pie Baking Championship 27 times. So, if you can't be there in person to bake a pie for that pastry-mad loved one, send one of Michele's Pies. The company ships six varieties of pie across the country. We're partial to her chocolate pecan bourbon pie because it hits every craving, and the maple pumpkin pie with pecan streusel, made with fresh pumpkin and Vermont maple syrup. Nine-inch pies, $59; free shipping.

13madeinne - A "bowlder" or stone bowl from American Stonecraft is useful and uniquely beautiful. (handout)handout

Best use of rocks: American Stonecraft

"I got a rock!" said a woeful Charlie Brown in the Peanuts Halloween special. In this case, getting a rock is a good thing. Lowell-based American Stonecraft sources freshly unearthed fieldstones from 62 working farms in New England and transforms them into unique pieces of art. Think organically shaped food slabs (great as serving pieces or cheese boards), "bowlders" (stone bowls), and coasters. You can shop by farm, or by the look of the piece — there's a surprising amount of variation. Prices range from $24-$262. Available at their studio at 133 Congress St., Lowell, 978-254-7625, at Boston Public Market, and online at


13madeinne - A company called Maine Coast Creations uses seashell bits to create eye-catching vases. (handout)handout

Best reuse of mussel shells: Maine Coast Creations

In one of the coolest examples of turning trash to treasure that we've seen, Maine Coast Creations, based in Cutler, Maine, makes Christmas tree ornaments using discarded shell fragments from mussels, lobsters, and clams. Got a beer lover on your gift list? Check out the "beer spheres," tree ornaments crafted from recycled beer bottles and crushed blue glass. Not in the market for an ornament? Consider one of the seashell glass vases — they're so pretty and a triumph of repurposing. Ornaments and beer spheres, $20; vases from $35.


13madeinne - When is a sea cucumber tasty? When it's made of chocolate, by Monica's Chocolates of Lubec, Maine. (Diane Bair for The Boston Globe)The Boston Globe/Globe Freelance

Best use of potatoes: Monica’s Chocolates

Way up in Lubec, Maine, near the West Quoddy Head lighthouse, Monica Elliot creates some of New England's most swoon-worthy chocolates. Her native Peru is reflected in her Pisco chocolates, made with Peruvian liqueur, but she also makes a classic Maine treat, Needhams: chocolates filled with a potato mixture. Elliot's variations on the Needham theme include almond and wild blueberry. Also evocative of Maine, and wildly popular, especially with kids, are Monica's sea creatures, including caramel-filled sea urchins, and sea cucumbers made of chocolate, caramel, and peanut butter that are shaped like the real thing. $12 and up; available at Monica's Chocolates, 100 County Road, Lubec, 207-733-4500, at shops including The Cave in Gloucester, and online.

13madeinne - Summer House Natural Soaps, made in small batches in Hyannis, smell like summertime on the Cape. (Diane Bair for The Boston Globe)The Boston Globe/Globe Freelance

Smell like a Cape Cod Beach: Summer House Natural Soaps

With such scents as cranberry spice, dune shack, and hydrangea, the small-batch handmade soaps and body products from Summer House Natural Soaps smell like summertime on the Cape. In fact, they're made in Hyannis in a small workshop-retail space; Ann Miller founded the company in 2000 and makes sublimely scented soaps using olive, coconut, and palm oils. We love Dune Shack (with vetiver and clary sage) and, for men, the Cedar + Myrrh body bar. Single, 5-ounce wrapped bar, $7.50; four-bar gift box, $30. Available at the workshop at 1336 Phinneys Lane, Hyannis, 508-827-4145, at retail stores like Blackstone's in Boston, and


13madeinne - ***warning: image lo res, do not use for more than 2 columns *** - Can you believe this is glass? Self-taught glass artist Eric Schwartz can turn a treasured photo into a piece of glass art. (handout)handout

Glass that will blow them away: Gator Art Glass

In the category of "Something that nobody else will get them," how about a treasured photo turned into a piece of art glass? Self-taught glass artist Eric Schwartz of Nashua developed a technique to do exactly that. The results are stunning. Schwartz also fuses frit (glass powder) to clear glass, baked in a 1500-degree kiln, to create gorgeous glass bowls and other pieces. Bowls from $45. Carved frit pieces from $150. Available at the Etsy store, GatorArtGlass, and online.

13madeinne - For the BBQ lover, a sampler of craft-beer-spiked sauces makes a fun gift. (handout)handout

A taste of the Southwest, Vermont-style: Gringo Jack’s

Here's a present they won't return: A DIY gourmet gift basket, filled with New England-made treats. For the sports lover, pack that basket with Gringo Jack's kicky salsas, their flaky tortilla chips, and a six-pack of your favorite Vermont-made beverage. Manchester-based Gringo Jack's, a Tex-Mex restaurant and specialty foods producer, makes unique, tasty salsas in flavor combos like beet, orange, and quinoa, and sweet potato, apple, and ginger. Maybe toss in one of their craft beer-inspired BBQ Sauces — say, Coffee Porter with smoked maple. 16 oz. salsa, $5; 12 oz. BBQ Sauce, $5.50; tortilla chips, 7 oz. bag, $5; available at City Convenience, Boston, Whole Foods, and online.


13madeinne - ***WARNING: LO RES, do not use for more than 1.75 columns *** - Maine-based designer Alaina Marie Harris makes wristlets, wallets, and clutches from marine-grade materials, inspired by lobstermen's bait bags. (handout)handout

Best bait bag-inspired accessory: Alaina Marie

Designer Alaina Marie Harris makes wristlets, wallets, and clutches from marine-grade materials, inspired by a lobsterman's bait bag. Hand-printed and sewn in Maine, by a Mainer, these PVC-coated poly mesh bags are both sturdy and preppy-cool, in color combinations like teal and citron, and a lobster print. No wonder J.Crew stocks them. The navy-pink combo is a top seller. From $45; available at Harris's studio at 332 Fore St., Portland, Maine, 207-536-1989, and at shops including Flat of the Hill, Boston, and online.

13madeinne - ***WARNING: LO RES, do not use for more than 1.5 columns *** - There's someone on your gift list who could really rock a pair of skull-and-paisley earrings from Miss Wally of Connecticut. (handout)handout

Fun little baubles: Miss Wally Fused Glass

Many artists make fused-glass jewelry, but Wally Del Vecchio of North Haven, Conn., adds a bit of whimsy and sass to her one-of-a-kind pieces. Some earrings feature skulls and paisley, others look like an Egyptian scarab crossed with a ladybug. Her pendants remind us of Jolly Rancher candies. Perfect for an outdoorsy gal, Miss Wally's blue-glass pendant with a black evergreen tree pattern will make you wonder: How'd she do that? She also makes objects for the home. Earrings, $18, pendants, $20.

Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at