New England makes its presents known
In this season of giving, why not give friends and family a little (or big) something that’s made here in our region, by a local pair of hands? We chose items we deemed fun, clever, and useful, and gave bonus points for stuff with a story behind it. (We’re writers, after all!) Here are just a few of the items that made us crack a smile — not an easy thing to achieve in this contentious election year. Hope they spark some joy in you, too.
Warning: Wild Child Ahead
Lynn Brown saw “caution” signs for heavy equipment and thought: “Shouldn’t babies come with warning labels, too?” With that, this Silver Lake, N.H., mom created a line of infant and toddler onesies, T-shirts, and rompers with messages like “This End Up” and “Caution: Accidents May Happen.” What a fun gift for the uh-oh-here-comes-trouble tot in your life (and aren’t they all?). The locally made, soft cotton duds are priced at $14 and up; available at www.HazardBaby.com.
Shades made from lobster traps
Some people would look at discarded lobster traps and think of trash. Others see the same thing and think “Sunglasses!” Two people, anyway. Traps Eyewear founders John Turner (from Harpswell, Maine) and Daniel Dougherty make their fashion-forward shades with acetate fronts, using repurposed oak from salvaged lobster traps for the temples. In styles like the Jack Havana (inspired by JFK), they’re giving new life to wood that has been weathered in the cold Atlantic. The company, based in Portland, also makes oak cufflinks ($35). Sunglass prices start at $245; available at Sea Bags locations such as 6 State St., Newburyport; www.trapseyewear.com
Rent a cow, for real
For the fromagerie fan in your life, why buy them cheese when you can gift them a whole cow? At www.rent
mothernature.com, you can lease a Vermont dairy cow — a happy Jersey bovine fed fresh hay grain and pasturage, they say — guaranteed to yield at least three eight-ounce wheels of Cheddar cheese. The recipient will also receive two progress reports with updates on the harvest, the art of cheese making, and farm life in general. You can also get a photo of that special cow to add to their family album, and add on a maple/cheddar gift basket. File this one under “udderly unique.” $49.95; www.rentmothernature.com.
Beach glass vases
We saw these at a Cape Cod art show and were captivated by the concept: Glass artist Kevin Becker of Westwood, Mass., creates blown glass “beach memories” vases using sand from the beach of your choice. What a cool way to preserve the memory of that special beach — where you spent your honeymoon, perhaps, or the strand of sand where you and your siblings built sand castles together. Using your own sand, or a sample of sand from his own collection, Becker will make a piece of art that recalls waves, water, and sand. His hand-blown hummingbird feeder ($28) is also a beauty. Vases are 6 to 8 inches tall, and prices start at $65. Available at Dedham Square Artist Guild, 553 High St., Dedham; www.beckerglass.net.
Lobster rope doormats
When the laws changed regarding lobster float rope, Maine lobstermen suddenly had piles of colorful line that wasn’t useful. Voila — the recycled lobster rope doormat. The idea is, if this material can withstand years of being hauled in and out of the ocean, it will hold up to foot traffic, kids, and dogs, on your porch or patio. Several companies make these mats, but we’re partial to the wide variety of lively stripe combinations (each named for a Maine town) sold by Maine-ly Fishprints. They work with 24 different Maine lobstermen to make the mats, using only repurposed rope. Their lobster rope coasters ($19) add a coastal vibe to any home or apartment. Mats are 19 by 30 inches; $44; available at the Brass Lyon, 36 Market Square, Newburyport; www.mainelobstermats.com.
Sharp looks in linen
Three artists came together five years ago to create a line of linen scarves, hand-printed on Vinalhaven Island, Maine, by master printer Chris Clarke. Now, the Portland-based company, South Street Linen, has expanded to include boyfriend-style shirts, seriously cute jackets, pants, dresses, and men’s shirts. The look is elegant without trying too hard. Local seamstresses do the stitching, using fine linen sourced from Lithuania and Ireland. Linen, woven from the flax plant, is sturdy and breathable, so it’s a great gift for someone who’s heading off to warm climates this winter. And those ever-popular polka-dot scarves would add a touch of whimsy to, say, a pantsuit. From $139. Available at South Street Linen, 5 South St., Portland, Maine; www.southstreetlinen.com.
Organic skin care
Beauty editors rave about a line called Farmaesthetics, especially the heavenly Deep Lavender Rub — who knew that the products were formulated in Portsmouth, Rhode Island? This luxury skincare line uses certified organic herbs, flowers, oils, and grains from US family farms, and the line is 100 percent natural, they say. That earthy gal on your gift list would definitely appreciate the Dear Gardener set ($34) or the intoxicating scent of the Cinnamon Girl combo, including a body scrub made of cinnamon, cornmeal, and crushed rose petals ($39.) Products are designed for men and women; shop by skin type. Available locally at Follain, 53 Dartmouth St., Boston, and Follain Beacon Hill, 65 Charles St.; www.farmaesthetics.com.
Hog Wild Pottery
Know someone who’s setting up a household with odd bits scavenged from mom and dad plus the cast-offs of assorted roommates? Give them an artisan-made creation that will elevate their entertaining, like the cool, goes-with-everything pieces by Susan LeBlanc Brum of Hog Wild Pottery. We love her funky cream-toned creamers and sugar bowls (sold separately); the sugar bowls ($28-$32) come with tiny spoons and a crumble of beach glass on the lid. Find these, and other work by the artist, at Potters Place Gallery, 127B Old West St., Walpole, Mass.; www.HogWildPottery.com.
For that ‘upscale Flintstones’ look
Amid a sea of gifts for the home, pieces by Funky Rock Designs stand out. You’ve probably seen their balanced rock lamp, a ‘wish I’d thought of that!’ triumph of stacked grey river stones with a stone finial ($275), the too-cool tea light candle rocks ($28) or perhaps the ingenious wine bottle balancer ($32.) And their beach stone menorah ($58) will add some serious ‘hip’ to the holiday. Yep, we’re obsessed with this stuff, made with natural stones from the coasts and rivers of New England by artisan Jeff Henderson and company in Eliot, Maine. To buy, visit Fire Opal, 683 Centre St, Jamaica Plain; www.FunkyRockDesigns.com.
Too-cute baby beanie
For gifts both nautical and nice, Nantucket Looms is an excellent source. Style icons Jackie O and Princess Grace have shopped here, so you know you’re in good company. Located on Nantucket’s Main Street, the shop sells exquisite handmade items created by more than 80 local artisans (including weavers who work in the studio upstairs.) Think whisper-soft mohair wraps (in this year’s Pantone-pick shade of rose quartz, $120), striped cotton boat-neck sweaters for guys ($120, and so Nantucket), and adorable baby beanies ($36) with anchors, whales, or the ACK (Nantucket Airport code) motifs, hand-knit by Nantucket artisan Carol Robinson. Available at Nantucket Looms, 51 Main St., Nantucket; www.nantucketlooms.com.