This holiday season many people I know do their shopping on an on-line giant or chain store. I admit I do, too. You get what you want, fast and you cross another item off the list. But, I make a living making things with my hands, so more often than not, I am enormously disappointed in the lack of quality, durability and workmanship of these mass produced gifts. Toys fall apart in a few days, clothing and goods wear out quickly and technology becomes disposable in no time at all.
With that said, what about going a different route when it comes to gift giving this year? I try to make something special every Christmas for a few family members and friends. But if you don’t have time or inclination to do handmade presents, the next best thing is buying pieces from some of Michigan’s premiere craftsmen and women.
The way I see it, buying from artisans around the state is a win/win. You wind up with an exceptional, one-of-a-kind piece that you won’t find in stores and, at the same time, support the people at home who keep old world, artistic traditions alive.
As host of the PBS television show, A Craftsman’s Legacy, I travel all around the nation in search of people who shun mass production and, instead, choose to make things with their own two hands. If you’re looking for something unique, beautiful pieces from clocks, to quilts, to razors, clothing and furniture here is my list of some of the best handcrafted items our state has to offer:
1. Epiphany Glass
Stunning, hand-blown glass ornaments, paperweights, and decanters from Epiphany Glass in Pontiac, Michigan. April Wagner makes each delicate piece individually. Items are reasonably priced and can be purchased on-line or in her studio. www.epiphanyglass.com.
2. North Star Alpacas
Scarves, hats, wraps and shawls from North Star Alpacas. Maple Smith raises alpacas on her farm in Ithaca, Michigan and uses hand spun wool to make fashionable and warm cold weather items. www.etsy.com/shop/northstaralpacas#
3. Tom Zowda Razors & Knives
If you know someone brave enough to take on the art of straight razor shaving, Tom Zowda of Boyne Falls, Michigan is your go to guy. His hand made razors and knives are a perfect combination of form and function. Precision works of art. www.tzknives.com
4. Galloup Guitars
If there is a musician on your list, Galloup Guitars in Big Rapids is worth a look. Bryan Galloup creates each piece by hand with attention to detail. www.galloupguitars.com
5. Theadra Fleming Quilts
Stunning patchwork quilts that are sewn by hand, piece by piece. Theadra Fleming of Ypsilanti started sewing patchwork dolls as a girl and eventually graduated to quilting. Her gorgeous pieces reflect museum quality artwork. firstname.lastname@example.org
6. Bower Clock Company
Clocks and timepieces from The Bower Clock Company. In their studio in Traverse City, husband and wife team Nathan and Jennifer Bower old world methods to create timeless timepieces. Stunning in design. www.bowerclocks.com
7. Alan Kaniarz Woodwork
Hand made benches, chairs, tables or bookcases by woodwork specialist, Alan Kaniarz. In his 6,000 square foot workshop in Detroit, he creates show stopping made to order pieces. www.akservices.com
There’s nothing like giving a gift that is made by hand. In a disposable world, those items are the ones that we hold on to and cherish the most. Merry Christmas!