Geraldine Plato is the executive director of HandMade in America, a non-profit organization whose mission is to grow handmade economies through craft, cultural heritage and community assets. Before joining HandMade she was the director of an independent hands-on learning school serving students pre-K through 6th grade. She also served as assistant director at Penland School of Crafts and was the public information director of the Mississippi Arts Commission. Geraldine and her husband, furniture maker John Clark, are the parents of three teenage girls. They live in Penland, N.C.
Here are Geraldine’s picks:
I like to give annual gifts that, over time, can grow into a collection. There is nothing easier or more fun than adding to a collection of handmade mugs. This year I’ve selected a mug by potter Kent McLaughlin. Kent works in porcelain and stoneware clays, making utilitarian pots. He and his wife, Suze Lindsay, own and operate Fork Mountain Pottery in Bakersville, N.C. In 2003 Kent began firing his cross-draft kiln using waste fry oil as an alternative fuel source. His glaze palette includes shinos, celadons, Mashiko khaki glazes and iron reds, which reference the fertile grounds that surround his mountain studio and home. www.forkmountainpottery.net.
Everyone can use a three-legged stool, especially when they come in a variety of heights and finishes. Consider a functional gift made from western North Carolina local hardwoods that will add style and flair to any room. Prices range from $155–$355 and include natural or painted finishes. David Scott has been a designer and furniture builder since 1981. He builds contemporary furniture and accessories in fine hardwoods, both local and from around the world. Aside from stools, he makes tables, rocking chairs, mirrors and accessories such as clocks for the desk and wall. Or better yet, consider calling David to create a commissioned piece made specifically for your home. You can find him at www.scottwoodworking.com.
Holidays are built on tradition, so why not give a traditional gift? The Qualla Arts & Crafts Mutual, Inc. was founded in 1946 with the purpose of preserving and advancing Cherokee arts and crafts. It is the oldest and leading Native American arts cooperative in the United States. The Cherokee are still in touch with their ancient art and craft traditions through the making of everyday objects. Now you can be in touch as well, by giving a gift from a contemporary Cherokee master. Be it baskets, beadwork or pottery, you’ll find gifts from $20–$2,000 at the Qualla Mutual (www.quallaartsandcrafts.com).
Support the idea of using one of the oldest recycled materials with the gift of a hand forged iron fire poker. Left on the hearth or stored by the wood stove, this elegant tool will combine function with aesthetics to warm the living room. Contact William S. Rogers to find out about his additional lines of hand wrought accessories including candles sticks, kitchen utensils and garden trowels. As a professional blacksmith, William also creates custom work using traditional tools and techniques of the blacksmith, silversmith and coppersmith to create contemporary designs for the home. William Rogers maintains a studio in Cullowhee, N.C., and you can learn more about him at www.jcgep.org/rogersProfile.html.
For the person on your list who already has everything—or is trying not to own anything else—plan an experiential gift. A day spent with you exploring one of the many small towns in rural western North Carolina can easily become the perfect and most memorable gift for a child, spouse, friend or aging parent. Help spark the local economy with the promise of an investigation of small shops, artist studios, galleries and farmers’ markets. Plan the day to include a knitting lesson at a local yarn shop, riding a scenic bike trail, or enjoying the outdoors. Include a picnic by a lake or the promise of a dinner prepared at a family owned restaurant with locally grown foods. Make it a morning breakfast outing or spend the weekend that includes a festival and a stay at a local bed and breakfast. Go to www.handmadeinamerica.org. In the community development section, you’ll find many information links to small towns with big things going on.
Remember to use your imagination with recycled materials when wrapping your gifts.