Gift Guru Checks Out Unique Gifts Made by Local Artists

The VIRGINIA SHOPPER is always scouting around for that mysterious something that makes the perfect gift for the person who has everything.  But, finding something really different can turn into a hopeless fishing expedition, especially not knowing where to cast the line or which rock to look under.

Asking around among veteran shoppers turned up  major clues since the same two words kept resurfacing – Local –  Artists.  A-HA!  Being a Shopping Sherlock with nose to the ground and a magnifying glass to complete the “look”, I decided to confine a search for local artists in one area.  Where? Virginia of course.  “Elementary my dear Watson!”  And – Voila!  There it was – a treasure trove of down-home talent!  Of course the same can be said for any state of the union.

 Different Gifts Make the Difference

I was in a Shopping Slump and getting soooo tired of giving the same old, same old, worn and weary repetitive gifts that needed a spark to add sparkle to life and joy to others.   Truth is, adding spark and sparkle is easy because as soon as I began investigating the local talent in and around Virginia, there were fabulous results. Shopping Slump OVER!   Yes, turns out that giving something different is the secret that brings ooohs, aaahs and smiles to the faces of favorite folks on the receiving end.

The VIRGINIA SHOPPER’S Resource List of Local Talent 

My search turned up paintings, prints, photographic art, jewelry, toys, folk art, collectibles, wood carvings, and the list goes on – all made by really creative folks in my own neck o’ the woods!  Great ideas for gifts came from fascinating, even famous, Virginia artists.  There’s no doubt about it, the local connection makes a huge  impact.   And of course you can count on The VIRGINIA SHOPPER to keep on prowling.  Here’s what I turned up so far in the way of local artists in Virginia:

Peter Chapman, an award winning Blue Ridge Mountain artist definitely had me ooohing and ahhhing over his handmade, 3-dimensional, interlocking puzzle animals.   They really do stand alone as objects d’ art or as workable wood puzzles for grownups or clever kids.  My own favorite is the Stock Market Bull! When you take it apart there’s a little bear inside. Terrific gift for stock market gurus!  There is a Labrador Retriever hiding a duck inside too, a Golden Retriever with a Frisbee, and a whole delightful zoo-full of hold-in-your hand animal puzzles.

Mary Myers recently hand carved her 6,000th wooden nutcracker!  6,000???  Amazing.  Mary uses her love of toys, antiques and woodcarving to transform blah blocks of wood into magical nutcrackers.  I love the wonderful folksy likenesses of VIP’s in American history – like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.  My favorite aunt has 7 of these delightful figures lined up on her mantel and wants more!  Why?  Myers’ whimsical nutcrackers are collectors’ items!  And would you believe it?   They actually work to crack nuts!

Patricia Palermino is a fabulous folk artist who uses imagination, and sheer genius to recreate famous places.  The VIRGINIA SHOPPER was taken with her Williamsburg Illumination print of a wonderful wintry day in colonial history with fireworks in celebration of American independence.  Or how about a more modern scene with her painting of the huge, brightly lit Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center?  Palermino prints are available as limited editions, signed and numbered, mounted under glass and presented in hand-painted frames.  Talk about a magical gift!

James O. Phelps, a Lexington, Virginia photographer, has perfected the art of the panorama.  These are not just any photos, but works of sepia-tone art that show amazing 360 degree views of famous scenes like Harper’s Ferry of Civil War fame, or Appomattox (where our nation was reunited at the end of the war).  I know a couple of devoted Civil War buffs who would love either one of these. Great for office or den,  there are  many other panoramas to choose from – all available matted and framed in brushed bronze with a walnut hue, and signed and numbered by Phelps, himself.

Greg Sandage  is a jewelry genius in Lexington, Virginia  whose handmade collections in sterling silver  have been dubbed masterpieces, and his creations are shown in art galleries around the world.  The VIRGINIA SHOPPER bought a collar (handmade necklace) and slide/pendant that features geometric shapes and swirls of silver. I meant to give it to someone but it wound up in my own jewelry box!   But now I have to buy more because my sister nearly fought me for possession. I talked her into getting Strands of Silver instead – a slide and matching earring set featuring threads of silver wound into a double-circled pendant.  We have finally learned to share.

Sylvan Spirit artisans of Lexington, Virginia, are famous statewide and beyond for their original jewelry designs and bridal tiaras for Vera Wang.  Sylvan’s fabulous creations have even been showcased in Brides Magazine.   Inspired by nature and all hand crafted, their White Rose, Peach Cherry Blossom and Blue Trillium jewelry sets feature exquisite porcelain flower pendants with hand sculpted petals.  Sylvan Spirit creations are classic examples of stunningly beautiful jewelry originals.

Mary Ann Vessey uses her magical touch to create fabulous paintings of farm scenes and “home”.  She’s yet another highly acclaimed Virginia artist offering limited edition, signed and numbered prints and her inspiration comes from the sweeping beauty of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  She has been featured at the Frontier Culture Museum. Mary Ann’s work captures country life in astonishing detail with all the warm feelings associated with “home, sweet home” and the peace and tranquility that go with rural scenes and places.

Ellen M. Martin.  Talk about photography!  Ellen keeps coming up with photos that don’t look like photos.  What do they look like?  Well – fine art!  Her eye for detail and color, the subtle beauty of nature, and her unique perspectives of Virginia landmark areas make her a repeated award winner in art shows and exhibits all over Virginia.  Her photographs are also published in books like Healing Waters, Tranquil Valleys, Bath County, Virginia, or Among These Ancient Mountains, the Story of Rockbridge County, Virginia. 

Being “Virginia Born and Bred”, I am smugly proud to say these artists are only a sampling of the many talented individuals working and residing in my home state.  BUT –  The VIRGINIA SHOPPER recommends that no matter which state you choose,  if you are looking for unusual gifts, keepsake gifts, handmade gifts, or even accessories for home décor, begin your search with a look at local artists.   Their creations are a treasure chest of resource ideas and their talents open up a whole new world of exciting choices that make gift giving fun!

‘Til we meet again… The VIRGINIA SHOPPER

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