Christy Oates has both academic credentials and on-the-ground manufacturing experience...more
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Cheer for the Handcrafted Kitchen
My favorite part of the holidays, hands down, is sharing meals with friends and family. Nothing feels more festive - or fortunate - than a table stacked with wholesome (and sure, maybe a bit indulgent) foods. Every year I go a little more overboard, researching recipes and techniques, sourcing ingredients I'll need. But it's a time of year when making time for cooking - scratch cooking, craft cooking - feels effortless. And I'm certainly not alone here.
So when it comes time for gift giving, my mind turns right back to the kitchen. Not to geeky gadgets, but to basic tools and sturdy equipment - good things to help make good food. It's like Mrs. Maddox tells her kid Otto (played by Emilio Estevez) in the 1984 classic Repo Man: "Put it on a plate, son. You'll enjoy it more." Put it on a handmade plate, and you'll enjoy it the most.
Know someone who loves to bake? Order them a bottle of top-notch vanilla, and pair it up with a set of Beehive Kitchenware Co.'s pewter measuring spoons. Beehive is the joint project of artists Sandra Bonazoli and Jim Dowd, both of whom have an MFA in jewelry and metal; their heirloom-quality housewares are impeccably designed and crafted. And there's more: flour scoops, candlesticks, cheese knives and spreaders, ceramics, super-cute baby stuff - take a look at Beehive's whole line.
Or consider the cutting board: Back in April, we published a story about Blackcreek Mercantile & Trading Co., Josh Vogel and Kelly Zaneto's new outfit, which sells both turnings and small goods. At the time, cutting boards were still in development. Now they're done, and the utilitarian pieces are lovely enough to double as serving platters. Care for them (or other wood goods) with a bottle of BCM&T's hand-blended cutting board oil, scented with lemon or rosemary essential oils.
Speaking of other wood goods: Among the busiest booths (based on walk-by scouting) at ACC craft shows is often Jonathan's Spoons. People crowd together, pulling out handmade tool after tool, from coffee scoops and spatulas to pickle forks and toast tongs. Join in the fun; the Jonathan's Spoons crew will be at craft shows in Chicago, Boston, and Morristown, New Jersey, this December.
For a more unusual kitchen gift, check out Chris Oricchio's handsome pot racks and chalkboards, crafted with reclaimed wood. For weeks, the artist/woodworker behind Décor Atelier has had me staring at my kitchen's layout - which I'd never before begrudged - wondering how I can work a pot rack into the mix. Coming from a fine arts background, Oricchio is also a sculptor (Studio Senti is his custom portrait sculpture and art casting facility), and his approach to furniture, he explains, is similar to his art-making process. "My sensibilities as a sculptor kick in and I try to marry functionality with rhythm, weight, line, and ensemble of parts to the whole."
Finally, at the glorious intersection of craft and cheese (!): Urban Cheesecraft's DIY cheese kits contain everything you need for making fresh cheeses at home - paneer, mozzarella, queso blanco, feta, and more. Well, everything except the milk. Give one to your food-crafty friend or family member, or, perhaps better yet, get one for yourself and perfect your herbed chevre before all those holiday potlucks and dinner parties begin. Visit Urban Cheesecraft's site for lots of tips, and, while you're there, be sure to watch Etsy's fantastic short documentary about Urban Cheesecraft owner Claudia Lucero.
This holiday season we're rounding up the perfect handmade crafts for the people in your life – foodies, hosts, entertainers, men, stylish girlfriends, kids, jewelry junkies, and those who love to learn. Check out all of our handmade gift ideas.